Der “Ring” Cycle: Part Two

wotanA rainy day in New York, perfect for spending five hours inside at the Metropolitan Opera with “Die Walkure,” the second part of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. The South African tenor Johan Botha was indisposed, so the American singer Gary Lehman sang Siegmund instead. The rest of the cast was as announced: Waltraud Meier as Sieglinde, Irene Theorin as Brunnhilde, and James Morris (pictured) as Wotan. I’m not going to rehash the plot (available here). I’d forgotten how slow-moving the first act is, but the orchestra playing, expertly led by James “Nurse” Levine, kept me focussed. Act II brought Brunnhilde’s first “Hojotoho!”s, but the thrilling moment, one of the most thrilling in all theatre, was the Ride of the Valkyries at the beginning of Act III. I’m often tempted with a long opera to flee before the last act, but that is generally when the singers’ voices are most lubed and opened (get your mind out of the gutter, please). Today, the final act didn’t disappoint: Wotan’s banishment of Brunnhilde brought all kinds of thoughts to mind (Lear/Cordelia; Antigone), and Morris’s final stretch of singing, before he turns his daughter from goddess to mortal, was heart-catching. Swedish soprano Theorin certainly looked the part. Why a small country like Sweden produces so many Wagnerian women — Flagstad, Nilsson — is a mystery. Maybe it’s their practicality. As Nilsson replied when asked what was the key advice to lasting all afternoon in a Wagnerian role: “Wear comfortable shoes.”

One Comment to “Der “Ring” Cycle: Part Two”

  1. You’re right about the Walkure in III, i: I stood, with my eyes closed, and bathed in the sopranos. Fantastic! It was one of those scenes that “Live at the Met” is all about.

    Nonetheless, I have to think that Gary Lehman stole the show. What a cover! Lehman said in the on-air interview that he’d never performed the role.

    Just saw Placido Domingo here in L.A. on Wednesday… and Lehman sounded all but his equal. A great victory for the cover. Bravo, Mr. Lehman!

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