SIEGFRIED by Richard Wagner, directed by François Girard, conducted by Richard Bradshaw, with Christian Franz, Robert Künzli, Peteris Eglitis and Pavlo Hunka. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). Runs February 5, 8 and 11 at 6:30 pm. $50-$195, some student/youth discounts. 416-363-2262. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Richard Wagner's Siegfried is of ten considered the toughest of the entire four-opera Ring Cycle to pull off. Not much happens. There are no musical chestnuts like Die Walküre's Ride Of The Valkyries or Götterdämmerung's Funeral March. And it's five hours long.
Think of it kind of like the Two Towers movie: a bunch of stuff you need to learn, see and hear before you get to the end.
Remarkably, director François Girard , designer Michael Levine and Canadian Opera Company maestro Richard Bradshaw present a compelling argument for the work with a vivid blend of music, stage picture and singing.
They rightly emphasize the opera's archetypal elements.
Siegfried ( Christian Franz ), whom we know is the offspring of Walküre's incestuous Sieglinde and Siegmund, embarks on a hero's voyage of self-discovery.
He's been brought up by the Gollum-like dwarf Mime ( Robert Künzli ), but feels no real affection for him.
In fact, he feels very little at all. That's one of the points of the opera.
Siegfried must learn fear and love, which eventually come after he's forged his father's sword, slain the dragon Fafner ( Phillip Ens ) and rescued Brünnhilde ( Frances Ginzer ) from her two-decade sleep surrounded by a ring of fire.
Levine's magnificent set suggests, at different times, a wild family tree full of ghosts and destruction, the eye of a maelstrom and the dark shadows of Jungian psychology.
There are surprises in the design that shouldn't be revealed in a review; let's just say it's always imaginative and respectful of the text. We're not in breastplate-and-helmet territory here. Levine's reaching for something more elemental, and he always succeeds. David Finn 's lighting design and Donna Feore 's choreography for act three are case studies of how these elements affect character and mood.
The best production would still be hard to sit through without world-class singers, and Franz's title character has the heft and power to cut through the COC's forces, while Künzli's Mime provides an equally powerful and well-characterized foil.
As the Wanderer, who is basically the Ring's Wotan disguised, Peter Eglitis remains muffled vocally - he can't project and lacks the gravitas needed for the crucial part. But Mette Ejsing 's Erda - one of Wotan's former lovers - is haunting in her brief scene, and bass-baritone Pavlo Hunka 's authoritative turn as Alberich makes us fantasize what the opera would be like with him as the king of the gods.
While not the most absorbing narrative, this Siegfried is psychologically rich and mysterious music theatre that will have you licking your lips in anticipation of next season's Götterdämmerung.