García Calvo and Mikhail Vekua Excel in Oviedo’s Semi-Staged Siegfried

08/09/2017

Wagner, Siegfried: Principado de Asturias and Oviedo Filarmonía Orchestras / Guillermo García Calvo (conductor), Teatro Campoamor, Oviedo, 6.9.2017. (JMI)

S

Siegfried (c) Opera Oviedo

Cast:

Siegfried – Mikhail Vekua
Brünnhilde – Maribel Ortega
Wanderer – Béla Perencz
Mime – Johannes Chum
Alberich – Zoltan Nagy
Erda – Agnes Zwierko
Fafner – Andrea Mastroni
Forest Bird – Alicia Amo

Production:

Visual Concept – Carlos Wagner
Projections – Slidemedia Studio – Artistas Multimedia
Lighting – Alfonso Malanda

The 2017 Oviedo opera season opened this week with Siegfried, a continuation of the Wagner Tetralogy staging which began in 2013 and has featured one opera every other year.

The preceding Das Rheingold and Die Walküre productions were by Michal Znaniecki, so it was somewhat surprising that Carlos Wagner directed this semi-staged Siegfried. Undoubtedly, the size of the pit in the Campoamor Theatre had much to do with the decision. It holds barely 60 musicians which means a choice must be made between doing a full production of Siegfried, and giving an appropriate orchestral version of the score by placing the musicians on stage. And here the decision – wisely, in my opinion – was in favour of the music, which meant we had a semi-staged version of the opera.

However, Siegfried was mistakenly announced, even in the program, as a ‘New Production’ although there were neither sets nor props: no bear, forge, Siegfried’s sword or Wotan’s spear, no ring or helmet, and of course no dragon. Brünnhilde’s rock existed only in the viewer’s imagination. The truth is that something more inventive could have been done by Carlos Wagner to narrate the story. What one got was a real storm of video projections on two screens, one at the front of the stage and one in the back. We could have done without them, not to mention a very annoying light that on several occasions dazzled one’s eyes.

Guillermo García Calvo was again responsible for the music, as he had been in the previous operas. His reading was much more enjoyable this time, clearly the best of the tetralogy. Under his baton were two orchestras with more than 100 musicians between them, and their performance was excellent. There were very bright moments in Mr. Calvo’s conducting, especially in Act III up to the awakening of Brünnhilde, but he was less convincing in the second act. His tempi were very slow, which meant that the tension could not be maintained throughout the opera.

Siegfried was played by Russian tenor Mikhail Vekua, who is the young Siegfried of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. A few days ago he was also the protagonist of this opera in Ljubljana under Valery Gergiev. This is one of the most demanding characters for a tenor, and few singers can overcome all the difficulties of the score. Mr. Vekua’s interpretation was more or less nuanced, but the truth is that one has to surrender to his vocal power. From beginning to end he was truly outstanding.

Maribel Ortega was a surprising choice for the part of Brünnhilde, and her performance did not persuade me. Her voice is not particularly appealing, with somewhat monotonous singing and shouted notes at the top.

The Wanderer was sung by baritone Béla Perencz who offered a wide and attractive voice, and brilliantly played out his scenes with Mime, Alberich, Erda and Siegfried. As Mime, Johannes Chum has a voice that is more important than one of a character tenor. He’s not an outstanding actor, but gave a good performance.

Agnes Zwierko was a disappointing Erda. Her middle range has an instability that did not exist some time ago. She fell short on mystery in her singing, and was rather insufficient at the bottom.

Baritone Zoltan Nagy’s voice is too light for Alberich. Bass Andrea Mastroni, who sang from offstage, was a good Fafner, and soprano Alicia Amo showed an attractive voice as the Forest Bird.

.José M. Irurzun

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