“Die Walkure” introduces us the Brunhilde who will bring the end to the gods through her love for a man who has not yet been born. PBS “Great Performances at the Met: Die Walkure” will first air on September 12, 2012. Check local listings.
It’s a dark and stormy night so the creaking and groaning of the machine, might have fit right in. For those who are just coming into this production, the “machine,” is a 24-plank connected on an axis of a 45-ton contraption that acts as the only stage element. The development of this over-sized child’s toy is explained in the documentary, “Wagner’s Dream.”
Director Robert Lepage makes sure we see and hear the threatening weather. A stranger, Siegmund ( tenor Jonas Kaufmann) seeks shelter in the unhappy home of Hunding. Hunding is out, but his unhappy wife Sieglinde (Eva-Maria Westbroek) is there and offers Siegmund shelter. He would go because he claims he’s cursed by misfortune, but she entreats him to stay. What harm can he bring to a “house where ill luck lives.”
Things can get worse. Hunding (bass Hans-Peter König) returns and Siegmund tells his tale of woe. Siegmund and his father returned home one day only to find his mother dead and his twin sister gone. His father and he searched for her. When he found a girl being forced into marriage, he fought with her relatives, but the bride was killed and his weapons broken.
Hunding was one of the men pursuing Siegmund and tells Siegmund that he will grant him the customary hospitality, but in the morning, they will battle.
Sieglinde drugs her husband and tells Siegmund that she was forced into marrying Hunding, but during the wedding a strange old man appeared and put a sword into the trunk of a tree that is in the middle of the room. No one has been able to remove the sword.
Siegmund removes the sword which he names “Nothung” and although the two realize they are brother and sister, they declare their love for each other. Kaufman’s brooding Siegmund brightens with hope and Kaufman and Westbroek look like they could be sister and brother as well as a good-looking couple together. Westbroek aptly suggests a woman who has poignantly survived a brutish marriage and is tentatively grasping at hope.
Siegmund and Sieglinde may know who their mother is, but not their father. Wotan, disguised as their supposed father, bedded their mother. Wotan (bass-baritone Bryn Terfel), watching over the events, asks his Valkyrie daughter Brunhilde (Deborah Voigt) to protect Siegmund against Hunding.
However, Fricka (mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe ) appears sitting on a throne and as the guardian of wedlock, demands that Siegmund and Sieglinde be punished for adultery and incest. The subtext here is that Wotan should also be punished for his adultery and that doesn’t just mean the sins of the father Wotan visiting Siegmund and Sieglinde. Bryn Terfel’s Wotan blusters but seems to feel annoyance rather than guilt over his own transgressions. After Fricka leaves, Wotan bitterly commands Brunhilde to give Hunding victory.
Siegmund and Sieglinde are on the run when Brunhilde approaches Siegmund. The Valkyries are warrior maidens who are supposed to gather the souls of fallen heroes. The heroes will form an army against Alberich, but should Alberich have the ring, he will defeat Valhalla’s army. Brunhilde, the offspring of Wotan with the earth goddess Erda, is moved by Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde and promises him victory.
When Siegmund does meet with Hunding, he almost wins, but an angry Wotan appears and breaks Nothung. Hunding kills the weaponless Siegmund. Brunhilde gathers up the pieces of Nothung and flees with Sieglinde instead of Siegmund.
When she meets with the other Valkyries, during the “Ride of the Valkyries,” (each woman warrior is riding an individual see-sawing planks of the “machine,” ) the others are astounded that Brunhilde has a living woman. Wotan catches up with his disobedient daughter, but Brunhilde delays him as Sieglinde escape. Sieglinde is pregnant with Siegmund’s child who will be Siegfried.
Wotan must punish Brunhilde’s disobedience although she was, as she reminds him, acting on his true wishes. Wotan takes away Brunhilde’s immortality and puts her into a deep sleep. Loge surround her by a ring of fire and only a truly brave man, one who knows no fear, can enter and awaken her.
Using a body double, director Robert Lepage puts Brunhilde on planks in the middle of the “machine” that are perpendicular to the stage, giving us an aerial view of Brunhilde from directly above and surrounds her by yellow, red and orange lights.
Although filmed from a May 14, 2011 performance, September 12, 2012 is the production’s premiere on TV. Check local listings.
Performance date: May 14, 2011
Air date: September 12, 2012
A stellar cast comes together for this second installment of Robert Lepage’s new production of the Ring cycle, conducted by James Levine. Bryn Terfel is Wotan, lord of the gods, and Deborah Voigt adds the part of Brünhilde to her extensive Wagnerian repertoire at the Met. Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek star as the twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, and Stephanie Blythe is Fricka.