Wagner - Siegfried / Treleaven, Struckmann, Halfvarson, Polaski,... Cover Art

Wagner - Siegfried / Treleaven, Struckmann, Halfvarson, Polaski, Clark, von Kannen, Bonig, Obregon, de Billy, Barcelona Opera (DVD)

Bertrand de Billy, John Treleaven, Graham Clark, Deborah Polaski, Harry Kupfer

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Siegfried, the third opera in Wagner's Ring cycle, picks up about two decades after Die Walküre ends. The promised hero, Siegfried, is a burly innocent living in the forest where his late mother left him in the care of Mime. This crafty creature aims to use Siegfried to gain the gold guarded in the cave of Fafner, the giant of Das Rheingold, now transformed into a dragon. Siegfried forges the invincible sword broken to bits by Wotan in Die Walküre, slays the dragon (and Mime) and now has the gold ring that enables its owner to rule the world if he renounces love. But love is what the hero yearns for. Led by a wood dove he comes to the mountain where Brunnhilde sleeps ringed by fire. Intercepted by Wotan, Siegfried breaks the god's spear, symbol of his mastery and the treaties with which he has sealed his power, and proceeds to discover the sleeping maid. He wakes her and they share a rapturous love duet.

As in the previous Ring operas in Harry Kupfer's Barcelona production, there's a grid backdrop upon which projections set the scenic tone along with symbol-laden sets and lighting. The ash tree that dominates the stage is now disintegrating, with gaping holes in which we sometimes see Wotan observing the action. Mime's forest abode is an industrial forest of pipes centered on what looks like an airplane propeller--the triumph of technology over nature that's the subtext of Kupfer's approach to the Ring. No dragon here, just some awkwardly placed log-like tentacles that plop onstage in a dry-ice fog. As before, there are some striking lighting effects, achieved through a red grid backdrop reflected on the mirror-like stage floor.

Tenor John Treleaven portrays Siegfried as a clumsy, oafish, naively fearless bully who softens when Mime tells him about his mother. Treleaven sings well enough if without the ringing top we hear from the best Siegfrieds, and we can tell it's a killer role from the voice that's obviously tiring toward the end of the opera. The cycle also takes its toll from the Wotan, here disguised as "the Wanderer," Falk Struckmann, who's strained vocally and has a pronounced wobble at times. Graham Clark, a fine Loge in Das Rheingold, is a wonderful Mime. Almost balletic in his acting, he uses his flexible high tenor to convey the absurdity of this greedy, permanently hysterical character. The other principals range from excellent (Deborah Polaski's warmly sung Brünnhilde) to miscast (Andrea Bönig's lightweight Erda), and Betrand de Billy conducts well, if not with a strong profile. The orchestra gets through the long opera without serious mishaps, but the camera work once more has its hit-or-miss moments. --Dan Davis

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