Pountney’s Lyric Opera Die Walküre Exceeds Expectations


Wagner, Die Walküre: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago / Sir Andrew Davis (conductor), Chicago, IL. 5.11.2017. (JLZ)

Die Walküre at Chicago Lyric Opera (Photo: Cory Weaver)

Die Walküre at Chicago Lyric Opera (c) Cory Weaver

Brünnhilde – Christine Goerke
Sieglinde – Elisabet Strid
Siegmund – Brandon Jovanovich
Wotan – Eric Owens
Fricka – Tanja Ariane Baumgartner
Hunding – Ain Anger

Conductor – Sir Andrew Davis
Director – David Pountney
Original Set Designer – Johan Engels
Set Designer – Robert Innes Hopkins
Costume Designer – Marie-Jeanne Lecca
Lighting Designer – Fabrice Kebour
Choreographer – Denni Sayers

Die Walküre, the second part of Lyric’s new production of Wagner’s Ring cycle, involves an international cast in a thoroughly engaging presentation. David Pountney offers a vivid steampunk conception, demonstrating an effective combination of technologies to create effects and to shape the stage.

Some of the more audacious aspects, like the famous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’, echo Zubin Mehta’s daring Ring cycle at Barcelona’s Liceu and similarly, make Pountney’s staging visually fresh. It was thrilling to see the airborne Valkyries taking delight, with the full-voiced splendor the music requires. The ‘Magic Fire’ also had a vivid effect, even if the technology surpassed the sometimes contrived attempt to create the magic described in the libretto. While much in Wagner’s mythological world is left to the imagination, Pountney deserves credit for exceeding expectations.

Similar to her memorable Cassandra in last season’s Les Troyens, Christine Goerke made a magnificent Brünnhilde. Goerke surpassed the notated demands of the score to create moving aural images, as in the second act’s Todesverkündigung (death announcement) in which she warns Siegmund about Wotan’s decision to let Hunding kill him for transgressing the marriage bond. Fully in command of the line, Goerke gave this critical scene the vocal and dramatic nuances it requires. In the final act, her duet with Eric Owens was touching, creating a humanely moving conclusion.

Elisabet Strid was captivating as Sieglinde, starting in the first act with her stylish love duet with her long-lost brother, and combined ringing tone with excellent diction. Similarly, making a strong impression in his Lyric debut in this work, Ain Anger’s Hunding was distinguished by clearly enunciated lines that gave ample explication of his antipathy for Siegmund. As Fricka, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner showed assertiveness, along with exceptional articulation and resonance.

Brandon Jovanovich used his command of pitch and line to create an earnest and engaging Siegmund, ever the striving hero that Wotan describes. The role requires consummate musicianship, and Jovanovich added impressive physicality to make Siegmund’s struggles plausible.

Likewise, Eric Owens made a nuanced Wotan, as the story shifted from the world of the gods to the human domain. His second-act monologue was particularly effective, reflecting Wotan’s growing impatience. As strongly as Owens depicted Wotan’s anger, his touching embrace at the end of the third act had an extraordinary intimacy. In making Brünnhilde human, Wotan gained his own humanity, and Owens capped his performance with a poignant conclusion.

The orchestra was also first-rate, meeting the challenges of the score with expert delivery and precision. Sir Andrew Davis showed himself to be a formidable Wagner interpreter, and delivered a well-paced and moving performance. During the curtain call, a few in the audience were determined to utter their displeasure, but the overall enthusiasm for Lyric’s efforts drowned out the naysayers with loud acclaim.

James L. Zychowicz

Print Friendly


Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews


Season Previews

  • NEW! Spitalfields Music Festival 2017 in December __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The 2018 Lucerne Summer Festival __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere of The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu in December at Milton Court __________________________________
  • NEW! Hampstead Garden Opera Bring The Enchanted Pig to Highgate in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Forthcoming Schubert Song Series in Leeds and Sheffield __________________________________
  • NEW! Svetlana Zakharova and Bolshoi Stars Bring Amore to the London Coliseum in November __________________________________
  • NEW! Tom Green and Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife Premieres on 15 October in Cardiff __________________________________
  • UPDATED! English National Ballet’s 2017 – 2018 Autumn/Winter Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Contemporary Music from Manchester’s Psappha in 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! I Musicanti’s ‘Alexandra and the Russians’ at St Johns Smith Square, 2017-18 __________________________________
  • NEW! Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov’s Return to London in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! St John’s Smith Square announces its 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Pierre Boulez Saal’s 2017/18 Season in Berlin __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham and Beyond: Ex Cathedra in 2017/18 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Glyndebourne Opera Cup and Glyndebourne in 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

  • NEW! Carly Paoli is ‘Singing My Dreams’ at the Cadogan Hall in February 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! A Composer Speaks Up for the Environment: An Interview with Margaret Brouwer __________________________________
  • NEW! Twelve Years of Celebrating Malcolm Arnold in Northampton __________________________________
  • NEW! What is the Critic’s Job? A Review of A. O. Scott’s Recent Book __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival in Yorkshire Lifts the Lid Off an English Treasury __________________________________
  • NEW! A FULLY STAGED PILGRIM’S PROGRESS IN ORLEANS, MA __________________________________
  • NEW! JIŘÍ BĔLOHLÁVEK (1946-2017) AND THE CZECH CONDUCTING LEGACY __________________________________
  • NEW! JUSTIN DOYLE DISCUSSES MONTEVERDI WITH MARK BERRY __________________________________
  • NEW! Katie Lowe Wins the 2017 Elizabeth Connell Prize __________________________________
  • NEW! ITINÉRAIRE BAROQUE 2017: TON KOOPMAN TALKS TO COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! The Royal Opera House in Mumbai is Restored to its Former Glory __________________________________
  • NEW! iSING! – International Young Artists Festival in Suzhou, China __________________________________
  • NEW! A Riveting Kokoschka’s Doll from Sir John Tomlinson and Counterpoise __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month

    Search S&H