Canadian Opera Company’s final installment of Wagner’s Ring Cycle delivers magnificence with a stellar cast and thoughtful direction
Wagner can be challenging even for the most seasoned opera-goer—his operas are long and often heavy—even overwhelming, but this production of Götterdämmerung, at 5.5 hours, feels lighter in many ways. It deals with human emotions that a contemporary audience can understand—love, anger, feelings of betrayal, quests for power and greed.
At the end of Siegfried, the hero has gone through the ring of fire to rescue the banished Brünnhilde and thereupon falls in love with her. This final opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle picks up several years later and Valkyrie Rock is where we find the two lovers.
Part of the beauty of Wagner’s composition is the way he weaves the music throughout the cycle. Here, we notice Siegfried’s motif has changed, from the previous somewhat erratic solo horn of his youth, to a more mature, nuanced motif, based on the former. The motifs throughout, match each character’s human conditions. Johannes Debus’ orchestra handles the music beautifully, although at certain points the orchestra overwhelmed the voices of the singers.
Austrian tenor Andreas Schager is a competent Siegfried—a hero who after years of living on the rock, needs to get back into the world. Valhalla is already falling apart by the time Siegfried arrives among the Gibichungs. Here he is tricked into taking an inverse love-potion which causes him to forget his love for Brünnhilde.
Estonian bass singer Ain Anger in the role of Hagen, is the puppet master of the opera, manipulating his siblings and even Brünnhilde in her anger, to plot to kill Siegfried. As the son of Alberich (the one who originally cursed the ring), his sole purpose is to take back possession of the ring. Anger’s portrayal of the character is convincing in his intensity. Act II as Hagen keeps watch, we hear the malevolence in his accompanying music and in the rich timber of his voice.
The undeniable star of Götterdämmerung is American soprano Christine Goerke—the Valkyrie turned mortal—who has a voice of the gods. Goerke becomes Brünnhilde, the inflections in her voice and body language are beautifully palpable. She takes us through every emotion of love, rage, sadness and despair. Goerke’s powerful performance was a stellar way to conclude her portrayal of the character for the COC.
In Act III the motif of the high strings is back and we hear the redemption through true love. Wagner tells us through his music that Brünnhilde was the cycle’s true savior as she returns the ring back to the Rheinmaidens, finally immolating herself with her love.
Not typically a fan of modern sets for classic operas, director Tim Albery’s vision of a modern day corporate office works in this telling and doesn’t distract from the story.
Canadian Opera Company’s Götterdämmerung is time very well spent at the opera house. Get your tickets now.
Götterdämmerung runs through Feb. 25. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit: coc.ca