OPERA NEWS - Siegfried
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In Review > North America


Lyric Opera of Chicago

In Review Chicago Siegfried hdl 219
Matthias Klink and Burkhard Fritz, Mime and Siegfried in Lyric Opera’s new Siegfried
© Todd Rosenberg

SIEGFRIED, THE PENULTIMATE offering in Lyric Opera’s evolving staging of Wagner’s Ring from director David Pountney, made a provocative reentry into the company’s repertory on November 3. An uneven if vastly entertaining production was made remarkable by extraordinary singing.

Lyric’s Siegfried was German tenor Burkhard Fritz, in both his American opera debut and his first performances of the mammoth role. Fritz initially seemed underpowered in Lyric’s huge theater, particularly when he wandered upstage into what appeared to be an unfriendly acoustic that swallowed his sound. However, there is a gleam of honey in his timbre, and he had formidable stamina. Fritz opened up considerably in Act II for a moving forest scene and remained fresh and firm in the final duet—possibly his most impressive singing of the evening. 

Christine Goerke’s Brünnhilde left one wishing the role were longer. The soprano, in glorious form, poured forth reams of golden tone that gave the audience the impression of being no more than two and a half feet away. Eric Owens delivered his most majestically sung performance in this Ring thus far. The Wanderer sits a trifle higher than the Wotans of Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, lying right in Owens’s timbral sweet spot. His bass-baritone displayed a buttery, deep-purple plush without a hint of wooliness, and he imbued the character with nobility and not a little sardonic humor. As Mime, Lyric debutante Matthias Klink fielded a superbly rendered portrait of unctuous malevolence with a precise musicality one rarely encounters in this role. Bass Samuel Youn’s thrilling Alberich was a marvel of dominating sound and frightening intensity. Ronnita Miller boomed out cavernous chest notes in yet another notable company debut as Erda. Patrick Guetti’s handling of Fafner’s subterranean vocal rumblings was altogether splendid, and Diana Newman brought a glittering, sweetly soaring soprano voice to the Woodbird.

The performance began with a smashing bit of stagecraft, as those ominous tubas (kudos to the brass section) sounded Fafner’s leitmotif and a huge claw lifted the hem of the drop curtain to reveal the dragon’s burning eyes peering menacingly at the audience before he slithered away. We then encountered the Johan Engels/Robert Innes Hopkins designs for Mime’s abode. The scaffolding and pulleys that visually unify the cycle were back, but this time the stage burst into a blaze of primary color. The concept was full-out Romper Room, with a huge playpen, childlike graffiti adorning the walls, and a multicolor forging set pulled right out of the box from Rhein Logistik. Marie-Jeanne Lecca costumed Siegfried in a dirty striped  polo shirt, shorts and a sturdy pair of Keds. This naïve concept worked surprisingly well in the earlier acts but less so in the final scene, as Siegfried and Brünnhilde—her hair inexplicably restyled into girlish pigtails as she slept—conducted their romance under canopies of colorful balloons that suggested a kiddie birthday party. The innocence was there; the requisite sexuality was not. There were keenly creative inspirations elsewhere. The dragon puppetry was fabulous, and the forest idyll was adroitly realized as huge blades of grass sprouted and swayed gracefully during Siegfried’s reverie. 

Andrew Davis led the orchestra through a magisterial account of the score. This definitely wasn’t your parents’ Siegfried, but it was boldly conceived, often superbly sung, and a marvelous entry into Lyric’s new Ring—Mark Thomas Ketterson

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