Die Walküre

Wagner Die Walküre opera. Directed 2011 by Robert Lepage. Stars Jonas Kaufmann (Siegmund), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde), Hans-Peter König (Hunding), Bryn Terfel (Wotan), Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Stephanie Blythe (Fricka), Kelly Cae Hogan (Gerhilde), Molly Fillmore (Helmwige), Marjorie Elinor Dix (Waltraute), Mary Phillips (Schwertleite), Wendy Bryn Harmer (Ortlinde), Eve Giglotti (Siegrune), Mary Ann McCormick (Grimgerde), and Lindsay Ammann (Rossweiße). James Levine conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Associate Direction by Neilson Vignola; set design by Carl Fillion; costume design by François St.-Aubin; lighting design by Etienne Boucher; video image art by Boris Firquet in collaboration with Ex Machina. Released 2012, disc has 5.1 dts HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Note that this disc is also available in the Ring des Nibelungen box set published by Deutsche Grammophon. Before you read the mini-review below for Die Walküre, you might read our write-up for entire Met Ring set.

The German noun "die Walküre" is singular and translates into English as "the Valkyrie." The plural form in German is "die Walküren" or, in English, "the Valkyries." There are 9 Valkyries in this opera (all of them daughters of Wotan by the earth goddess Erda). But Wotan's favorite of the 9 is Brünnhilde, and the name of the operas refers to her alone. It would have been easier for everybody if Wagner had called this opera "Brünnhilde."

This is the best recording of Die Walküre ever made. Of course, professional opera singers and their fans could cite this or that singer with legacy recordings that they might prefer to, say, Deborah Voigt, for technical reasons. But all of that would be from LPs, CDs and DVDs. There are also at this time 4 other HDVDs of Die Walküre available, but none of them are competitive with the Met version. If you have a high-definition TV and you want to learn about the Wagner Ring operas, you just have to start with this recording (or with the Met Das Rhinegold). If you don't have high-definition TV, don't waste your time. Defer your study of the Ring until you can save enough money to get the TV display this content deserves.

The four main star singers on this disc, Voigt, Westbroek, Kaufmann, and Terfel, have appeared on 13 other HDVDs previously reported on this website; all of them are among the best singers today in the world. Blythe is a Met favorite and makes a great mature Kricka. This is a female opera role where you want a fat lady. After all those years of enduring the infidelites of her husband (11 bastards of his appear in this opera), you understand why she has for so long stuffed herself with comfort food. And as icing on the cake, the Met has assembled the best platoon of girls that I've encountered for the Valkyrie chorus.

As I discuss in my mini-review of the whole Ring box set from the Met, the acting ability of the stars is almost as impressive as their singing.  This praise of the directing and acting extends to the 8 sister Walküren who appear only in Act 3. Their roles have probably been subject to more mockery and parody than all the rest of opera combined. When done poorly, the girls look ridiculous. But in this production, they all look terrific. The audience cheers them on as they appear riding on their individual machine plates which suddenly look like flying horses. One of them even breaks character and waves to the audience as she she rocks back and forth risking her neck 30 feet above the stage. (Surely Lepage directed that wave, but I wonder.) Once they slide down their mounts onto the stage, each girl has her chance to star in a rousing close-up shot, and all of them heat up the field like teenage cheerleaders at a football game (while really scooping up the bones of dead heroes). It's a riot at the Met, and you have to buy it.