Siegfried, Staatsoper Berlin, Schiller Theater, April 2013

The first two operas of this cycle experienced slight problems: orchestra lights failed a couple of times during Rheingold, and stage backdrop lighting flashed and failed in Walküre. But Siegfried saw a more serious disruption when the eponymous hero failed to show up for Act I. Why, we were not told, but the role was admirably sung from the wings by Andreas Schager, with an assistant stage manager going through the motions on stage. So vocally effective was Schager that Daniel Barenboim brought him on for a special curtain call at the end of the act, and the audience roared their appreciation.

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Awakening, all images © Monika Rittershaus

Canadian tenor Lance Ryan thankfully turned up for Act II, which was just as well since Schager was singing in a concert performance of Zauberflöte with the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle later the same evening. At the end of Act II, Ryan declined a solo curtain call, and at the end of the opera, after a superb performance in Act III, the restrained applause marked audience disapproval for his early absence.  But he was exceptionally good, and I regret not hearing him in all three acts. His final scene with Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde produced glorious singing, and his Sei mein! followed by her beautifully gentle Oh Siegfried! Dein war ich von je! was a moving moment.

Forging the sword

Forging the sword

Of course Daniel Barenboim in the orchestra pit was the magician bringing Wagner’s great moments to fulfilment, and this third episode of the Ring was a musical triumph. Peter Bronder sang and acted strongly as the ill-favoured Mime, and Norwegian bass-baritone Terje Stensvold gave a commanding performance as The Wanderer.

Mikhail Petrenko sang a strong Fafner from behind the stage, but here we find one of the problems in this Guy Cassiers production. The dragon was portrayed by five dancers wafting a vast printed silk sheet, but since the voice came from elsewhere this lacked conviction, and after the dragon’s death they attached themselves to Siegfried, making interminably dull geometric patterns with five swords. The dismemberment of voice and body had already occurred to the Woodbird, with a double performing insipid and unmusical movements on stage while the singing Woodbird (Rinnat Moriah, a perfectly handsome young woman) was off-stage.

Siegfried and dancers

Siegfried and dancers

Good lighting and sets, except that the forging of the sword was essentially done by atmospheric lighting and seven flat screen videos, plus a few tap-taps in the upstairs part of the set, as if a saucepan were being mended. Otherwise I liked the intriguing design for Mime’s home, which Wotan navigated with admirable aplomb as it turned from horizontal to vertical. Forest lighting was wonderful, and the meeting of Alberich and the Wanderer in Act II was very effective. If the superfluously irritating dancers had been absent, this act would have been perfect — they were not there in Walküre, and I’m sure most of us hope for the same with Götterdämmerung.

This performance was on April 7, and the final instalment of The Ring takes place on April 10.

2 Responses to “Siegfried, Staatsoper Berlin, Schiller Theater, April 2013”

  1. waldteufel says:

    Saw this production at La Scala with exactly the same cast (save that Lance Ryan sang all three acts). I thought the first act one of the very best productions I’ve ever seen. Act two began the same way – and then those wretched ‘dancers’ appeared and ruined the rest of the act. Just cannot understand Barenboim (or the singers) tolerating these ludicrous and totally distracting interventions. I also thought the ‘Valkyrie rock’ an unfortunate design especially with those voluminous costumes. No complaints about the singing, playing and conducting. If only Cassiers would have the humility to revise his concept it could become one of the ‘great’ Ring productions.

  2. Allan McFadyen says:

    I wasn’t terribly impressed with Lance Ryan. I know that genuine Wagner tenors are thin on the ground but Mr Ryan has a fairly pronounced vibrato (wobble) that gets alarmingly broad when he forces his voice. A good singing coach can probably do something to adjust his technique but I fear that in a few years he will be completely unlistenable in much the same way that Gwyneth Jones became. I didn’t notice the problem with Andreas Schager in Act 1 but sad to say he seems to have developed much the same fault which showed on quite a few occasions in Gottedammerung. It is just as easy to sing on the note all the time as it is to introduce a vibrato that can get out of control and become a real wobble and hopefully both of these singers will address this. Cheers.

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