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BWW Review: San Francisco Opera Streams SIEGFRIED

Siegfried, the Heldentenor, Forges the Sword, Kills the Dragon, and Gets the Girl.

BWW Review: San Francisco Opera Streams SIEGFRIED On March 20, 2021, San Francisco Opera presented a free stream of Richard Wagner's opera Siegfried as part of Francesca Zambello's 2017-2018 American Ring. The opera opened with projections of both a healthy forest and a burned forest by designer Jan Hartley and remounter S. Katy Tucker. Lighting Designer Mark McCullough illuminated the opening scene as though it was a dream. The projections set the mood for Runnicles and Zambello's nature-friendly, quasi-impressionistic rendering of the opera.

Michael Yeargan set the home of Mime and Siegfried as a small dilapidated trailer with seats at a table, shelves holding ordinary items, and a partial wall. Outside the trailer was a clothesline, an anvil for forging, cheap folding beach chairs, an old car seat, and a bellows set-up. Tall electric towers could be seen in the background.

Daniel Brenna as Siegfried was an angry young man and he insulted David Cangelosi as Mime who secretly intended to kill the youngster. Musically, the scene was an interesting dialogue for two tenors. Both of them sang with dramatic tones. The music of this opera became more lyrical with the lines of Wotan, disguised as The Wanderer, and the music fit Greer Grimsley's baritone voice perfectly.

Siegfried's Forging Song was introduced by smoke coming from the brightening fire and a reddening sky as he activated the bellows by pulling a rope strung overhead. "Nothung, Nothung, neidliches Schwert" ("Nothung, Nothung, needed sword"), started slowly but built in tempo to a fast finale. When Mime saw the sword taking shape, he turned cart wheels and somersaults. Cangelosi was quite the acrobat who even did some calisthenics atop the trailer. Brenna, meanwhile, sang his heart out about the needed sword that would help him become a great hero. Conductor Donald Runnicles worked magic in keeping the orchestra down whenever artists sang, but brought it up to at least a mezzo-forte between the sung lines.

Act II opened to projections of tree branches and smoke with a hint of orange color. As Alberich, Falk Struckmann, the only native German in the cast, lurked in the darkness near Fafner's lair. Greer Grimsley as The Wanderer descended from a bridge above and dialogued with Alberich who declaimed forcefully that the gods would be overthrown. Wotan knew in his heart that it was true.

Zambello's Forest Bird was red-and-orange clad Stacey Tappan who sang from the bridge above. Having heard many great coloratura sopranos sing that part from the orchestra pit, it was a joy to watch her sing in the scene on the stage. She sang with clear silvered tones and moved with quick, bird-like motions.

Although he was first heard from off stage, Zambello's dragon was a machine-a huge piece of heavy earth-moving equipment. Siegfried attacked it with his sword and pulled wires out of what looked like a mouth. Only then did we see that inside was Fafner, the Giant. Sung by the deep sonorous voice of Raymond Aceto, the bloodied Fafner evoked sympathy as he lay dying. Having tasted the dragon's blood, Siegfried understood the forest bird and followed her to a burning area where they were turned away by The Wanderer and his unseen ravens.

Wotan called Erda for advice as he tried to avert disaster for the gods. She insisted she could offer no help and she wanted to be left alone to rest in peace. Ronnita Miller, as Erda sang with glorious low tones.

The god, himself, showed Siegfried where Brünnhilde lay with a blazing inferno behind her. As Brünnhilde, Iréne Theorin sang a radiant greeting to the sun as lights shone on her long blonde hair. Surprisingly, after singing for three hours, Brenna did not seem the least bit tired. Their final duet was an appropriate ending to the hero's long quest and it gave the newly-mortal heroine a reason for resuming her existence.

Zambello's new way of looking at the Ring makes me wonder what she will do with its final opera. San Francisco Opera will stream the fourth and last Ring opera, Götterdämerung, a suspenseful tale of sacrifice, destruction and renewal next weekend, March 27 and 28, beginning at 10 A M Pacific time. www.sfopera.com

Cast and Creative Crew: Siegfried, Daniel Brenna; Brünnhilde, Iréne Theorin; Mime, David Cangelosi; Wotan-the-Wanderer, Greer Grimsley; Alberich, Falk Struckmann; Fafner, Raymond Aceto; Erda, Ronnita Miller; Forest Bird, Stacey Tappan; director, Francesca Zambello; conductor, Donald Runnicles; lighting design, Mark McCullough; set design, Michael Yeargan; costume design, Catherine Zuber; projection design, Jan Hartley; remounting of projections, S. Katy Tucker.

Photo of David Brenna as Siegfried and Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde by Cory Weaver.


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