Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Dark, Wagnerian Night

Siegfried Canadian Opera Company
Last night I attended my first opera of the 2016 COC season. It was the third in the Wagnerian Ring Cycle, Siegfried. I had seen a televised Met production but never had the pleasure of seeing it live in its full four glory. The production last night was designed and staged by Michael Levine, who helped craft the entire COC Ring Cycle. This meant more minimalist sets and costumes. The three long acts were broken up by two intermissions which were needed for this marathon evening. 

Act One opened on a large tree trunk placed on stage centre with its branches blown out in a pattern that suggested an explosion. Placed against a black backdrop and a black stage the effect was truly stunning and beautiful. The tree representing Wotan's Yggdrasial, the great Tree of Life had bits and pieces of tree, assorted buildings and stage materials and people suspended in mid-air. Some of the people were swaddled as they were in Die Walkure with a few suspended representing the parts of Siegfried's past. When he sang about them these ghost like figures came to life via movement and lighting. While I loved everything about the staging I found the white pyjama-like costumes the weakest part of the production. 

Act Two opened on the same tree but from another angle. Instead of looking at it from the ground we saw it from above allowing Levine to create the illusion of woods and Fawner's cave. The dragon Fawner himself was created by a group of dancers clad in white who were able to create the illusion of a swaying dragon three people high while suspended in space. It was a creative solution. 

For the last Act the tree was replaced by a ring of people in a circle representing the ring of fire. Their movements suggested not only the mountain but the fire itself. Everything through the entire evening was stunning and beautiful because of how stark and creative it was. 

The staging was matched by some truly beautiful singing. The hardest roles were of course Siegfried and Wotan who sing throughout the entire production. Stefan Vinke was able to carry the entire production with a voice that was clear, but never really that emotive, while Alan Held always commanded the stage with his singing. His voice was the embodiment of Wotan.  However the true powerhouse of the evening was Christine Goerke who returned to reprise her role as Brünnhilde in magnificent form. For the last section of the opera her and Vinke sang together ending the evening on a truly high note. While it was a marathon night I am glad I finally experienced my first full staged Siegfried. 

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