The Canadian Opera Companys Gotterdammerung dazzles with its art and humanity

GOTTERDAMMERUNG by Richard Wagner (Canadian Opera Company). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). Runs to February 25. $35-$350..

GOTTERDAMMERUNG by Richard Wagner (Canadian Opera Company). At the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). Runs to February 25. $35-$350. 416-363-8231. See listing. Rating: NNNNN

Nobody does the end of a mythic world better than Richard Wagner.

In the final opera of his epic Ring Cycle, Gotterdammerung (The Twilight Of The Gods), Wagner finishes his tale of heroes and gods with glorious music and a story that sets love against power and greed.

The Canadian Opera Companys first-rate production emphasizes the struggle to be human in a contemporary corporate setting where lust for supremacy has killed all vestiges of the natural world: power lines, computer screens and boardroom bargaining fill the stage in Michael Levines impressive design, lit by David Finn.

At its centre are lovers Siegfried (Andreas Schager) and Brunnhilde (Christine Goerke), their relationship torn apart when the hero drinks a magical potion that makes him forget Brunnhilde. Its served by the villainous Hagen (Ain Anger), who plots to get from Siegfried the cursed ring of power forged from the gold stolen by Hagens father, the conniving dwarf Alberich (Robert Pomakov), from the Rhinemaidens in the cycles first opera.

Hagen enlists the aid of his half siblings, the royals Gunther (Martin Gantner) and Gutrune (Ileana Montalbetti), promising Gunther that Brunnhilde will be his bride and that Gutrune will wed Siegfried.

Clocking in at over five hours, Gotterdammerungs not a short evening, but in the hands of director Tim Albery and conductor Johannes Debus, who brings out the scores majesty, warmth and passion, the show never drags, despite a first act that has a fair amount of exposition before it explodes into action, oaths, curses, violence, revenge, murder and, finally, a possible new world order.

The impressive cast Goerkes heartfelt Brunnhilde, Schagers proud, confident Siegfried, Angers cold, dark-voiced Hagen, Gantners weak-willed Gunther and Montalbettis naive Gutrune rides the big orchestral sound, creating believable characters who go beyond archetypes. Theres not a weak link in the cast, which includes Karen Cargill as Brunnhildes Valkyrie sister, Waltraute, and Lindsay Ammann, Danika Loren and Lauren Eberwein as Norns and Rhinemaidens.

Albery stages some striking moments, among them the domestic scene between Brunnhilde and Waltraute, the Rhinemaidens attempted, sometimes comic, seduction of Siegfried, and the heros death, which shockingly brings back the Forest Bird from cycles third opera. This society, the director emphasizes, is one in which women are especially vulnerable: the image of the insecure, shaken and abandoned Brunnhilde encircled by spear-carrying businessmen/warriors resonates as the productions most vivid.

The final scene brings together elements of the start of the cycle the return of the ring that inspired so much lust and destruction, as well of pieces of Valhalla, the majestic hall built and ruled by the god Wotan and now about to be burned as music and action suggest a quieting of the previous turmoil, a sense of new possibilities and a new humanity that might survive without gods and heroes.

Gotterdammerung is magnificent music drama, superbly played, sung and acted.

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