Theater Review: “Siegfried” Slays Himself
After two glorious nights of the Ring cycle at Seattle Opera, perhaps some modest disappointment in the third shouldn’t surprise.
“Siegfried” certainly offers action-packed promise, as the true hero is finally introduced, restores the broken magic sword, kills the dragon to retrieve the ring and redeems Brünnhilde from her fire-guarded sleep. Yet the evening feel s quite slow.
Danish tenor Stig Andersen, we learned from a pre-curtain announcement, was still recovering from a mild illness, but bravely chose to perform the demanding role of Siegfried. Andersen made a strong and valiant effort, but it was clear that he was not yet in full voice.
There was also the further discovery that Andersen no longer resembles the sleek romantic his publicity photos suggest. Seeing the corpulent figure that lumbered onstage as the “wild and glorious boy” was as discomfiting as meeting a date that had been set up over the Internet.
As Wagner has written him, Siegried is the boy who does not know fear – or manners, as he foully curses and berates his foster father, the dwarf Mime (Dennis Petersen) without apparent cause. Mime’s treachery ultimately emerges, but not before we’ve become quite eager for him to poison the brat.
The pace picks up in the second act, especially with the reappearance of Richard Paul Fink, who continues to engage as Alberich, the ring’s forger. Lying in wait outside of the giant-turned-dragon’s cave, the baritone shares a robust musical quarrel with Peterson’s well-matched tenor.
Ignorant of the dragon’s gold, ring or magic helmet, Siegfried battles Fafner (Daniel Sumegi) only to learn what fear is. From the dying beast, he learns of the fortune he has won, and the dragon’s blood allows him to hear the forest bird’s (Julianne Gearhart) advice as well as Mime’s true betraying intent.
The action here is brisk, especially as Siegfried’s vorpal blade goes snicker-snack. It’s also complemented by Greer Grimsley’s welcome intrusions as Wotan, disguised as The Wanderer. Grimsley’s bass-baritone continues to enrapture, especially in his exchange with contralto Maria Streijffert as the seer/earth-goddess Erda that commences the final act.
Yet the action bogs down again once Siegfried awakens Brünnhilde and finally discovers fear in the shape of love. Much of this is due to Wagner himself — Janice Baird delivers a masterful soprano, and even Andersen’s reduced voice engages. But the lengthy (and lushly beautiful) exchange is a dramatically interminable, circular assessment of the romance before the inevitable kiss. Sort of like my prom night.
Of all the operas in the Ring cycle, it’s easiest to see in “Siegfried” the root of the distorted inferences that later made Wagner a favorite of Germany’s National Socialists. The boy is badly behaved, but as a superior, godlike man he is akin to the Übermensch of (also misrepresented) Nietzsche, he is exempt from all earthbound norms.
Perhaps, but Siegfried is also a real dope. Here’s hoping that the final destruction of the gods will redeem him.
SeattleOpera’s “Der Ring des Nibelungen” runs for three cycles through Aug. 30 at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall, 301 Mercer St. Tickets: Limited availability for Cycle 3, Aug. 25-30; (206) 389-7676 or seattleopera.org.