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BWW Review: San Francisco Opera's Stream of GÖTTERDÄMERUNG

The Finale of Wagner's Ring Cycle Staged by Francesca Zambello and Conducted by Donald Runnicles.

BWW Review: San Francisco Opera's Stream of GÖTTERDÄMERUNG On March 27, 2021, San Francisco Opera presented an online stream of its 2017-2018 production of Götterdämerung, the fourth opera of Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. Stage Director Francesca Zambello has shown us a rapidly deteriorating world in Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried, so the opening projections of clouds and smoke stacks are no surprise. In the first screen, the Norns are bright green-clad workers toiling to connect huge black cables. Ronnita Miller and Jamie Barton are well known for their crème brulé tones and Sarah Cambidge definitely belongs with them since she has a bright, well-focused soprano sound. Norns are usually wonderful singers and I hope some future costume designer will endeavor to make them look as good as they sound.

The Gibichung home is well furnished in slightly tacky style. Gutrune wears a black-belted red gown with a train as she plumps couch pillows for Siegfried's arrival. Singing with honeyed tones, Melissa Citro as Gutrune has no trouble keeping the wrapt attention of every male in the room. Siegfried, with his mother's scarf around his neck and Nothung on his back, is mere clay in her hands. Brian Mulligan is a dark-voiced Gunther while Andrea Silvestrelli is a marvelously well- endowed but violently mysogenistic Hagen.

Gutrune, Jamie Barton, changes into Catherine Zuber's dark leather garb for her visit to the newly-mortal Brünnhilde. Gutrune suggests placing the ring back in the Rhine, but Brünnhilde reminds her that the same ring is the symbol of her engagement. Here, Wagner's music foretells the immolation.

Gorgeous horn calls and a mellifluous brass choir announce the next scene. Hagen is asleep when his father, Alberich, comes to insist he get the magical Ring back from Siegfried. At dawn, Siegfried arrives and announces that Brünnhilde will marry Gunther. Brünnhilde, on the other hand is now dressed in flowing garb, expecting to marry Siegfried. She is angered by the trickery. In the dramatic throes of anger, she reveals to Hagen where Siegfried is vulnerable in battle.

Act III opens on the polluted shore of the Rhine. The Rhinemaidens beg Siegfried for the return of their gold but he refuses. He is on a mission to hunt for food, but he has found none. Meeting with Hagen and Gunther, he sings his personal history with glinting tones, telling how he killed the dragon and won Brünnhilde. Hagen stabs him in the back with his spear and as he dies, he sings of his love for Brünnhilde with bright, trumpet-like sounds.

Back at the Gibichung residence, Gutrune awaits Siegfried's return only to be told that she has been widowed. Fighting over the ring, Hagen kills Gunther but dares not take the Ring. Brünnhilde gets it from Siegfried's hand and she orders a funeral pyre for him and for her own immolation. She sings of the past drama with glorious flowing tones that range from precisely focused sweet mid-staff pianissimi to dazzling fortissimo leaps into the vocal stratosphere.

After the world of the gods is costumed by fire, the gold again belongs to the Rhinemaidens and it is free of Alberich's curse. The new order that can now begin is effectively represented by a young girl who plants a tree seedling at the front of the stage.

Conductor Donald Runnicles and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra gave us a fabulous rendition of Wagner's immense score. Although the tempi were a bit slow at times, Runnicles had an architectural concept of the score that gave the listener all its intricate and colorful details. Each leitmotif brought to mind unseen but important aspects of the story and the orchestral energy made the listener sense the import of each scene. This was a most important Ring Cycle and I hope it will eventually be available again for those who were unable to see it this past month.

Cast and Creative Artists:

Brünnhilde, Iréne Theorin, Siegfried, Daniel Brenna; Gunther, Brian Mulligan; Hagen, Andrea Silvestrelli; Waltraute, Jamie Barton; Gutrune, Melissa Citro; Alberich, Falk Struckmann. Norns: Ronnita Miller, Jamie Barton, and Sarah Cambidge; Rhinemaidens: Stacy tappan, René Tatum, and Lauren McNeese. Conductor, Donald Runnicles; Director Francesca Zambello; Set Designer, Michael Yeargan; Costume Designer, Catherine Zuber.

Photo of Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde by Cory Weaver for San Francisco Opera.

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From This Author Maria Nockin