Some First Rate Singing in Seville’s Siegfried

SpainSpain Wagner: Siegfried, Seville Symphony Orchestra, Pedro Halffter (conductor). Sevilla Teatro de la Maestranza, 12.12.2012 (JMI)


Siegfried: Lance Ryan
Brünnhilde: Catherine Foster
Mime: Robert Brubaker
Wanderer: Alan Held
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Erda: Christa Mayer
Fafner: Kurt Rydl
Forest Bird: Cristina Toledo


Production by Valencia’s Palau de Les Arts
Direction: Carlus Padrissa (Original) Allex Aguilera (revival)
Sets: Roland Olbeter
Costumes: Chu Uroz
Lighting: Peter Van Praet
Video Projections: Franc Aleu

Picture Courtesy of Teatro de la Maestranza Seville
Picture Courtesy of Teatro de la Maestranza Seville

Seville continues offering the Wagner Tetralogy, which began two years ago and will end next season. As in previous installments, the production is the well-known one by La Fura dels Baus, from Valencia’s Palau de Les Arts where it was premiered in 2008, and revived the following season in a full Ring cycle. I had the opportunity to see it then and this is what I wrote about the premiere

The production continues to be attractive, although its surprise element isn’t there anymore, at least for people who saw it in Valencia of Florence or who bought the DVD set of the whole Ring.

Musical direction this time was in the hands of Pedro Halffter, whose performance was unfortunately rather uneven. It is never exactly easy to maintain tension in this long opera, but Mr. Halffter’s conducting left quite a bit to be desired in the first two acts with a pretty flat reading throughout. After this tedium though he surprised me with a completely different final act which was full of life, inspiration and romanticism. The 81 minutes of this third act went by in a flash and if Mr. Halffter could maintain this standard more consistently, he would be an excellent Wagner conductor. The orchestra was also at its best during the last act of the opera.

Lance Ryan was the young Siegfried once again and his effortless singing showed proved just how difficult this role

can be for less giifted artists. He has become the most sought after Siegfried nowadays and no wonder, since he has the right voice, sufficient power and an excellent stage presence. On previous occasions, I have found him very restrained during the first act, where he has sounded too light and short of volume, as if he were a second Mime on stage. He was better than that this time however and was on form for all three acts: an excellent Siegfried who was fully convincing in every way.

There was a new Brünnhilde in Seville following last year’s Evelyn Herlitzius in Die Walküre. All opera lovers that Siegfried’s Brünnhilde is a kind of vocal balm, placed between two terrifying heroines with the same name in the other operas. British soprano Catherine Foster, who will assume the role in the next Tetralogy at Bayreuth, had an excellent debut in Seville, which was also her first appearance in Spain as an opera singer. had previously seen her in Frankfurt where I formed a very positive impression of her, even though not everything worked to perfection. Her timbre is not of outstanding quality in the middle range I would say, but it is generally fine, if perhaps slightly too nasal at times. Against this though her top notes have spectacular of power and she is also a remarkable performer on stage. Amid the current shortage of dramatic soprano voices, Ms Foster is certainly one of the best choices available.

Alan Held made a good Wanderer in vocal terms, bringing a powerful voice to the character. As a performer I found him rather short on emotion however. When Siegfried breaks his spear, for example, we should be genuinely moved by the god’s fall, but here the emotion did not get as far as my seat.

Robert Brubaker gave a good deal of life to Mime and he did so with an unusual sound for the character. His tenor is closer to a heldentenor than many performers in the role and so there was no great contrast between him and Siegfried in Act I. As yet Mr Brubaker has not become the reference point in this opera’s first two acts, when compared with Gerhard Siegel these days or with Graham Clark a few years ago.

Gordon Hawkins was an Alberich of not very much interest while Christa Mayer made for a good Erda, although slightly lacking in both mystery and volume. Veteran Kurt Rydl offered good vocal volume as Fafner, but his voice today is too unstable. A very good impression was left by the young soprano Cristina Toledo as the forest bird, who has an attractive voice that is very well-suited to the role.

The Teatro de la Maestranza had more than a few empty seats, especially in the upper floors but the audience gave a warm reception to the artists, with cheers for Lance Ryan, Catherine Foster and Robert Brubaker.

José M. Irurzun