Behold the magnificent Swarovski crystal chandeliers, a gift of the Austrian Government when the new Metropolitan Opera House opened in the mid-1960s. It moved uptown from its previous location in the Garment District.
Gotta love the combination of gilded ceilings, crystal and red velvet for mid-century glamour!
An usher came up and put her hand over my camera as I took my pictures in the lobby. Apparently, one is not allowed to take pictures inside the building. Screw that!!!
My view from my seat in the GRAND TIER. Holy God, I want to sit there and only there
FROM NOW ON. The chandeliers rise up to the ceiling when the opera is about to start.
You can see more of my opera pictures here.
A friend gifted me with a ticket to richard Wagner's SIEGFRIED at the Metropolitan Opera today. I'd seen this production twice before during the current season, but was hoping to somehow catch it again during the run of the entire "new" Ring Cycle, directed by Robert Lepage, and it all worked out.
This new Ring of the Nibelungen, which began with the debut of DAS RHEINGOLD and DIE WALKURE in the 2010-2011 season, saw the two final operas, SIEGFRIED and GOTTERDAMMERUNG, open during the current 2011-2012 season. Much has been written on the interwebs about this cycle, its casting, design and conducting in the wake of Maestro James Levine's sudden withdrawal due to health issues (he is also the Met's Musical Director), and a goodly amount of it has been negative. There were great hopes that the sophisticated technology employed by Lepage and his colleagues at Ex Machina would give us an experience for the ages, one never seen before, but for me, that hasn't been the case. The backbone of this production, the hydraulic setting dubbed "The Machine", 24 planks that move and rotate as ordered, turned out to be less spectacular than anticipated. The planks must have images projected upon them in order to provide the following settings: The river Rhine, forests, rocky outcroppings, lakes, mountains, and the natural world elements - water, fire, air and earth. I'm not going to get into all of that now, as I rightly should have started scribbling in September 2010 when DAS RHEINGOLD opened. If you click on the link at "new Ring" you will be taken to the Met's Ring Cycle mini-site, which is well worth visiting.
For all of its technological trappings, this new Met Ring is traditional and even old-fashioned, evoking the look and feel of the operas when they debuted 100 years ago, despite modern trappings. The problem is that the project is massive and cruelly demanding: four operas of hideous length (save for DAS RHEINGOLD, performed without an intermission, which clocks in at only 2.5 hours) requiring singers of ability and stamina, plus a huge orchestra led by a conductor up to the challenge of Wagner's magnum opus with its thrilling orchestral and vocal interludes, and last, but not least, the representation of a visual world that plays host to the story, a long saga about the desire for power, greed, love, and war within the most dysfunctional opera family ever depicted onstage, set off by the theft of a golden ring from the Rhinemaidens by a dwarf in service to the King of the Gods, Wotan. As a costume designer, I would leap at the challenge to work with talented colleagues to try to create a new world specific to the requirements of this quartet of operas. I have seen a few productions with wildly different settings; a 19th century Industrial Revolution - type setting (Patrice Chereau, Bayreuth, 1970s - on video), Norse Legend/Vaguely Medieval (Otto Schenk, Metropolitan Opera, 1980s) American West, Gold Rush to Post-Apocalyptic Future (Francesca Zambello, San Francisco Opera, 2011) and bits and pieces of other productions on YouTube. Think of the fantastic opportunity to choose a place and time in which to set this drama!
The fascinating Ring at the San Francisco Opera in June 2011, directed by Francesca Zambello, was thoughtful, beautifully realized and well performed. If this Ring comes to Washington Opera, who shared it, I will definitely travel there to see it again, and recommend it to anyone.
Today's Ring was sung by Deborah Voigt as Brunnhilde, Jay Hunter Morris as Siegfried, Bryn Terfel as Wotan, Eric Owens as Alberich, Gerhard Siegel as Mime, Hans-Peter Konig as Fafner the Giant/Dragon, Patricia Bardon as Erda, and Erin Morley as the Forest Bird.
Not much was different from my last time seeing it and the machine functioned without incident, but Hunter Morris seemed to lose his footing crossing the planks in scissor mode before he got to Brunnhilde’s rock. He seemed unhurt, thankfully, but was extra-careful on the Machine afterward.
Voigt was quite shrill but she has a warm, feminine presence, and she and Jay go so well together; he maintained good energy throughout the 5.30 hour opera and only occasionally seemed overpowered by the brass. It’s a nasal tone but there is so much to love about what he does with the role that I forgive it. Terfel was commanding, but I think was in fresher voice when I last heard him this past winter and last month at the Frank Loesser evening at the Philharmonic, where he so wonderfully sang songs from "The Most Happy Fella". The lovely Forest Bird sounded muffled and it was harder to hear her since Moijca Erdmann’s previous outing.
Siegel and Konig were wonderful, as usual, and Bardon again disappointed as Erda; this role requires a contralto, and Ms. Bardon can't produce those thrilling low notes. At least none of the obsidian-like pieces of her costume fell off as she essayed her role and took her bow; usually there’s a trail of shiny fragments on the floor in her wake. What an impossible costume to negotiate, though it’s an interesting idea, making her look like an element.
Maestro Luisi led competently, but I so miss the way that James Levine could bring out the score in ways that made you tingle, perhaps at the expense of the singers, but it was oh-so-satisfying. I have heard Luisi conduct many times this season in Don Giovanni, La Traviata, Manon and this Ring, but certain expected musically transcendent moments haven't happen for me, and in the Ring, that’s a problem. The horns were in better shape today; no flubs that I could hear, and I had a great view of the pit, always a good place to turn one’s attention after one has seen enough of the fluttering leaves and running water.
The last scene between Siegfried and Brunni seemed longer than ever; maybe I have reached my maximum tolerance for this production, as it was a very long afternoon.
Curtain calls were quite thunderous, and there was a lot of cheering and happy screaming, which I so enjoy. I love to stay for the bows and don't understand how people can leave a performance before them unless they are trying to catch the last train home. Performers and players work so hard, and it's so satisfying to show one's appreciation for their efforts. When I first started going to the opera, people used to throw bouquets of flowers onstage, and from the upper stage boxes, confetti made from cut-up programs floated down like snow for a favorite singer's bow. I miss that kind of effort!
On the way home I spotted a man getting on my subway line clutching a show program, smiling. I chatted with him and he said that he only went to the opera to see Wagner, and this was his first Ring since the Schenk production before the current Ring. He loved Wagner's music because "it hurts." I found that interesting and understood exactly what he meant. There is pain as well as pleasure and truth in his music, and one must commit to the experience and allow oneself to be taken wherever it leads.
I spotted this man (below) during the first intermission on the terrace. It was a warm, beautiful Saturday and people swarmed outside for the two intermissions after the dark stretches in the theater for the first two acts (of three). He had an applique of a comic-book Siegfried applied to his linen jacket. There were a couple of other appliques on the front pockets but I wasn't able to grab a picture of that side. He received plenty of attention, and many took his photo.
FINAL CURTAIN CALLS!!!
Wotan (Bryn Terfel), Erda (Patricia Bardon), Brunnhilde (Deborah Voigt), and Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris)
Wotan (Bryn Terfel), Erda (Patricia Bardon), Brunnhilde (Deborah Voigt), and Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris) are joined by conductor Fabio Luisi
Jay Hunter Morris and his ZZ top fabulous wig bow deeply to the cheering audience.
Maestro Luisi bows
Deborah Voigt - "I did it!"