Monday, October 1, 2012

Opera Watch: Götterdämmerung - We Wrap It Up with Opera #4

People, let me start at the end and the advice I have for you:

If you see some gold at the bottom of The Rhine, just leave it.


more or less how Jamie sends me off to work on Mondays

We broke up the fourth and final of The Ring Cycle Operas up into three separate viewings, one per act, as the opera stretched over roughly five hours of TV time. Götterdämmerung (in Ingles, The Twilight of the Gods) catches us up with our hero, Siegfried and his beloved bride, the fallen Brünnhilde as they make pronouncements of eternal love to one another. What we know, that they did not see in the previous scene, was that The Norns (basically, The Fates) have foreseen the end of The Gods and bad times for everyone associated.

As mentioned in, I believe, Siegfried, Alberich from Das Rheingold, has paid a lady to bear him a child, and that child appears as Hagen, the half-brother of the schlubby King Gunther and his fetching but single-lady sister, Gutrune. Hagen wraps his unwitting sibs up in a plot to really, really mess with Brünnhilde and Siegfried, and it more or less ends poorly for the entire pantheon of gods, our heroic lovers and a horse.

I leave it to you to Google a plot synopsis.

I make light, but I confess to getting a little teary at the end there as our epic journey through generations of gods and demi-gods and incestual lovers and ladies in rivers singing about gold carried on for somewhere over fourteen hours. It's a lot of story, of a world full of people all sort of screwing up, gods and mortals alike, and the weight of the world winds up squarely on the shoulders of the one person who was just trying to do the right thing to begin with. Heavy stuff. And, unlike the also-epic Lord of the Rings, despite the opera's language barrier and fact the story was told entirely by singing, Wagner's take on the acts of gods and men has a more intimate feel and is less weighed down with the distance Tolkein seemed to keep between the reader and characters.

In a lot of ways, Brünnhilde walks away from this cycle as one of my new favorite characters, finding a special spot on the hero's wall in the "iron will" category, and I have to attribute a lot of that to how Deborah Voigt played the character. Siegfried - the de facto hero - is never knowingly given a chance to take matters into his own hands, but when Brünnhilde is up to bat, at long last, in the final minutes of the opera, it's a spectacle unto itself.

somewhere The Norns are talking about my past, present and future.  It's a short conversation.

This opera takes place squarely in the world of men, and while the prior episodes certainly featured the capriciousness of the gods, this opera reflects the petty, turbulent world of us humans and how mortals can wallow in selfish desire, be it Hagen or his pawns in Gunther and Gutrune. And it's that world that kills the manipulated (and, perhaps naive) Siegfried.  Not in spite of, but because of all that has gone before, the story feels no less massive in scope than the prior operas, and the familiar world of fallible men lends itself all the more to a personal tragedy, even as the denouement reaches as far as Valhalla.

In the final installment, the set is used less for stunt work than in the first opera, and the designers seemed to have a solid idea of how they could use both the moving pieces and the projection and lighting to best effect. In this show, the "machine" does what its supposed to do and disappears into the story as part of the action rather than drawing attention to itself, even when waterfalls rush and fires roar.

you may have just killed the wrong lady's hero

After so long with the characters, I'll miss the show a bit. I know Jamie isn't up for another go at The Ring Cycle anytime soon, and it'll be some tough negotiation to make it through any of the other offerings on PBS of Great Performances at the Met.  But I may save some on the DVR for when she's off to bed.

I'm still glad we did it.  It's a mark off the bucket list, and now I'm curious to see other interpretations.

Will I try other opera?  Most definitely.  It's a matter of watching media differently than I might usually watch TV or movies.  One must needs settle in for the long haul and allow for a different kind of storytelling to take shape.  No iPhones or laptops out.

Austin has a local, professional Lyric Opera, and they're doing some fairly well known works this year, but cost is always a factor.  It would be lovely to see an opera live, but I may need sponsorship - and I am willing to wear a suit covered in advertising to make it happen.

14 hours isn't nearly enough to make me feel like I know anything about the art form other than that it exists, and the possibilities when you're working on the scale of The Met.  But if I can do it from the comfort of my sofa?  Oh, sure.  A little something old that's new to me never hurt anyone.

I don't know my Pagliacci from my Carmen, and I doubt I'm on the road to becoming an opera devotee, but this was an amazing start.

1 comment:

Simon MacDonald said...

That looks like a fantastic opera to be able to see. glad to hear you really enjoyed it.