GOTTERDAMMERUNG by Richard Wagner, directed by Tim Albery (Canadian Opera Company). At Hummingbird Centre (1 Front East). To February 12. $18-$195. 416-872-2262. See Continuing, page 75. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
It's not every day that you get to see a pantheon of gods wiped out and humankind redeemed by love, all accompanied by some of the most ravishing music ever composed.
But that's what the Canadian Opera Company delivers in the five and a half cathartic hours (including two intervals) of Götterdämmerung , the thrilling conclusion of Richard Wagner 's epic Ring Cycle .
What's been most fascinating about watching the Michael Levine -designed productions - first Die Walküre, then Siegfried (the prologue, Das Rheingold, opens the new opera house in September) - has been the way each influences and comments on the other.
Walküre (directed by Atom Egoyan) was set seemingly in the Victorian era, Siegfried (directed by François Girard) journeyed inward to psychological territory, and the finale (directed by Tim Albery ) enters the realm of modern corporate life, complete with a massive boardroom table, computer monitors (screens all red) and loops of electrical or telecommunications cables.
Götterdämmerung relates the split-up of lovers Brünnhilde ( Frances Ginzer ) and Siegfried ( Christian Franz ) after Siegfried is forced, via a poisoned drink administered by Gunther ( John Fanning ) and Hagen ( Mats Almgren ), to marry their sister Gutrune ( Joni Henson ). It's a Machiavellian trick to gain the coveted power-giving ring, but of course it backfires because of Brünnhilde's love for Siegfried.
I'm not sure how the many captains of industry in the opening-night audience (including Conrad Black) felt as the scheming, business-suited villains arranged the plot like a corporate merger or doffed their suit jackets and loosened their ties in preparation for ganging up on a sacrificial victim.
But the modern metaphor of greed succeeds visually and dramatically. Where else would backstabbing occur but in a boardroom? The work's final image - which I won't give away here - touches something deep inside the viewer.
The performances are first-rate. Franz and Ginzer have a few shortcomings (he lacks a bit of stature onstage, she could use a more secure lower range), but they emerge from the marathon with dignity and gravitas, which is what you want.
Standouts in the cast include Almgren, in a role he was physically and vocally born to play, and Guang Yang , who turns her role as Brünnhilde's sister Waltraute into one of the more moving sequences in the entire opera. This dramatic mezzo, making her COC debut, is definitely someone to watch.
Conductor Richard Bradshaw gets a huge range of colours from his orchestra, especially in bravura moments like Siegfried's Journey down the Rhine and the famous Funeral March.
If the final moments during the immolation scene don't reach the heights of your crankable home sound system, we can only hope that a new sonic day for opera lovers arrives in September when the entire cycle will be played out at the Four Seasons Centre.