Friday, February 17, 2012


I spent the afternoon of Feb. at the AMC theater at Neshaminy Mall watching the Met’s HD broadcast of Götterdämmerung in the company of my brother and three friends. What can one say? The production, directed by Robert Lapage and played on a 45-ton set that has become known derisively “the machine,” has been reviewed in detail and ad nauseam by critics and bloggers everywhere. Rather than duplicate their efforts, I offer only a few personal impressions:

The singers and the MET orchestra were superb, although the sound quality in the theater left much to be desired. I was expecting some kind of vibrant, stereophonic surround sound effect — which I seem to recall was what we got last May for Die Walküre — but the broadcast sound seemed flattened and unidirectional, like a monaural recording. It wasn’t nearly loud enough, either. We were sitting close to the screen, and at first I thought we were in an acoustic dead zone, but a quick sprint to the back of the theater did not result in any improvement. The camerawork, too, was occasionally jerky, and I would have liked more long views of the whole stage, as opposed to close-ups.

It was the best looking operatic cast I’ve ever seen. Everyone seemed to fit his or her role, which, I am led to understand, is rather rare in the world of opera. Jay Hunter Morris made a strapping Siegfried, and he played the part like a big kid out on a swell adventure. (I was reminded of Anna Russell’s immortal observation that Siegfried was a regular Li’l Abner type.) Iain Paterson was suitably effete as Gunther, with his thin face, pale skin, and high, balding forehead. (One of our company said he looked like a Nazi functionary.) Hans-Peter König did nothing out of the ordinary as Hagen, but he was the most imposing presence in every scene he was in. Only Eric Owens as Alberich disappointed me. Despite a commanding voice, he seemed a bit too much like a community-theater Quasimodo, at least in closeup. Maybe he was mugging for the folks at the back of the hall.

The combination of the machine and video projections did produce some excellent effects — I was especially taken with the wood paneling in the Gibichung Hall and the mountain stream in Act III — but, as other bloggers have observed, the immolation scene was a something of a dud. If I didn’t know Valhalla was supposed to burn down, I never would have guessed it was happening. There was some orange light and a trio of crumbling statues, and the planks of the machine just stood there upright like a picket fence. Part of the fault is Wagner’s, I think: he relies too much on the music and the stage effects to get his point across. No one ever says, “Oh, hey, look, Valhalla’s on fire!” They couldn’t, really. It would be too comical, and just about everyone is dead at that point, anyway. Still, the production had a budget of $16 million, and for that amount of money, you'd expect the apocalypse to be a bit more apocalyptic.

And then there were the Rhine Maidens:

WTF are they wearing?

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