Die Walküre, the second installment of the L.A. Opera's $32 million Ring, has opened, and the results are better than I expected.
I was somewhat put off by the overly art-directed Das Rheingold and didn’t know what to expect when I went to this four-hour, forty-minute opera. But the design elements started to fall into place, and I started to better understand what the designer/director Achim Freyer is getting at in his design.
This is my first Ring, though I did see Das Rheingold before at the Met in New York in a more easily understandable version (in terms of design). I found parts of Die Walküre gorgeous to look at, and quite moving. This resulted partly from my getting familiar with the design concept, and partly because I felt the singers were more relaxed in their approach and more passionately committed to the undertaking.
The cast featured the company's Artistic Director, Placido Domingo, as Sigmund. He continues to startle with his endurance and the fullness of his tone. Sigmund is considered one of his signature roles, and it is easy to see why. He now sings in the lower baritone register, as his voice has darkened and deepened with age. His performance was glorious, and must have inspired the rest of the cast, because some of the singers who were just OK in Das Rheingold, like Vitalij Kowaljow as Wotan, really came into their own and delivered wonderful performances.
Anja Kampe was simply magnificent as Sigmund’s twin sister Sieglinde. Her voice was a beautiful match to Domingo's. Linda Watson sang Brunnhilde. It took me awhile to warm to her, but this was her first venture into this new Ring. As the performance progressed I felt her grow in strength and commitment. Maestro Conlon led the hidden orchestra with passion and pace and delivered Wagner’s score admirably.
The design was exciting, with amazing lighting by Freyer and Brian Gale. Some people behind me had missed Das Rheingold and had planned to leave at the end of the second act. They stayed mainly because they began to understand the concept and were quite taken by how Freyer staged and designed the famous “Ride of The Valkyries” using steel horses that pivoted and lighting effects that made the maidens look like they were traveling. One Ring aficionado said he thought it was the best rendition of that particular scene he had ever seen.
There are some detractors who find Freyer’s concept simplistic and obvious despite the arty design. Apparently, for some people who love the Ring, it must be done in ways that they approve of, or the whole experience is ruined. But Freyer’s concept left me breathless at times, though at other times there were moments and choices that seemed downright silly. (I still can’t quite accept the Star Wars light sabers.) This production deserves attention, however, and is something Domingo and the L.A. Opera can be proud of. Die Walküre runs until April 25.Powered by Sidelines