New York Post, April 24, 2011
Wagner: Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, 22. April 2011
Met’s 'Die Walkure' is cursed
In "Die Walkure," the second installment of Wagner’s four-part "Ring" cycle, the god Wotan enlists his children to recover the stolen Ring of the Nibelung, a source of infinite power carrying a deadly curse.

A lesser curse dogged the divas of Friday night’s sold-out performance at the Met. Deborah Voigt, as the valkyrie Brunnhilde, lost her footing on uneven scaffolding and fell before singing a single note.

Later, debuting soprano Eva Maria Westbroek took sick, leaving understudy Margaret Jane Wray to finish her role of Sieglinde.

A more serious problem was James Levine’s erratic conducting, unfocused in the first act and glacially slow in the second. Even a superbly paced final act couldn’t dispel concerns about the maestro’s health as he tottered out, frail and exhausted, to a standing ovation.

At least the giant motorized metal slats of the $16 million set didn’t stall as they did in the previous "Das Rheingold." Richly detailed projections morphed from snow-flecked forest to flame-encircled mountain peak, with only an occasional clank or scurrying stagehand to break the spell.

But director Robert Lepage’s obsession with eye-popping visuals showed little concern for the work’s complex intellectual and moral dimensions.

The finest performance of the night, and the clear audience favorite, was Jonas Kaufmann’s role debut as Siegmund, Wotan’s troubled mortal son. The German tenor deployed his dark, virile voice with a precision that always sounds spontaneous, and created a moody "loner" character far more subtle and nuanced than the usual heldentenor posturing.

Voigt’s first-ever Brunnhilde found her soprano metallic but penetrating. Even when dusting herself off after her pratfall she looked fierce in a tousled red wig and the traditional warrior maiden garb of silvery armor.

After some melodramatic lurching early in the opera more appropriate to Sweeney Todd, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel joined Voigt to build the emotional third act father-daughter encounter into the opera’s musical and dramatic highlight. In sumptuous voice, he capped the evening with a lyrical account of Wotan’s "farewell" aria.

For those who complain that "they don’t sing like that anymore," there was Stephanie Blythe, who does sing "like that" and then some. Her glamorous mezzo-soprano sailed from thundering low notes to a gleaming top. Even in a campy getup that suggested Queen Elizabeth I guest-starring on "Star Trek," her Fricka projected the haughty grandeur of the queen of the gods.

The final two installments of Wagner’s epic arrive next season; with any luck, they’ll shake the curse on this "Ring" — Lepage’s shallow, flashy direction. In the meantime, Wagnerians on a budget may want to check out the HD simulcast of "Die Walkure" on May 14.


 back top