|Die Walküre, Part II|
When, in advance of the actual performances, I had read of director Andre Serban trying to cajole James Morris into moving about more during Wotan's narration, I recall slapping my hand to my forehead and, in the fashion of Oliver Hardy, exclaiming "Doh!" in exasperation.
When one comes to opera one usually has developed a long attention span. I have. What I really don't need is "direction" for the sake of it. Pacing back and forth isn't necessarily "action" and for me, in acting, "less" is usually more.
"Wotan's Narration" is for me, not an ordeal (given a worthy singer) and in fact is a highlight of Act II of Walküre. It supposedly lasts for 14 minutes or more....I don't bring a stop watch to performances so I couldn't really tell you how long, but 14 minutes is about how long it takes to get a Big Mac, fries, and a watery coke in a drive-through McDonald's, pull over into the parking lot, bite into it, clean the resulting spray of ketchup and mayo off the windshield, open the car door and vomit on the pavement, wipe the sweat from my face with the copious napkins, stare at myself in the rear view mirror, and ask myself was I really that lazy that I chose this food over something that I could have cooked at home?
James Morris must have won the day, for he remained sitting for the Narration and I stayed awake for it and savored the sound of the wonderful string section of the SF Opera orchestra.
I tire of remarks about Jane Eaglen's weight. She does not want to be overweight, I imagine, and it does impede her mobility and perhaps believability in the role, but when you close your eyes, as I often do in a theatre, the better to hear, you can hear a singer who can, er, sing! In Wagner that often is NOT the case so let us dwell on the positive. Like many others, I don't feel moved by much of her singing as I feel she does not "let go" and sing with abandon, but rather with control. Showing emotion is not a renowned British trait.
Here and there I took a small siesta due to the lack of cool fresh air in the room and the effects of my life outside the theatre. How I look forward to the 4pm starts and one hour intermissions in Bayreuth this summer.
The Walküres of course swarmed all over the place, hither and thither, and brought dead heroes on to the stage, hardly necessary. These gentlemen eventually rose and walked Zombie-like into the wings (yawn).
Among the rocks was a tilted slab that Brünnhilde would eventually rest upon, tuckered out after trying to keep track of which Walküre was which, as they shuffled about in overactive choreography.
Runnicles, to me, is rather stiff and "British" when it comes to whipping up emotion in the band and even "lieb Wohl" failed to ignite excitement in me, though it was gloriously sung by Morris. The band just didn't feel the same way about the situation as he did. This music needs more than a time-keeper on the podium, needs more than someone who can get through the score. It needs someone who "feels" the music, bar by bar, and who can instill that feeling into his players .
I can barely recall hearing flutes, piccolo, and glockenspiel in the fire music, all the little important threads that make up the great tapestry which is the ending of the wonderfully crafted Act III.
The fire was weak but I can let my imagination fill in the blanks: red lights and dry ice will do just fine as I don't really need real fire, as in Seattle.
Outside, as I had gotten a ride to the theatre to make the curtain in good time, my friend Carol and I waited with 100 or so others for the taxi we had placed our names on a list for. Note to self...always take your own car.
After Walküre we planned to drive 150 miles north to a place called Little River to stay in a wonderful cliff-side resort for a night. Siegfried was two days away on a Sunday afternoon, and on Saturday we had arranged to attend a barbecue on the north-east outskirts of the city at the home of Mistress Terri, where we would meet an old friend from Germany and a new one from Canada, both brought into our lives courtesy of the computer and AOL.
We were not in Bayreuth, where the opera is the thing, but rather in San Francisco, one of the most beautiful cities one can imagine, with many diversions of a scenic nature, and so the Ring was just the icing on the cake as opposed to the cake itself.
A Ring is a Ring, and one should see/hear as many as possible. I was attending one in this city that had much to acclaim, principally in the vocal realm, and so I had much to savor. Shabby brass playing and weak or uninspired direction could not destroy the uplifting experience.
Onward to Siegfried!