The Met Live in HD: Die Walküreby Joseph So
/ June 13, 2011
Flash version here
This Met in HD, Die Walküre,
the second installment of the Lepage Ring, reinforces my original impressions
of Das Rheingold from last fall—the complex technology
conceived for this production is a double-edged sword. To be sure, it
is taking the Met out of its historically dominant mode of representational
productions into a more cutting edge style typical of 21st century opera
stagings. The massive set, nicknamed “The Machine,” is remarkably
adaptable, capable of generating many stunning visual effects. But it
comes with a price.
What appears realistic in the theatre
doesn’t always stand up to close scrutiny. For example, the close-ups
of the tree trunk in the middle of Hunding’s hut, while realistic
in the theatre, reveal images projected directly onto the singers’
bodies. There are the occasional ill-judged effects, like the phony “primitive
people” projections during Siegmund’s storytelling. The addition
of leather straps for the valkyries to ride the “piano keys” appears
ridiculous up close.
In the live theatre, a computer glitch
on Saturday led to a 40-minute delay. However, the creative team is
to be commended for making the set work for the soloists—the physical
awkwardness of the singers negotiating the treacherous set in Rheingold is
absent in Walküre — it helps to put Fricka on a motorized ram-chariot!
More problematic is a lack of interpretation in Lepage’s vision of
the Ring—it simply does not speak to the deeper meanings of the work.
For all its visual wizardry, this Ring so far is interpretively neutral,
even absent. Maybe this is just fine for the more conservative members
of the Met audience, but it goes against the current trend in staging.
No such reservation exists musically
as the performance on May 14 was terrific, with an outstanding cast
led by the resplendent Wälsung Twins of Jonas Kaufmann and Eva Maria
Westbroek. Bryn Terfel was a mellifluous Wotan and dramatically more
interesting than in Rheingold. Stephanie Blythe’s mezzo rang
out powerfully as Fricka. Deborah Voigt was a sympathetic if metallic-sounding
Brünnhilde. James Levine, looking frail, was sluggish in the quieter
moments, but he rose to the occasion in the big climaxes. It whets one’s
appetite for the third and fourth installments due next season.
Lepage Gives the Met
a Machine-Made Die Walküre by Paul E. Robinson
Watching Robert Lepage’s Die Walküre
Live in HD, I was often enraptured by the words and the music and moved
to tears on several occasions. It was a great performance, no doubt
about it, with some of the finest Wagnerian singing and conducting one
could ever hope to hear. And Lepage, the stage director, deserves much
credit for the power of the experience.
However, Lepage’s overall vision, including
the sets and projections, was disappointing and, under the circumstances,
obscenely expensive. Peter Gelb must have lost his mind the day he agreed
to fund a new Ring cycle based on a 45-ton machine prone to malfunctioning.
But worse than that, “The Machine”,
as it is fondly called at the Met, has yet to give us anything of artistic
merit that is worth the great amount of time and money spent on it.