FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Gotterdammerung at Dallas
Music Hall, Dallas, TX, January 16,
Richard Paul Fink
Julia Anne Wolf
Director, Scenic Design,
Dallas Opera Orchestra
Dallas Opera Chorus
by Ed Flaspoehler, WSD © 2002
Wednesday night's Gotterdammerung
at Dallas Opera was good. Not great. Just good. And highly entertaining.
The sets and costumes by Argentineans Roberto Oswald and Anibal Lapiz were
excellent, and the lighting superb. Dallas Opera has always had good
lighting directors. This is the second go-round for these sets by Dallas
Opera, which were introduced in 1985, and the designers have made several improvements
in the visual presentation, including swimming Rheinmaidens and Walhallas
that collapse convincingly. The singers were up to the
task, and are, I suppose, what is on the world stage these days, but, in my
opinion, were slightly under powered for the task at hand.
George Gray as Siegfried has a rather
tight tenor that he pushes around, but it never soars. He ran out of steam
in the third act, the scene with the Rheinmaidens, but that is not unusual
for tenors singing Siegfried. Wagner wrote his most difficult music here.
Fortunately, he regained his vocal composure for Siegried's narrative and
death in the next scene. Somewhat chunky in stature, Mr. Gray is not conventionally handsome in the
traditional Germanic sense, and so some of the effect of "very
strong, and very brave, and very handsome" was lost. Nevertheless, he
manages to project a certain boyish charm and innocence as Siegfried
that makes his characterization engaging.
Frances Ginzer as Brunnhilde was
excellent, but a bit cold. She got all the notes, and has a lovely timbre,
but the passion just did not come across, at least for me. One of my voice
teacher friends went back stage to get a hug afterwards, and proclaimed
her superb. Ms. Ginzer is attractive, if slightly hefty, and so looked the
part. She seems to be well endowed up front, but it may have been a push
up bra built into the costume. Brunnhilde should be blond and buxom, and
she filled the bill.
The strongest singer in the cast was
Eric Halverson as Hagen. He made himself the central character in this
performance, the evil hub around which the plot, such as it is, turned.
Not only did his full and rich bass voice soar when it needed to soar, but
his coloration of the various emotions he portrayed made him a convincing
villain. And he acted well, grimacing, and strutting, and cowering in
turn. He was truly a standout, and was awarded the best applause at the
end by the discriminating Wednesday night audience.
Shirley Close was convincing as Gutrune,
and Peter Weber gave an admirable performance as Gunther.
The most interesting part of this whole
event, however, was Graeme Jenkins, music director of Dallas Opera, and
conductor of the performance. This was the first time Mr. Jenkins had
conducted Gotterdammerung, just as last season was his first Siegfried.
And his approach was intriguing. I do not seem to be alone is thinking
that this was almost a chamber music approach to epic music drama. The
orchestra was always held back so as not to cover the singers, and was
helped here by the fact that the orchestra in the Dallas Music Hall sits
UNDER the stage, similar to Bayreuth. The transparency of the orchestral
sound was amazing, and each section was able to shine through with its own
color. But one thing seemed to be lacking: volume. When the orchestra
needed to thunder forth, it never did. So the climaxes were lost. One of
my friends called the first act bland. In fact, it was so bland, that
there was only a ripple of applause after the two hours it took to perform
it. Strange. (It may simply be that there were not enough strings in the
Jenkins also has this quirk: he seems
not to like audiences. It is almost as if he feels they get in the way of
his music making. Traditionally, conductors make an entrance to the
podium, and acknowledge their own applause. The orchestra gets a bow
before the last act. Not so in Dallas. Mr. Jenkins hides in the pit, waits
for the lights to dim, and just starts. This could be considered a
cinematic approach to opera, and it does work to a certain extent. But
opera is a spectator sport, and such behavior dis-involves the audience.
I have been fighting a cold for the last
week or so, and Wednesday night was no exception. However, I took a big
package of Hall's Cough Drops with me to the opera, and sucked on about
six of them during the first act alone. (It lasts slightly over two hours
- longer than the entire La Boheme.) Between that and the
Robitussin I swilled before I left home, I managed to make it through with
no cough until nearly the end of the first act. And that one cough I was
able to stifle. However, the medication began to wear off after the first
intermission, and it was more difficult during the next two acts. My
friend Dave Mulllaly treated me to a nice warm cup of coffee during the
second intermission, and that helped a lot, so I made it through without
undue disturbance. Still, spending the full 6-hour evening mentholated and
worrying about your next breath is not an inducement to concentration.
Perhaps that is why, even though my attention never lagged, I felt a
certain lack of emotional involvement in the proceedings.
Overall, the evening was very good, I
enjoyed it a lot, and put together a few more pieces of Wagner's dramatic
puzzle. Gotterdammerung, and the Ring, may be a complex work
of art, but fundamentally it is a pretty straight forward mythological
story clothed in some overwrought music. That is what makes it work.
Founded in 1992 by Virginia Richey Abdo and Dr. James T. Wheeler, the
Wagner Society of Dallas has had an active
presence in the musical life of Dallas since that time. As the WSD continues to grow and expand, it is having a wider and wider influence
among musicians and performing arts institutions in North Texas,
as well as with music lovers throughout the Metroplex area. The Wagner
Society of Dallas is now creating a presence on the internet as a tool to promote
the music of Richard Wagner, and classical music in general, to the widest possible audience.
Through the medium of its own web page, regular meetings, participation in
musical events in the Dallas area, and attendance at opera performances
across the country and around the world, the Wagner Society of Dallas is
becoming an important source
of Wagner information on the World Wide Web.