Die Walküre by Richard Wagner, directed by Atom Egoyan, with Clifton Forbis, Adrianne Pieczonka, Peteris Eglitis, Frances Ginzer and Judit Németh. Presented by the Canadian Opera Company at the Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). Runs April 8, 14, 17, 20 and 23 at 7 pm. $35-$145, limited $20-$25 (18 to 29 years). 416-872-2262. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
The canadian opera company is one-quarter up the Mount Everest of the opera world, and from the looks and sounds of things, it's going to be a thrilling journey to the top. This shiny production of Die Walküre , the first in the company's new Ring Cycle - Richard Wagner 's massive 16-hour tetralogy - opened last Sunday. The COC's presenting one Ring production a season until 2006, when all four will play at the new opera house.
Chronologically, Die Walküre comes second in Wagner's cycle, but it's the best known (it's the one with the ride of the Valkyries), the most accessible and the most self-contained of the four.
Over four-and-a-half hours, an incestuous affair between siblings Siegmund ( Clifton Forbis ) and Sieglinde ( Adrianne Pieczonka ) challenges the laws of the gods. This eventually leads to head honcho god Wotan ( Peteris Eglitis ) punishing his favourite daughter, Brünnhilde ( Frances Ginzer ) after she defies his orders.
Director Atom Egoyan shines a big light on the work - quite literally. High-wattage lamps are a dominant motif in Michael Levine 's design, as are falling steel girders and a tree that seemingly splits open a floor, suggesting the eventual collapse of the corrupt world of the gods.
Eschewing the usual Ring cycle breastplates and helmets, Levine's costumes bring to mind the Victorian era, which is fitting since it gave rise to the Industrial Revolution suggested by those girders.
Richard Bradshaw directs the massive motif-packed score with confidence, while Egoyan makes sure the singers serve the drama while hitting their high notes.
True, each act occasionally sags - usually around the two-thirds mark - but that's the fault of Wagner, who tended to repeat himself and drown us in exposition.
But the opera does have brilliant moments that range from exciting - the ride of the Valkyries is visually and musically stunning - to poignant.
Pieczonka and Ginzer are superb as two vastly different examples of brave womanhood, while Pavlo Hunka makes a frightening brute Hunding and Judit Németh a shrewish Fricka.
The only vocal weakness comes from Eglitis, who's got a rich, resonant bass baritone voice but can't project. Big god, little voice. How ironic is that? email@example.com