Gotterdamerung Review - A Thrilling End to the Ring

Alberich (Richard Paul Fink), who gained possession of the ring in the first opera, charges his son Hagen (Eric Halfvarson) to reclaim it.



A Metaphysical Ride

(Los Angeles, Calif. - April 21, 2010) Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods) is the fourth and last opera in Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, or Ring Cycle. This final episode of the story begins with the rapturous love shared by Brünnhilde, Linda Watson, and Siegfried, John Treleaven. But the evil Hagen, Eric Halfvarson, son of the dwarf Alberich,  Richard Paul Fink, plots against Siegfried, first administering a magic potion of forgetfulness and then murdering him. Brünnhilde returns the ring to the Rhinemaidens, who drag Hagen down to the river's depths as he clambers after the ring. The Rhine overflows its banks and Valhalla goes up in flames in a dramatically spectacular finale unparalleled in opera.

The love story between Linda Watson (Brunnhilde) and John Treleaven (Siegfried) follows through from the Ring opera Siegfried.



If you need to catch up on the story and background, you'll find our reviews of the three other Ring operas on LA Splash: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, and Siegfried.

The ancient Norse mythology on which the Ring Cycle is based tells of an epic struggle between gods and mortals for possession of the world. The ring symbolizes earthly power, in all its exalted and corruptible forms. Over the course of four operatic episodes, the great god Woton loses his power and influence by degrees. And in Götterdämmerung, he's so far out of the picture that he never sets foot onstage at all. The hero Siegfried, a proto-human sired by the copulation of gods with mortals, seems to embody the hope of the race. But in this last episode, he proves to be as imperfect and gullible as any man.

Eric Halfvarson (Hagen) is the evil genius who almost recaptures the ring for his power-mad father.



Georja: Perhaps it is the humanness of the love affair, the heroism, the fallibility and the intrigue that move the plot along in a way that had me on the edge of my seat. When I am enjoying an opera, it is usually not in this way. Usually the dynamics of the music and bigness of the emotions pull me in, along with the beauty onstage. Even though the themes and presentation of Götterdämmerung do not lend themselves to involvement in the characters' feelings, the intellectual intrigue, matched in pitch by the creative presentations, make this last part of the Ring cycle very engaging.

Gerald: Understand that this whole story is supposed to have happened before the ancestors of you and me came on the scene. This is a pre-human world, infused with the rules of fantasy, a place where a superhero (Siegfried) can nevertheless be defeated by little more than swig from a magic potion. As designer/director Achim Freyer describes the story's conclusion, 'The gods burn up in flames. The stage as a world becomes empty and free. It is transformed back into its original form. It is now open to the rise of new ideas for a world worthy of humans.'

Georja: Whereas some of the earlier stories were almost too weird to relate to, this more earthly one pulls you in and has you rooting for the good guys.  Brünnhilde and Siegfried are very appealing characters, and everyone else is not. I could listen to Linda Watson all day no matter what she is singing. The evil little Hagen, sung in glorious bass tones by Eric Halfvarson, is also hypnotic. With his pink gloves, gold suit and puppet legs, it is hard to take your eyes off him.

The near-invulnerable, heroic, ill-fated Siegfried gets led in circles.



Gerald: There's a lot to talk about in the performances (bravo! John Treleaven), but I get hung up on story. And I know Wagner was borrowing from old themes. But Siegfried is a colossal disappointment. He has slain dragons and braved fire to be with Brünnhilde -- but does he settle down to enjoy the happy-ever-after? No, he takes off in search of adventure, assuring her that their bonds of love are so tight that no distance can break them. Then he promptly sips a potion and behaves like a garden-variety human adulterer. Some hero!

Georja: I think all of the performers -- and the orchestra -- played at top form. I loved the idea that the gold stolen from nature is what corrupted and ruined all living beings, and that things can only be put back in balance once it is returned to nature. I was surprised, after putting in so many hours watching the Ring Cycle, to come out with this very positive feeling about the metaphysical meaning of it all. It makes me appreciate everything that went before -- except maybe the very Semitic-looking features, along with the stereotypical money-grabbing, of the evil dwarf Alberich (Richard Paul Fink) and his son Hagen. At the end of the first act when Siegfried for the first time in his life is getting off the heroic path and allowing himself to be degraded by those around him, he gives what I thought was a Nazi salute. At least, this helps balance the stereotypes. Okay, all  people and governments when power-hungry become evil.

Back: Michelle deYoung (Waltraute) comes to warn Linda Watson (Brunnhilde) that the fate of the gods hinges on what she decides to do with the ring.



Gerald: Most remarkable is Achim Freyer's design and staging (assisted by co-costume designer Amanda Freyer). As the accompanying pictures indicate but of course don't fully convey -- the live multimedia performance is a stunning visual experience. We certainly get the impression that every object, every effect in the scenes Freyer has created is a powerful symbol embedded in a magical world. It took me awhile to embrace them, to consider floating eyeballs and two-headed singers as anything but odd. But now that we're well into the story, these elements seem somehow familiar. Even if I don't understand them completely, I know how they fit.

Georja:  Wagner's music is a big winner here. It is being showed off and highlighted, and it seems to flow and fit perfectly with the actions of the story.  I am one who did not start out as a Wagner fan, and I can say now with certainty that some of his work is truly sublime. Once the Valkyries come on the scene, their presence is felt throughout the rest of the saga, along with their musical themes. Then, the music becomes supreme. The dominance of the strong female presence and the theme of returning to nature also grabbed me and have made me a newbie Ring fan.

Jennifer Wilson (Gutrune), John Treleaven (Siegfried) and Alan Held (Gunther) plan to ensnare Brunnhilde and regain the ring Siegfried entrusted to her.



Gerald: We've commented before on James Conlon's bold plan to mount the Ring in Los Angeles. In a difficult economic time, and particularly when arts organizations of all kinds are struggling, it took Siegfried-like bravery to spend $32 million-plus on these productions. But the payoff has been world-class recognition, combined with an influx of well-heeled international Wagner-fans to our fair city to spend their coveted tourist dollars. The alternative for LA Opera, I suppose, would have been to schedule lots of performances of the ultra-popular La Bohême and Madama Butterfly and drop ticket prices. (The Ahmanson plans another revival of South Pacific -- I rest my case!) All by way of saying, staging the Ring in L.A. has proven to be not only an artistic triumph, but also an astute commercial venture that benefits the entire local community.

Spoiler alert: You won't get any translation in the supertitles for Zurück vom Ring!, Hagen's last words, which mean, "Get back from the ring!"

Georja Umano is an actress/comedienne and animal advocate.
Gerald Everett Jones is the author of the Rollo Hemphill series of comic novels.

Photos by: Monika Rittershaus

LA Opera's Götterdämmerung (one remaining performance in this run)

Sunday     April 25, 2010     1:00 p.m.

Ring Cycle Festival (all four episodes presented sequentially, in three successive runs)
www.laoperaring.com
www.ringfestivalla.com

Ring Cycle 1

DAS RHEINGOLD

Saturday

5/29/10

7:30 PM

DIE WALKÜRE

Sunday

5/30/10

6:00 PM

SIEGFRIED

Thursday

6/3/10

6:00 PM

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

Sunday

6/6/10

5:00 PM


Ring Cycle 2

DAS RHEINGOLD

Tuesday

6/8/10

7:30 PM

DIE WALKÜRE

Thursday

6/10/10

6:00 PM

SIEGFRIED

Sunday

6/13/10

12:00 PM

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

Wednesday

6/16/10

6:00 PM


Ring Cycle 3

DAS RHEINGOLD

Friday

6/18/10

7:30 PM

DIE WALKÜRE

Sunday

6/20/10

12:00 PM

SIEGFRIED

Wednesday

6/23/10

6:00 PM

GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

Saturday

6/26/10

5:00 PM


Los Angeles Opera
135 N. Grand Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

www.laopera.com
(213) 972-8001
(213) 687-3490 fax
[email protected]

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