Siegfried, Metropolitan Opera, Met live cinema relay, November 2011Posted on 6 November 2011
In the final part of the intermission feature from the second interval, as Renee Fleming went to meet Bryn Terfel in his dressing room, he said he was wondering when she would get round to him. Was he feeling left out? Perhaps so, but never mind because in the third act he was superb as the Wanderer. When Siegfried asks, who are you then, who wants to restrain me? Terfel’s lengthy response came over superbly, with a strong focus on Wotan’s psychological angst, ‘wer sie erweckt, wer sie gewänne, machtlos macht’ er mich ewig!‘ (whoever wakes her, whoever wins her, would render me powerless forever!).
This production by Robert Lepage, brilliantly conducted by Fabio Luisi, brings nuances in the score and the libretto that had previously passed me by, and in Act I, Gerhard Siegel gives one of the finest portrayals of Mime that I have ever seen. After his encounter with the Wanderer, and his failure to ask the one question he really needs answering, he muses on what he has just learned: that only one who knows no fear can kill the dragon. He has already forfeit his head to the Wanderer and knows that Siegfried will lop it off unless he learns fear from the Dragon Fafner. But how can he kill the dragon if he learns fear? “Verfluchte Klemme!” (Damned dilemma!) he sings, and you feel for the poor fellow who has devoted eighteen years to bringing up the boy who will kill the dragon, but will also finish his own ill-fated existence. Gerhard Siegel acts everyone else off the stage, making me think of him as an Asperger’s victim embroiled in teenage fantasies that he can never fulfil.
As for the real teenager, Siegfried, Jay Hunter Morris sang the role with huge conviction. There are not many people in the world who can do this well, but their number has just increased by one with this great new Heldentenor, and the intermission features showed he was utterly dedicated and loved what he was doing. He looked the part too, as a Christ-like figure full of spirit, rather than the rambunctious oaf he sometimes appears.
Eric Owens reprised his wonderful Alberich from Rheingold, and Patricia Bardon looked and sang a beautiful Erda, with Deborah Voigt bringing back her Brünnhilde from Walküre. After a mythical eighteen year sleep, and a real absence of over four hours while the other singers have warmed up, or even died, she has to come in with Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht! and it’s a tough call. As she began expressing her love for Siegfried, the voice took on more confidence and she was terrific.
One of the odd moments in the last scene is when Siegfried loosens the breastplate of the sleeping hero, and cries, Das is kein Mann! This sometimes sounds foolishly naive but the way Jay Hunter Morris tackled it, facing the audience with this revelation, it all made sense. Making sense is a vital feature of this production, and Terfel helped bring out the subtleties of Wotan’s dilemmas. Technically I regret that the shards of the sword looked fake, unlike the eventual sword itself — an important point when you have close-ups on the cinema screen — but the Woodbird flitted around like a well-rehearsed pet animal, and we shall doubtless see more of these clever 3D-projections in other productions.