With apologies to DK'er Demi Moaned for filching his past diary series title and mashing it up with my regular series tonight (explanation to be given in the tip jar), it's opera time for this SNLC, where I begin with the question that Demi Moaned would ask:
Anyone see the Met Die Walküre today?
If you didn't, please feel free to skip to the next diary :) . But if you did, you'll know why I chose this topic for this SNLC. More below the flip....
First, though, some linky goodness for background on Die Walküre, the "First Day of The Ring of the Nibelungen":
In fact, come to think of it about this opera, loserness abounds among the characters and the plot twists. Examples:
(1) Sieglinde is stuck in an unhappy forced marriage with Hunding, and the only amorous happiness she ever has in life proves to be with.....well, just read the synopsis.
(2) Wotan, the head god, is totally caught in a situation where he has to sanction the death of his own son in single combat with Hunding.
(3) Hunding, after striking down Siegmund, gets his from Wotan, without being struck with any weapon.
(4) Brünnhilde, "Daddy's little girl" (as one of the Valkyries, she's one of Wotan's 9 warrior maiden daughters - not to mention half-sister to Sieglinde), by defying Wotan's command not to help Siegmund, pays for it at the end with the loss of her godhead (hence the "Magic Fire" scene).
In this particular production, the director is Robert Lepage, known for productions with Cirque du Soleil, for example. The main sticking point (well, one of two, the other being James Levine's health) is the massive stage set on which various projections and such can be incorporated, known to one and all as "the machine" (past SNLC on it here).
In fact, "the machine" is apparently the cause of this choice of topic for tonight's SNLC. I quoted in the earlier SNLC about the machine almost catching a mezzo-soprano during a rehearsal and then not working at the end of Das Rheingold on opening night of that opera back in October. Apparently the gremlins in "the machine" were back at work again today, because the performance began 40 minutes late. Daniel Wakin noted this on the NYT's ArtsBeat blog here. So at least at the movie house where I was, we were not quite twiddling our thumbs, but partly speculating about the reason(s) for the delay, such as:
(a) a malfunction in "the machine"
(b) James Levine having to bail (and probably bringing in Fabio Luisi, the Met's principal guest conductor)
(c) one of the singers getting sick
Well, if we accept the official explanation given in the first intermission feature that mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato (co-host with Placido Domingo for this HD-cast) had with the Met Opera's technical director John Sellars, then (a) was the answer. (An acquaintance snarkily remarked that the reason was more likely time needed for whatever medication Levine might be on to start working, but never mind.)
Fortunately, once the snafu in "the machine" was worked out, things went pretty well. Not note-perfect, with the very occcasional obvious brass mini-blooper, but for $22, I'm not complaining. When I saw the HD-cast of Das Rheingold back in October, knowing of all the $ that had been spent on "the machine" and the Met stage to be able to handle it, after seeing that not a lot seemed to be done with visual imagery, a thought in the back of my head went: "Is that all that you can do with that ginormous toy?". This time, however, maybe because I was just used to it being there, that didn't quite bug me as much this time.
Other things differed, happily, compared to the first night, namely:
1. In the HD-cast, Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde, the Valkyrie of the title) did not lose her footing in her first scene, playing off Bryn Terfel (Wotan, her dad).
2. Perhaps more importantly, the Dutch soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek, as Sieglinde, did not fall prey to illness at the HD-cast as she did on opening night. From my not-very-opera-voice-aficionado POV, I thought that E-MW came through with flying colors.
However, if one singer took home the prize, I would have to go with tenor Jonas Kaufmann, as Siegmund. I'd never actually heard him in any format whatsoever, but I knew of his strong reputation. From this performance, his reputation is completely justified. Excellent, intense singing and fine acting. He's also a very charismatic interviewee, during the first intermission chat with Placido Domingo with both JK and E-WM (although the former pretty much did most of the talking of the two). Admittedly, some of his appeal may not be purely musical, if you look at his picture from his webpage.
In addition, given James Levine's health problems (briefly alluded to in this SNLC), he took his bows from the orchestra pit, since he's obviously not in shape to trudge on stage. That did, however, have the salutary effect of putting the orchestra musicians in the spotlight at the end.
So there we are for a Saturday night, and time for the usual SNLC protocol below, namely your loser stories for the week, which may or may not involve opera or 45-ton pieces of equipment....