What's Playing -- Metropolitan Opera "Das Rheingold"
This is first and shortest of the four operas of "The Ring of the Nibelung," Another of which, "Die Walkuere," will premiere in the spring. I went as a skeptic, thanks to all the news coverage of the technological glitches, but I came out a convert. The massive set, which consisted mainly of moving metal panels and platforms. worked just fine to marvelous effect, thanks to incredibly beautiful lighting, especially in the final moments, and the special effects were terrific. I kept wondering "how do they do that?"
I have not heard an audience go happily berserk after a performance in quite a while, but they had good reason. The singers were costumed within the scope of tradition, if a bit far out in some cases, but this is after all myth. The singing was some of the best I've heard on that stage. Bryn Terfel not only sang well as Wotan, the "head god," but gave this character some facets rarely seen. He allowed him some vulnerability and indecision, which bodes well for the later operas.
As his wife, Fricka, Stephanie Blythe, who girth has been somewhat distracting in other roles, was wonderful. She made you understand that she really Wotan, and despairs of some of his bad behavior. She has a glorious voice, and was allowed some glamour in her hair and makeup. Richard Croft was outstanding as Loge, a delightfully sly con artist who actually manipulates them all. He has a burnished tenor voice as well.
His brother, Dwayne Croft, was very powerful, vocally and dramatically in the role of Donner, the god of thunder, who builds the rainbow bridge to Valhalla for the gods to cross. Beautiful Freia, who almost becomes the bride of a lovesick giant, was sung affectingly by Wendy Bryn Harmer, and her brother Froh, was sweetly strong, sung by Adam Diegel.
The trio of Rhinemaidens (Lisette Orapesa,Jennifer Johnson and Tamara Mumford) sang in exquisite ensemble and were delightful in their acting, (semi-suspended!) Their unkind but amusing teasing of the dwarf Alberich was such that it was easy to believe why he decided to renounce love, make magic gold and then curse it fatally when it was taken from him. Eric Owens sang the role, and despite his evil intent, he allowed himself obvious grief and sorrow at his fate. He is a very fine singer.
As his ill-treated brother, Mime, Gerhard Siegel made you laugh through a few tears. There were also two giants, who were hired to build Valhalla for the gods. Fasolt, who was as lovesick over Freia as a giant could be, was almost loveable. He brother, Fafnir, who was not loveable at all, murders his brother to get the gold and the supremely powerful (and cursed) Ring, at least derives no joy from it as we find out n the later operas. Towards the end of the opera, the stunning Patricia Bardon appears as the earth goddess Erda, who comes to warn Wotan what will happen if he doesn't give up that ring. James Levine conducted the glorious score with ever shinier clarity and sensitivity, and director Robert LePage won me over, because, though his set was amazingly modern, he treated the music, the singers and the composer with profound respect, and that made all the difference. Somehow, no matter how often I see the Ring, it never fails to move me in many different ways. These are great stories set to great music, and this "Das Rheingold" was an experience I will remember for a long time.