It was an astonishing and historic Metropolitan Opera Live in HD telecast. Not only was the Metropolitan Opera’s spectacular Robert LePage production of Wagner’s Siegfried all new, it is also one of the longest ever undertaken for a telecast.
It will be repeated on May 16 at 6:30 pm in an encore Live in HD showing.
Featuring über talented Fabio Luisi conducting the Met Orchestra, Berkshire audiences will be treated to a distinguished cast of Wagner singers, with Jay Hunter Morris in his first Met performances of the title role*, one of the most challenging in the entire operatic canon. Deborah Voigt returns as the warrior maiden Brünnhilde, Bryn Terfel is the mysterious Wanderer, Patricia Bardon is the ancient earth goddess Erda, and Gerhard Siegel and Eric Owens are the nefarious brothers Mime and Alberich.
*The Met announced on Nov. 28 that Jay Hunter Morris will sing the role of Siegfried in the new production premiere of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung on January 27, and in the performances on February 7 and 11. He replaces Gary Lehman, who has withdrawn due to the continued effects of a viral infection. Stephen Gould will sing the role of Siegfried as scheduled in the January 31 and February 3 performances. The February 11 matinee of Götterdämmerung will be transmitted worldwide as part of The Met: Live in HD series.
Morris sang the title role in the new production premiere of Siegfried on October 27, a part he repeats on November 1 and 5 matinee. Siegfried will be transmitted as part of The Met: Live in HD series on November 5. Morris made his Met debut in 2007 as Števa in Janáček’s Jenůfa.
The Met would like to thank San Diego Opera for releasing Mr. Morris from an engagement which conflicted with these Götterdämmerung performances.
Siegfried, the third installment of the fabulous Ring Cycle follows the adventures of opera’s ultimate hero, a valiant warrior who literally does not know the meaning of the word “fear.”
Although many say the role of Siegfried is almost impossible to sing and there is always the chance the tenor will blow his voice out during the marathon opera, Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times wrote that Texas-born tenor Jay Hunter Morris was “a quite decent Siegfried, which is a real achievement.
“The opera is about the maturing of a young, fearless and somewhat witless demigod. The sheer length of the role is just one of its challenges. The part involves a great deal of upper-range, impetuous, heroic singing. Though Mr. Morris, who looked strong and youthful, does not have a big voice, he made up in energy what he lacked in power. His singing was admirably clean and honest.”
Tommasini liked Deborah Voight as well: “In the last scene Siegfried finally learns fear, not from a monstrous dragon but from a woman: Brünnhilde, whom he wakes from the sleeping spell her father, Wotan, placed her under in “Die Walküre.” This scene is a shifting and rapturous 30-minute love duet, and as Brünnhilde, the soprano Deborah Voigt sang with bright, penetrating sound and textured shadings. Her voice, though sometimes hard-edged, was exciting and expressive. And Ms. Voigt poignantly captured Brünnhilde’s confusion as she grapples with the loss of her godhood and realizes that no armor will protect her from the threat of Siegfried’s love, which she helplessly returns.” You can read the full review here: (link)
With an astonishing running time of 5 hours and 29 minutes, the telecast will be hosted by Renée Fleming who will fill the two intermissions with opera fact and lore to ensure the audience’s ultimate pleasure.
An encore telecast has been scheduled for November 16 at Noon, ET, and can be seen at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield, and The Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, as well as more than 1,600 movie theaters in 54 countries around the world as part of The Met: Live in HD series.
Lepage’s production uses a technologically advanced set which you can just make out in the video above which is dimly lit. It is comprised of 24 flexible planks that can be configured into a variety of shapes, for each of his Ring stagings. In this production, spectacular visual effects will depict the natural world that surrounds the opera’s title character including 3-D bird projections right at the beginning of our clip.
The staging for this opera incorporates new projection technologies to vividly create the mysterious and dangerous world of Siegfried. Opening night ticket holders report that Lepage has made the best use of the Cirque du Soleil-like “Ring” set, called “The Machine” a 45-ton apparatus with movable planks on a pivot that required the Met to reinforce its stage to hold it all. The Times also reported that “there are jarring moments when (the) moving pieces creak into place.”
Luisi will lead his first Met performances of Siegfried this season. He has conducted complete cycles of Der Ring des Nibelungen, most recently at the Dresden State Opera in Germany, and last season led two critically acclaimed performances of Das Rheingold at the Met. Also this season, he conducts the new production premieres of Mozart’s Don Giovanni (October 13) and Massenet’s Manon (March 26), as well as a revival of Verdi’s La Traviata.
Siegfried will return to the Met in April as part of three complete Ring cycles, led by Met Music Director James Levine. (A new production of Götterdämmerung opens January 27.) The premiere cast will perform in the complete cycles, with a few additions: Katarina Dalayman, who has previously sung the Walküre and Götterdämmerung Brünnhildes at the Met, will sing her first performance of Siegfried on April 30; Stephen Gould will make his Met role debut as Siegfried on May 9; and Robert Brubaker and Richard Paul Fink will sing Mime and Alberich on May 9.
Lepage’s production team for Siegfried includes associate director Neilson Vignola, set designer Carl Fillion, costume designer François St-Aubin, lighting designer Etienne Boucher, and, in his Met debut, video image artist Pedro Pires.
Video: Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried in the Forging Scene from Act I of Wagner’s Siegfried, conducted by Fabio Luisi and directed by Robert Lepage. Video courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera.
Synopsis of Siegfried
— courtesy of Opera News
Composer: Richard Wagner
ACT I. In his cavern workshop near Fafner’s lair, Mime complains bitterly as he toils at an anvil to forge a new sword for Siegfried, who has grown to manhood. The impotent, hate-filled Nibelung has fashioned many blades for his ward, but they always broke into pieces when tested. Though Mime secretly has kept the shattered Nothung, the magic sword wielded by Siegfried’s father, he lacks the skill to restore its fragments. If he could do so, with Siegfried’s help, he would fulfill his dream of obtaining Fafner’s Ring and becoming ruler of the world. A hunting horn announces the approach of Siegfried, who bounds in with a bear he has captured, playfully scaring Mime before releasing the animal to the forest. Impatient for a new sword, Siegfried grasps Mime’s latest effort, only to have the weapon snap like a toy in his hands. To avoid the headstrong youth’s anger, the Nibelung offers kind words and food, both brusquely rebuffed. At this, Mime whiningly reminds Siegfried of the long years he has looked after him and all he has taught him. Siegfried retorts he has never learned to tolerate the sight of Mime, nor does he know why he continues to live with him. They do not resemble each other, he says, and grabbing Mime by the throat, he demands to know who his real parents were. The Nibelung confesses that years ago he found a woman in distress in the woods and nursed her as she died giving birth. Her name was Sieglinde, and the baby’s father had fallen in combat; Siegfried’s name is a legacy from his mother. Moved by the story, Siegfried asks for proof of what he has been told, at which Mime takes forth the splintered remnants of the sword Nothung. At once the youth insists the weapon be welded whole, so he can go forth into the world to seek adventure. Siegfried runs back into the forest.
As Mime sits dejected, an aged Wanderer (Wotan) appears. Soon the unwanted guest proposes a battle of wits in which he will forfeit his head should he lose. Mime, though suspicious, agrees, then proceeds to ask the Wanderer three questions: what race lives under the earth (the Nibelungs), on the face of the earth (the giants) and on the cloudy heights (the gods)? The Wanderer answers correctly, then declares that Mime too must answer three questions, to save his own head: what is the race Wotan mistreats but loves most (the Wälsungs), what is the sword Siegfried must use if he is to kill the dragon Fafner (Nothung), and who will repair the weapon? When Mime cannot answer the last question, the Wanderer tells him the sword can be forged only by one who has never known fear — and he leaves the gnome’s head as bounty to that person.
Hearing distant growls, Mime panics, thinking Fafner is coming, but it is only Siegfried, eager to wield his father’s sword. Mime tries to find out whether the youth comprehends the meaning of fear. Since he does not, Mime decides to take him to Fafner’s lair, where surely he will learn. When Siegfried once more orders Mime to finish Nothung, the Nibelung sobs that he lacks the craft, at which Siegfried repairs the sword himself, launching into a spirited forging song as he works. While the youth toils, Mime plots to get rid of him once the dragon has been killed and the treasure recovered. Siegfried brandishes the finished sword, splits the anvil with it and rushes into the forest.
ACT II. That night, Alberich keeps vigil near Fafner’s cave, brooding over his lost treasure, determined to regain the Ring. When the Wanderer approaches, bathed in eerie light, the Nibelung at once recognizes him as Wotan. The god assures him that he no longer cares about the Ring — he is now only an observer of destiny. He adds that it is Mime whom Alberich should fear, for Mime wants the gold and brings a valiant young hero to slay Fafner. The Nibelung is perplexed that his enemy seems to be helping him. Wotan and Alberich rouse the sleeping Fafner to warn him of approaching danger, urging him to surrender the Ring, but Fafner only mumbles he will devour any attacker. God and Nibelung disappear in the shadows.
As dawn breaks, sunlight penetrates the dense foliage of the forest. Mime enters with Siegfried, showing him Fafner’s lair. Dismissed by the youth, the treacherous gnome hobbles off. Siegfried stretches on the ground under a lime tree to rest, enchanted by the murmur of the forest, yearning for the mother he never knew. High in the branches over his head, a Forest Bird warbles a song he wishes he could understand. Cutting a reed and blowing on it, Siegfried tries to imitate the bird. Then he raises his silver hunting horn to his lips, inadvertently awakening Fafner, who rumbles forth from his den. During the ensuing struggle, Siegfried plunges his sword into the monster’s heart. Dying, Fafner warns that whoever put Siegfried up to this deed is plotting his death as well. When Siegfried draws Nothung from the beast, his fingers are burned by blood, so he touches them to his lips. The taste of the dragon’s blood enables him to understand the language of the Forest Bird, who tells him of the Nibelung hoard, the Tarnhelm and all-powerful Ring. As Siegfried disappears into the cave to inspect the treasure, Mime slinks back, only to be confronted by Alberich. The brothers quarrel over the spoils, withdrawing when Siegfried reappears, carrying proof of his victory — the Tarnhelm, which he fastens to his belt, and the Ring, which he places on his hand. Now the Forest Bird warns Siegfried about Mime, who soon creeps forward, bearing a poisoned drink. Reading the dwarf’s true thoughts, the youth loses patience with the Nibelung and kills him, as Alberich’s laughter echoes in the distance. While Siegfried rests, lamenting his solitude, the bird tells of a maiden who sleeps on a fire-encircled rock — Brünnhilde, a bride who can be won only by a hero who knows no fear. The youth runs through the forest toward the mountain where she sleeps.
ACT III. By night, as thunder and lightning threaten a wild mountain gorge, the Wanderer summons Erda from sleep. Concealing his identity, he seeks knowledge of the future. Erda evades the questions, and the god, resigning himself to Valhalla’s doom, bequeaths the world to the redemptive power of Brünnhilde’s love. When Siegfried ventures into the gorge, the Wanderer encounters his grandson, inquiring with humor about his exploits and the sword he wears. Siegfried responds arrogantly, angering the god, who tries to block his path. Drawing Nothung, the youth splinters the Wanderer’s spear with a single stroke. Realizing his power has ended, the deity retrieves the broken pieces, then vanishes as Siegfried scales the mountain.
Dawn breaks on the rocky height where Brünnhilde rests. Reaching the summit, Siegfried discovers an armed, sleeping figure, which he assumes to be a man. When he removes the Valkyrie’s shield, helmet and breastplate, however, he finds instead the first woman he has ever seen. At last sensing fear, he invokes the spirit of his mother, finally summoning the courage to kiss the maiden’s lips. Brünnhilde, roused from her long slumber, slowly realizes she is not dreaming, that Siegfried has come. She hails the sunlight and her return to life. When Siegfried tries to embrace her, she starts in alarm, protesting that earthly passion would destroy her immortality. But she is mortal, no longer a Valkyrie, and womanly ardor soon replaces shame and fear. Throwing herself into Siegfried’s arms, she bids farewell to memories of Valhalla, abandoning herself to human love, exulting even in thoughts of death.