Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles

28/05/2019

Magnificent Casting and Staging Herald Chicago’s 2020 Ring Cycles

Die Walküre Act III at Chicago Lyric Opera (c) Cory Weaver

It is not just one more Ring, but a stellar cycle with world-class performers and top-notch staging: Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 2019–2020 season features Wagner’s magnum opus between 13 April and 3 May 2020 — three sequences of the four operas. This is a rare opportunity to hear Wagner’s epic as he intended, on consecutive nights during a single week, and the first time to view Lyric’s new and engaging production in its entirety.

Directed by David Pountney, the creative team for the cycle includes original set designer Johan Engels (1952–2014), set designer Robert Innes Hopkins, costume designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca, lighting designer Fabrice Kebour, and choreographer Denni Sayers. The team knows the Lyric stage well, since Engels, Lecca, and Kebour also collaborated with Pountney on the stunning staging of Weinberg’s The Passenger, seen at Lyric in 2014–2015. In addition, the score will be masterfully led by music director Sir Andrew Davis, who also conducted Lyric’s 2005 cycle.

Audiences have already seen parts of the new Ring: Das Rheingold opened Lyric’s 2016–2017 season, followed by Die Walküre in 2017–2018, and Siegfried in 2018–2019. Götterdämmerung will appear twice at the end of the 2019–2020 season, just before the three full cycles.

Those who have seen the three individual operas already performed appreciate Pountney’s ingenious staging. As Lyric’s general director Antony Freud stated, ‘When Sir Andrew and I first spoke to David about creating Lyric’s new Ring, we told him we wanted to reclaim this masterpiece for the theater. David has set each opera within the framework of an old theater, yet within that structure, the worlds of each opera are quite different’.

Visually stunning, Pountney’s staging brings out certain details with remarkable clarity. Sets with different levels give the audience a sense of the various worlds that frame the plot of Das Rheingold. In Die Walküre, the upper level, associated with Valhalla, enhances the perception of the intervention of the gods with humans. And unlike some productions, the climactic battle between Hunding and Siegmund is never lost in the stagecraft.

Similarly, the sets of Siegfried also deftly underscore the libretto, with the sometimes dark aesthetic associated with older productions giving way to a remarkable, Rousseau-like depiction of the crucial forest scenes. In revising the Ring, Lyric’s team uses a range of approaches that realize the composer’s stage directions, and create the settings depicted in the libretto. Technology is combined with traditional stagecraft.

The international cast features Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, Eric Owens as Wotan/Wanderer, Burkhard Fritz as Siegfried, Samuel Youn as Alberich, Tanja Ariane Baumgartner as Fricka/Waltraute, Elisabet Strid and Laura Wilde as Sieglinde, Brandon Jovanovich as Siegmund/Froh, Stephen Milling as Hunding/Hagen, Ronnita Miller as Erda/First Norn, Stefan Margita and Robert Brubaker as Loge, Matthias Klink as Mime, Soloman Howard as Fafner, and Henning von Schulman as Fasolt.

Seasoned Wagnerians, these artists know the cycle well and interact with each other with consummate skill. At the end of Die Walküre, the chemistry between Goerke and Owens creates a unique, powerful emotional pitch. In the final scene of Siegfried, Goerke and Fritz are similarly paired and equally moving, as will likely be the Götterdämmerung that will cap this outstanding cycle.

Dates:

Cycle 1

Das Rheingold, Monday 4/13/20, 7:30 p.m.
Die Walküre, Tuesday, 4/14/20, 6:00 p.m.
Siegfried, Thursday, 4/16/20, 6:00 p.m.
Götterdämmerung, Saturday, 4/18/20, 5:30 p.m.

Cycle 2

Das Rheingold, Monday 4/20/20, 7:30 p.m.
Die Walküre, Tuesday, 4/21/20, 6:00 p.m.
Siegfried, Thursday, 4/23/20, 6:00 p.m.
Götterdämmerung, Saturday, 4/25/20, 5:30 p.m.

Cycle 3

Das Rheingold, Monday 4/27/20, 2:00 p.m.
Die Walküre, Wednesday, 4/29/20, 2:00 p.m.
Siegfried, Friday, 5/1/20, 2:00 p.m.
Götterdämmerung, Sunday, 5/3/20, 2:30 p.m.

James L. Zychowicz

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