Stefan Vinke as Siegfried: The True Hero this Opera Requires
Wagner, Siegfried: Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper / Donald Runnicles (conductor), Deutsche Oper, Berlin, 15.4.2017. (JMI)
Siegfried – Stefan Vinke
Brünnhilde – Ricarda Merbeth
Wanderer – Samuel Youn
Mime – Burkhard Ulrich
Alberich – Werner Van Mechelen
Erda – Ronnita Miller
Fafner – Andrew Harris
Forest Bird – Elbenita Kajtazi
Direction – Götz Friedrich
Sets and Costumes – Peter Sykora
The Ring has continued in Berlin with an exemplary Siegfried, one marked by brilliant staging, strong musical direction and fine singing. Götz Friedrich’s production again features the well-known tunnel, although it is not present in its entirety until the final scene. In the first act, as with Die Walküre, Mime’s hut is at the front of the stage before a thick curtain with cheerful motifs. The forge is to the right, while to the left there are chairs and a table where the riddles of the Wanderer and Mime take place. In Act II the tunnel is blocked by a large mechanical device that represents the dragon, Fafner; an open space in the middle with vegetation suggests the forest. For the meeting of Erda and Wotan in Act III the stage is lifted, revealing Erda’s world on the lower level; the action returns to the upper level for the confrontation of Wotan and Siegfried. Finally, it’s back to the great tunnel where Wotan deposited Brünnhilde, and here the love duet of aunt and nephew takes place.
The plot is well delivered, with the figure of the Wanderer a silent witness at key moments such as the forging of the sword or the death of Fafner. It’s a pity that the latter does not take place on stage – amplified voices never work as well. There is some good stage work with the Woodbird.
Donald Runnicles gave an impressive reading, one that rose in intensity as so often happens in this opera. The first two acts were not particularly exciting in musical terms, but the scene of Wotan and Erda and the entire final scene were much more convincing, especially the awakening of Brünnhilde and the love duet. Once again there was an outstanding performance by the Deutsche Oper Orchestra.
Siegfried is an exceptional hero, as Wagner so often expresses throughout the Tetralogy, and his interpreter must really be a hero in vocal terms. It is undoubtedly the most devilish score written for a tenor, who practically does not stop singing throughout the opera. If there is a Siegfried on stage who overcomes the difficulties of the score, that’s already a miracle in itself. If one also wants nuance, elegance and more, it’s almost too much to ask.
Stefan Vinke overcame all the challenges present in the role and performed the entire opera without avoiding those enormous difficulties. The number of successful Siegfrieds has always been limited, and even more so today. Stefan Vinke does not have a voice of enormous beauty and it can sound rather rough, but one has to surrender to the strength he exhibits throughout the performance.
Brünnhilde was sung by Ricarda Merbeth, who is always a guarantee of a good performance. She is somewhat mature for the character, but everything she did was appealing and at times brilliant.
We had the third interpreter of Wotan in this Tetralogy: Samuel Youn, who gave a fine performance. His voice has sufficient amplitude in the middle and low notes, but he lacks a darker voice at the top.
A couple of days ago I wrote that Burkhard Ulrich’s voice seemed more appropriate for Mime than for Loge, but the truth is that he was not totally satisfactory here. However, he is an excellent actor and knows how to use his voice, and he managed to shine as this strange character.
Ronnita Miller was more convincing as Erda here than in Rheingold. She handled her voice nicely, and the low notes were always sonorous and well placed.
Werner Van Mechelen did well as Alberich, which in this opera is a rather secondary character. Bass Andrew Harris was correct as Fafner, and soprano Elbenita Kajtazi gave a fine interpretation of the Woodbird.
José M. Irurzun