Saturday, October 9, 2010

Met Live in HD; Das Rheingold. Richard Croft is the Elvis of Loge

Circuits have been abuzz about Robert Lepage's new Rheingold production at the Met. But we were raised in an age of cinematic technology. How would it look in a cinema: would Wotan be Indiana Jones?

The production translated onto the silver screen with mixed results. One could imagine the vast spaces of the Met where the motion of the machine must have been spellbinding. The visual impact of the Rheinmaiden scene lived up to the hype. But often, as in the transition from the first scene to the second, we could never get the right angle to sense the depth of the action.

More than technology, we should have focused on the educational potential of this endeavor. It was unforgettable to have the opportunity to hear Wagner in a movie theater.

Imagine. This was the experimental stuff--an opera without duets; without any singing in harmony after the Rheinmaidens leave. This was continuous music sung in high German set in syllabic style derived systematically from prose. It was performed live and beamed all over the world for people eating popcorn and drinking soda.

Forget the technology. It was singing that made this production memorable. Just singing.

What a cast: Bryn Terfel as Wotan, Stephanie Blythe, who sang a buttery Fricka, and Gerhard Siegel who made Mime memorable. Franz-Josef Selig sang Fasolt with such deep romanticism that one wonders why Freia (played by Wendy Byrn Harmer) returned to the Gods at all.

Bass-baritone Eric Owens was an impressive Alberich. Owens is familiar from his role in Doctor Atomic. As Alberich his sound was edgy, his diction fierce. His intensity made the curse real. Owens manufactures drama at will. His Alberich was alter-Wotan.

Richard Croft was the Elvis of Loge. His singing was filled with cleverness; full of windows that opened on new ideas. He voiced the the surprisingly lyrical music near the end of the second scene with curves as lovely as the silhouette of Freia lit with magical red light from the bottom of his hands.

A good Rheingold creates both stillness and tension. It is a strange opera. Perfect for a movie theater.

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