Met Talks: Die Walkure. Friday April 1 2011
An introduction to the new Die Walkure on Friday afternoon was supplemented by an interview with Mr Lepage before the Rheingold broadcast the following day. Because of other commitments (and the Met Guild changing the time from 5pm to 6pm at short notice) I had to leave the Friday evening session early. We were sitting in the huge half-empty ‘orchestra’ stalls of the Met auditorium listening to the Ring director, general manager Peter Gelb and 4 cast members who sat at a table with microphones and glasses of water on a platform raised above the orchestra pit with the music stands all moved to the sides. They did not sing … no ‘freebies!’
Deborah Voigt is to sing Brunnhilde, Jonas Kaufmann Siegmund, Eva-Maria Westbroek Sieglinde and Stephanie Blythe Fricka. We had an introduction from Mr Gelb about the genesis of this Ring series, the 45 ton “machine” which was ‘asleep’ a few yards away on stage left awaiting Saturday’s Rheingold broadcast performance (also the last for the current season).
The cast, he told us, had been rehearsing Walkure already on “level C”, three floors below the current stage and the first formal stage rehearsal would commence this Sunday. Mr Gelb made a few pertinent but slightly nervous jokes about the last minute problems with the set and production but did not allude to the half hour delay to this week’s performance on Wednesday. “The rainbow bridge worked THIS TIME!” He also made a quip about the new steel girders needed to take the weight!
We were told that the whole thing had been an enormous undertaking after 21 years since the Met last mounted a new Ring series. Ms Blythe spoke first, saying that she found the role of Fricka very rewarding and that she said she constantly had to defend the Goddess of fidelity who was ‘always right’ … “after all, marriage between a brother and sister is just not right, is it?” And she went on to remind us that her character had to look on as her wandering husband made one disastrous decision after another, knowing there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. She spoke with a jolly joy and fluency as well as a slight wickedness and obviously could have spoken for the whole hour herself. She did not need the microphone given to her and Mr Gelb had reminded us that these singers had to do all of these roles unaided by amplification in this enormous theater.
Next Deborah Voigt spoke about the demands of the iconic role of the favourite Walkirie, Brunnhilde. ‘Daunting’, ‘challenging’ and other such terms were used. She declined a question about what she found most difficult, saying that everyone would look out for it if she let on. She had been asked by another opera house to do this role several years ago but she had declined for two reasons. She felt that she was not quite ready and that once she had done it, it would become her major career choices. She also wanted to do the role of Minnie in Fanciulla del West before tackling the even bigger Ring roles. We then saw a brief video of main scenes and stage highlights from the current Rheingold to an orchestral medley.
Robert Lepage spoke about the major differences between the ‘prologue’ of Rheingold which is mainly superhuman events with gods, demigods, thunder and lightning to the very human stories starting in Die Walkure, namely a love affair in a little house in the woods, albeit a very strange affair in a particularly strange house. He had visited Iceland and said that with some of the Norse myths originating there it was telling for his retelling of the story since there were glaciers, volcanos and mountain ranges as tectonic plates met, like some elements in the first opera. Whether he manages to focus this worldly dimension down to the intimate scenes between the twin lovers, Wotan and his daughter, etc in Walkure we will have to wait another few weeks (it opens on Good Friday).
I missed the comments by Kaufman and Westerbroek but gather that they described their approaches to learning the respective roles (the tenor was apparently reluctant to describe how long it took him to learn his part). I was told that at the end of the talk at 7pm there were patrons already waiting for the evening performance of Cappricio, the elegant set of which we had seen briefly. The evening’s speakers had entered by way of the fire curtain being lifted. Apparently there was no time for questions and answers which was a shame. I had one of my own about stunt-persons involved in the production.
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