Munich Ring: Siegfried

GermanyGermany Wagner, Siegfried: Soloists, Kent Nagano (conductor), Bavarian State Orchestra, National Theater, Munich, 13.7.2012 (JMI)Production:
Direction: Andreas Kriegenburg
Sets: Harald B. Thor
Costumes: Andrea Schraad
Lighting: Stefan Bolliger
Choreography: Zenta Haerter

Siegfried: Lance Ryan
Brünnhilde: Catherine Naglestad
Wanderer: Thomas J. Mayer
Mime: Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke
Erda: Jill Grove Fafner: Rafal Siwek
Forest Bird: Elena Tsallagova

Siegfried © Wilfried Hösl

Today I left the theater completely satisfied. When this occurs in Munich, it means having witnessed a performance to be remembered. Andreas Kriegenburg’s Siegfried is the best offered of the tetralogy so far, and the same was true for the musical aspect, which exceeded the other two nights considerably. Finally, the two protagonists of the opera were outstanding: All the ingredients for a greatly entertaining evening.

For details of the production of Siegfried, which premiered a couple of months ago, I refer you to Jens Laurson’s review (here), whose very positive opinion on it I share completely. Kriegenburg does a great job, imaginative and fresh , particularly in the first act. The scene of the forging of Nothung is the best piece of stage I have seen this year, together with Les Indes Galantes at Toulouse.

After the disappointment of the Walküre, Kriegenburg was back on track with this Siegfried and raised my hopes again for the concluding Götterdämmerung which I am excited to see now.

The Bavarian State Orchestra was superb, indeed hard to beat and this time Kent Nagano was at his most convincing, more intense and poignant than previously. The only time the interest sagged was during the confrontation of Wotan with his grandson. Nagano’s tempi were again slower than usual, but this time it worked. Some Americans sitting behind me commented out loud that one does not need to go to Bayreuth to enjoy splendid Wagner when you can get this in Munich, and I fully endorse their comment. It was a great night of music.

Canadian tenor Lance Ryan has become almost a reference Siegfried. The interpreters of this character are an almost extinct species, so must greet the fact that there is a singer who can overcome all the difficulties of the score, especially its huge length, enthusiastically. There are really only two possible interpreters of this role around these days, Stephen Gould and Lance Ryan. Of the two, Ryan is more powerful, fresher, and more alive than his North American colleague. This is the third production of Siegfried I have seen with Lance Ryan and it’s been his third success in a row.

The Brünnhilde in this installment was the excellently performing American soprano Catherine Naglestad. Her voice is powerful, very easy at the top, and can tell she considers what she is singing. It is not easy for a true dramatic soprano to face this Siegfried as Brünnhilde and still look good, but Naglestad did it, and most lyrically of the three Brünnhildes this Ring uses. Therefore, Catherine Naglestad has proved to be the right choice for the role. It can’t be long before she is tempted to sing the other Brünnhildes in the Ring, too—a decision I hope she will make very carefully.

Thomas J. Mayer was Wotan again, this time in the figure of the Wanderer. His performance was good, in line with what we saw in Walküre. The voice tends to remain backwards and he is somewhat short in the lower range, but he shines in the high notes. In the absence of an exceptional Wotan, he is good to have.

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke was a most remarkable interpreter of Mime. He fulfilled his role very well both as a singer and as an actor. The new Erda, American mezzo Jill Grove, was better than her colleague in the Rheingold, but she didn’t project her voice particularly well. The young Russian soprano Elena Tsallagova made a delicious Forest Bird. Her interpretation and how Kriegenburg plays with this character was a real delight. Finally, Rafal Siwek was a well-suited Fafner.

José Mª Irurzun