Siegfried

Richard Wagner Siegfried opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2008 by Carlos Padrissa and La Fura dels Baus  at the Palau de las Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia. Stars Lance Ryan, Jennifer Wilson, Juha Uusitalo, Gerhard Siegel, Franz-Josef Kapellmann, Catherine Wyn-Rodgers, Stephen Milling, and Marina Zyatkova. Zubin Mehta conducts the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana. Sets by Roland Olbeter; costumes by Chu Uroz; lighting by Peter Van Praet; video projections by Franc Aleu; TV direction by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2010, disc was recorded with 48kHz/24 bit sound sampling and  has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound output. Grade: B

This is the third Ring opera produced in Valencia in the Fura dels Baus high-tech, fantasy-literature style. I'm personally tired of this design concept now. I think it tends to distract from rather to support the singing and acting of the stars.

I did note that the orchestra under Mehta sounds better on this disc than on the earlier two discs (which I also praised for SQ). This disc was recorded with 48kHz/24 bit sound sampling, whereas many of our Blu-rays are recorded, I think, at 48kHz/16 bit. It could be that using 24-bit processing contributed to the better sound I hear.

The Valencia folks maintained good character continuity through the first 3 parts of this cycle with the same singers in the same roles. The big newcomer here is, of course, Siegfried. I think Lance Ryan is for sure on that list of 5 singers in the world who can hack Siegfried, and Ryan did a great job at Valencia. But his performance didn't come across as a personal triumph because of all the competition and clutter from the design and direction at Valencia. This should be contrasted to the spectacular success of Jay Hunter Morris in the Met version of Siegfried that came out late in 2012. If you didn't know better, you would think that Wagner wrote this opera as a vehicle for Morris personally---that's how dominant his performance was. And how did that happen? Met director Lepage remembered that the name of this work is "Siegfried." And everything in the Met production has but one mission: to support Siegfried in his trek from foundling to hero. (We will give credit also to Morris for bringing Siegfried-level passion to the task.)

Gerhard Siegel was excellent as Mime in Valencia. But he played the same role in a much more distinguished way for Lepage in the Met Ring. The clean directing at the Met gave Siegel full opportunity to show his singing and acting prowess. Alas, Jennifer Wilson takes it on the chin again at Valencia with yet another astonishingly ugly costume. Oh, she's going to be on the stage a lot in Götterdämmerung---I dread that.

The English subtitles are as bad as ever. My favorite howler: "But soft!" I don't know that anyone has used this since Shakespeare, and nobody knows for sure what it meant in 1595. (It probably meant, "Oh look! Be quiet and pay attention."

We gave the first two installments of the Valencia Ring the liberal grade of "B+," which was the verdict of the L'OperaDou Jury. But the Jury newer tried Siegfried or Götterdämmerung. I'll drop the grade on this to "B." This denotes "a fine title you will probably like a lot if the subject interests you." So if you want to see a mythic hero story told over a background of a high-tech, computer-generated fantasy world, pig out!