Hi, just a reminder that you're receiving this email because you have expressed an interest in Opera Guild of Rochester. Don't forget to add operaguildofrochester@gmail.com to your address book so we'll be sure to land in your inbox!
 
You may unsubscribe if you no longer wish to receive our emails.

NewGuildLogo
VivaVoceLogo -01

Please also keep in mind that we are a volunteer organization!
You can enjoy the opportunity to meet and work with other opera fans and help sustain the programs you like. Currently we are looking for an assistant treasurer, event helpers, technical back-up and publicity committee volunteers. For information about these jobs or to speak with us about any volunteer interest, write to operaguildofrochester@gmail.com and the appropriate person will contact you.


ContentsIN THIS ISSUE

Edition Viva Voce, March 2019

The Opera Guild of Rochester, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization with a mission to support opera and opera education in the greater Rochester area.

The Guild presents free opera lectures at local libraries, tours to productions of local opera companies and the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and our popular Beat-the-Blahs, Haskell Rosenberg Memorial Series, at Temple B'rith Kodesh in Brighton.

This newsletter is sent via eMail each month, currently to over 3,000 subscribers.  For a free subscription send your contact details, including your eMail address, to operaguildofrochester@gmail.com.

Our Website and Facebook pages serve as a clearinghouse for local and regional opera, concert, and recital information, with links to other music organizations in our area. Please visit our Website at operaguildofrochester.org.   

For up-to-date information on opera-related news and events, please visit us on facebook.com/OperaGuildofRochester.


Some events are now being recorded.  Click the YouTube logo to visit us there.
For OGR Channel
Reader Article submission deadline for the next issue is the 15th of the previous month.


TheMonth


March 2, 6           Met simulcast                                     La Fille du Régiment
March 5, 19, 26   Brighton Library                                 Opera Guild Lectures
March 24, 26       Little Theatre                                      La traviata
March 24             Rochester Academy of Medicine     Salon Concert
March 30             Met simulcast                                     Die Walküre


OGLectureSeriesOpera Guild of Rochester Lecture Series

Brighton Memorial Library
2300 Elmwood Avenue
Rochester, NY 14618
585-784-5310

All lectures are on Tuesdays from 7-9pm.

Tuesday March 5th:
Party Scenes and Drinking Songs.
Art Axelrod.

Tuesday March 19th:
Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss: Scenes and Memories of the 1960 Salzburg Festival Production.
Peter Dundas.

Tuesday March 26th:
The Legacy of Halévy.
David Dean.

Tuesday April 2nd:
Puccini's Heroines.
Rosalba Pisaturo.


FriendsEastmanComp
The Eighteenth Annual Voice Competition
Adjudicator: Patricia Racette
Opera Singer extraordinaire, Director, Teacher

WINNERS OF THE 2019 COMPETITION
 
First Place, Kelly Whitesell, soprano, will appear in this spring's performance by Eastman Opera of Don Giovanni, and has sung jazz sets in the Rochester area.

Second Place, Nathaniel Catasca, tenor, also will sing in Don Giovanni, and was Tenor I in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Third Place, Veena Akama-Makia, mezzo-soprano, received the Encouragement Award from the District Met Council Auditions, and sang in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Honorable Mention, Kira Kaplan, was soprano soloist in Haydn's The Seasons with the Rochester Oratorio Society and will appear in May in Eastman Opera's L'enfant et les sortilèges.

 
 BravoNights

 
 
We are pleased to announce the following dates for our popular Bravo Nights series - come and hear emerging opera talent of the highest caliber.

*April 23
*June 12

All will be held from 7-9 PM at The Little Café. The performances are free. Food and drink are available for purchase at the café, and we advise coming early if you are eating at the café before the performance.  Beloved arias and other musical hits will delight all sectors of the opera community. We encourage you to invite anyone with a budding interest in opera, as this casual, free event will be perfect for them!






LotteLenya




The Lotte Lenya Competition
13 April 2019
Kilbourne Hall, Eastman School of Music

In 1998, to honor the centenary of the birth of Lotte Lenya (1898-1981), an extraordinary singer/actress and one of the foremost interpreters of the music of her husband, Kurt Weill (1900-1950), the Kurt Weill Foundation for Music established an annual Lotte Lenya Competition.

The competition is open to singer/actors of all nationalities, ages 19-32. Contestants must prepare four selections, for a program not to exceed 15 minutes: a selection from the operatic or operetta repertoire, a theatrical selection (any genre) by Kurt Weill, a song from the "Golden Age" (pre-1968) American musical theater repertoire; and a song from the American musical theater repertoire of 1968 or later.

Total prizes exceed $75,000; individual prizes range from $500 (semi-finals) to $20,000 (finals). 

Judges for the 2019 Lotte Lenya Competition Finals
The three-person jury for the finals includes opera and musical theater performer and Weill specialist Ute Gfrerer, renowned opera and musical theater conductor Adam Benzwi, and Mark Lamos, artistic director of Westport Country Playhouse. 

The finals daytime round (11 to 4 pm) and the evening concert are both free and open to the public. Additionally, both will be live-streamed for free online viewing, making the entire finals round available to audiences around the world for the first time. The stream will be accessible at https://www.esm.rochester.edu/live/kilbourn/.



RochIntVocCompRochester International Vocal Competition (formerly Classical Idol)

Final round, held before a live audience on May 4, 2019 at 7 pm
Temple B'rith Kodesh, 2131 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY
 
Now known as the Rochester International Vocal Competition, this fundraising event for the Oratorio Society is in its 13th year. The final round gala features live performances from 9 artists and real-time commentary from a panel of distinguished judges.

We can also expect wine, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, coffee, silent auction and raffle. "We look forward to another year of outstanding talent," said Eric Townell, Artistic Director of the Oratorio Society.

Tickets, $85.00, Click Here.


OGAnnualRecitalThe Opera Guild's Annual Recital for Donors

Sunday, May 19, 2019 2pm
Rochester Academy of Medicine, 1441 East Avenue

This year our recitalist is Brittany Hebel, accompanied by Kristin Ditlow. See next issue for program details.

Brittany Hebel, a former Saratoga Studio Artist, participated in Teatro Nuovo's inaugural season this past summer as an Apprentice Artist, under the direction of Maestro Will Crutchfield and was recently featured as the soprano soloist with Rochester Oratorio Society in Handel's Judas Maccabaeus. A seasoned recitalist, Ms. Hebel performed last season with baritone Richard Ollarsaba in the American Opera Society Spring Gala and presented her Award Winners in Concert Series recital at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Her upcoming performances this season include Ida in Die Fledermaus with DuPage Opera Theatre and an Artist-in-Recital Series concert with Musicians Club of Women in Chicago.  She holds a Master of Music degree in vocal performance from DePaul University where her portrayals included the title roles in Janáček's The Cunning Little VixenLa Calisto by Cavalli, and Mimì in La Bohème.

Kristin Ditlow, American pianist, harpsichordist, vocal coach and conductor, is an alumna of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Westminster Choir College, Tanglewood Music Center, and Merola Opera Program. She is a 2014 graduate of the Eastman School of Music, with the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Accompanying and Chamber Music, where she was a student of Dr. Jean Barr. Dr. Ditlow is the Assistant Professor of Voice and Vocal Coaching at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque). She has conducted several world opera premieres and appeared as a pianist with the Metropolitan Opera National Council, OperaWorks, and Opera Southwest. Dr. Ditlow was a fellowship student at the Franz Schubert Institut, Baden-bei-Wien, during the summer of 2017. She recently made her debut as both piano soloist and conductor with the New Mexico Philharmonic, and the 2018-2019 season features the premiere performance project of her new opera company, Antigua y Moderna, as well as the world premiere of her new song cycle, Three Poems of Emily Dickinson.


EastmanOperaEASTMAN OPERA THEATRE SEASON

From Seduction to Damnation
Don Giovanni
In Italian with English supertitles
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte
April 4, 5, and 6 at 7:30 pm; April 7 at 2 pm, Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre

The Voice and Opera Department presents
L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells)
Sung in French and performed with piano
Music by Maurice Ravel, Libretto by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette
May 3 and 4 at 7:30 pm, Annex 804 Black Box Studio

Eastman Theatre Box Office (585) 274-3000; To purchase tickets Click Here
 
SyracuseOpera


Crouse-Hinds Theater at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center
Free conductor's talk an hour prior to each performance

Christian Capocaccia, Conductor
Symphoria Orchestra
Syracuse Opera Chorus, Ensemble

To purchase a subscription, Click Here
 
Weill, Three Penny Opera
Friday, April 12, 2019 at 8:00 PM  
Sunday, April 14, 2019 at 2:00 PM  
Sung in English with English surtitles.
    
Cara Consilvio, Director
Peter Kendall Clark, Macheath
Ron Lloyd, Peachum
Melissa Parks, Ceila Peachum
Gregory Sheppard, Tiger Brown

To purchase single tickets, Click Here


MetHD2018-2019SeasonMetropolitan Opera HD Season 2018-2019

Donizetti, La Fille du Régiment
March 2, 12:55
Synopsis and other info: Click Here
Tenor Javier Camarena and soprano Pretty Yende team up for a feast of Donizetti's bel canto vocal fireworks-including the show-stopping tenor aria "Ah! Mes amis," with its nine high Cs. Maurizio Muraro is the comic Sergeant Sulpice, with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the outlandish Marquise of Berkenfield and Enrique Mazzola in the pit. For an essay on this opera Click Here.

Wagner, Die Walküre
March 30, 12:00 
Synopsis and other info: Click Here
In what is expected to be a Wagnerian event for the ages, soprano Christine Goerke plays Brünnhilde, Wotan's willful warrior daughter who loses her immortality in opera's most famous act of filial defiance. Tenor Stuart Skelton and soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek play the incestuous twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. Greer Grimsley sings Wotan, Fricka is Jamie Barton, and Hunding, Gunther Groissbock. Philippe Jordan conducts. For an essay on this opera Click Here.

Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmélites
May 11, 12:00 PM 
Synopsis and other info: Click Here
Yannick Nézet-Séguin leads the classic John Dexter production of Poulenc's devastating story of faith and martyrdom. Mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard sings the touching role of Blanche and soprano Karita Mattila, a legend in her own time, returns to the Met as the Prioress.


RoyalOperaLittle
Royal Opera House Film Series at The Little

Sunday performances at The Little are followed by informal meet-ups in the café to chat about the opera with other fans. Everyone is welcome.  

LA TRAVIATA
Sunday March 24 (Noon)
Tuesday March 26 (6 pm)
Est. RT: 3:35

LA FORZA DEL DESTINO
Sunday April 28 (Noon)
Tuesday April 30 (6 pm)
Est. RT: 4:15

FAUST
Sunday May 26 (Noon)
Tuesday May 28 (6 pm)
Est. RT: 3:45


   Pegasus
Pegasus Logo
 
2018-2019 Season

All concerts at Downtown United Presbyterian Church, 121 N. Fitzhugh Street, Rochester. Pre-concert talk at 3:15 pm, concert at 4:00 pm

For more information or to buy tickets, Click Here

Bedlam 
April 7, 2019 @ 4 pm

"The magical duo Bedlam" (Fanfare Magazine) is Kayleen Sanchez, soprano, and Laudon Schuett, lute. Our first Pegasus Rising artists, they return to Rochester with a program of renaissance French and English lute songs. Sacred, secular, bawdy and tender!

Acis & Galatea
May 5, 2019 @ 4 pm

A semi-staged concert version of this beloved pastoral opera by Handel. Will the monster Polyphemus woo Galatea to his side? Michael Beattie, musical direction; Emily Cuk, stage direction.



SalonConcertsSalon Concerts with the Rochester Academy of Medicine

Join us for a performance by The Academy Salon Trio 
followed by a reception with the artists.
1441 East Avenue, 14610

21st Salon Concert Season

March 24, 2019
April 28, 2019

All concerts take place at 2:00 pm in the Lyon Family Salon in the Rochester Academy of Medicine. Tickets are $35 at the door, $30 with reservation by phone, online or message. $26 Academy Members with reservation and $5 student. Seating is extremely limited. For more information Click Here.


OperaTunitiesGREAT OPERA-TUNITIES
(For those wishing to explore opera without spending a lot of money)

FREE - Friends of Eastman Opera Voice Competition. Look for listing in February 2020 Viva Voce. 8 pm, Kilbourn Hall, Gibbs Street, Rochester.
FREE - The Lotte Lenya Competitionyoung multi-talented singer/actors performing both opera and musical theater selections.  See Viva Voce for Saturday in April, 11am-4 pm and an evening concert, Kilbourn Hall, Gibbs Street, Rochester.
FREE - Opera Guild Lectures in February and March (with many video selections) at Brighton Memorial Library, 7 pm, 2300 Elmwood Ave, see listing in this issue.
$9/10 suggested donation - Opera Guild "Beat the Blahs."  Opera DVD presentations at Temple B'rith Kodesh.  
Four Sundays in January at 1 pm, see the 2020 schedule next year.  Pre-performance talk, refreshments at intermission, children and students always FREE.
$18 - Pre-recorded operas from the current season of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (London). La traviata, March 24, 26; La forza del destino, April 28, 30; Faust, May 26, 28; followed by informal chats in the café.  The Little Theater, 240 East Ave, Rochester. See listing in Viva Voce.
$24; UR students $10 with ID - The Eastman Opera Season:  (Eastman voice students).  Pre-performance talks; see full listing in Viva Voce.
$25 per (senior) ticket - Metropolitan Opera simulcasts in HD of live performances on Saturdays usually at 1 pm.  An encore performance, not live, is given on the Wednesday following for $23.  Theaters are at Tinseltown, Eastview, Webster and Henrietta. See full listing and essays in Viva Voce.
FREE - Opera Guild Bravo Nights at The Little Café, live accompanied singers perform opera favorites in an informal atmosphere.  See Viva Voce for next date, in 2019.

TriCitiesOpera

 April 28th, 2019 - 3pm
The Forum Theatre
236 Washington St.
Binghamton, NY 13901
Overview:

Gilbert & Sullivan's beloved operetta takes place aboard the ship HMS Pinafore. The captain's daughter is in love with a lower class sailor although her father intends her for Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to elope. Will their plan succeed?

For details and tickets, Click Here

 
NickelCity
Nickel City Opera Season


BROADWAY and OPERA SHOWCASE
Verdi's 
LA TRAVIATA
Villa Maria College, 
May 24 and 26, 2019

 

The beloved classic opera by Verdi about a woman who is misunderstood and misguided. Violetta falls in love with Alfredo and loses everything. Memorable and popular tunes abound including the drinking chorus 'Libiamo!' Don't miss a full opera with costumes, sets, chorus and a full orchestra at the majestic 1250-seat Villa Maria College Theatre in Buffalo near Pine Ridge and Doat St. Plenty of parking, easy access and a great acoustic will leave your ears ringing with opera. 
CanadianOperaCompany

CanadianOperaCompany

Giacomo Puccini, LA BOHÈME
APRIL 17 TO MAY 22, 2019
For more details, Click Here
Giuseppe Verdi, OTELLO
APRIL 27 TO MAY 21, 2019
For more details, Click Here


OperaGuildFrom Your Opera Guild

At Jan 27th Beat the Blahs, from left to right: Joan Schultz; Agneta Borgstedt, President Emerita; Carol Crocca, Presdient; Marcia Elwitt, Secretary; Lillian Bonanni. Joan and Lillian are two long-standing and much-appreciated volunteers at the dessert reception.  
We hope you enjoyed February musically, if not weather-wise.  There was a great Bravo Night on February 19th - Hannah Harrow, soprano, and Kathie Kane, mezzo, were terrific, performing arias both familiar and less well-known, and there was a notable absence of the noisy espresso machine.  There will be two more Bravo Nights this season, April 23rd and June 12th.

With February over, we can look forward to some relief from bitter cold and snow, if not actually to spring yet.  It is hard to believe that another opera season is closer to the end than to the beginning.  We are still in command transition here at the Guild, and beg your indulgence if anything has not been as it should be.  We also welcome your feedback, whether concerning traditional activities or new initiatives.

It is time for us here to prepare invitations for the Annual Recital for Donors.  Our talent this year, Brittany Hebel and Kristen Ditlow, whom you can read about in this issue, is great, as is usually the case.  If you are not a current donor, consider treating yourself to this wonderful occasion by contributing.  You won't regret it!

Carol Crocca, President


Donations
Donations


As an Amici, your contribution in any amount is greatly appreciated. All donation levels receive an invitation to the Annual Recital; those listed below will be given priority until a date specified on the invitation, and at the Comprimario level and above may request extra tickets.
 

Chorus: $50 per person, $80 per couple.
Comprimario: $100-$149.
Primo: $150-$199.
Maestro: $200-$299.
Impresario: $300 or more. 
 

You may also mail a check to Opera Guild of Rochester, P.O. Box 25613, Rochester, NY 14625. Please include an email or other address for your tax receipt.

Return to Contents


OperaEssaysOpera Essays

This section brings you articles written by Opera Guild docents, previously distributed at HD performances. Other essays previously published as Reader Articles are also published in this section. All these essays are available on the Website in the Reading Room.

DonizettiEssay
On March 2 the Metropolitan Opera will broadcast a Live in HD performance of Gaetano Donizetti's La fille du régiment.

Donizetti in Paris

In 1838, at the age of 41, Donizetti did what all opera composers of his day longed to do. Like Rossini and Bellini before him Donizetti went to Paris, the capitol of art and fashion in the nineteenth century, and the place where a successful composer could earn the highest fees. 

Before Donizetti moved to the capitol his work was already known to Parisian audiences. At Rossini's suggestion he had been commissioned to write the tragedy Marino Faliero, which premiered in 1835. And the year before Donizetti arrived Lucia de Lammermoor had scored a great success.

Ambitions to become part of the French musical establishment meant that Donizetti needed to master a new language, with different cadences and especially a different and more nasal vocal production. He also had to work with French librettists he did not know. This first trip to Paris was not a happy one for Donizetti, although he was extraordinarily productive. Devastated by the early death of his beloved wife Virginia, he threw himself into his work. Between October 1838 and June 1840 he wrote or adapted seven operas, hoping to please the taste of a discerning public, or rather, to please several diverse audiences.

The story of Donizetti in Paris is the story of four theaters. First, there was the Théâtre Italien, (The Italian Theater), where works of Italian composers, sung in Italian, were performed by Italian singers. This theater had already produced several of the maestro's operas by the time Donizetti arrived. In 1839, while he was in residence, it gave the first French performance of L'elisir d'amore, and the following year premiered the second revision of Lucrezia Borgia.

The small Théâtre de la Renaissance saw productions of Donizetti's Italian operas fitted to French texts: Lucia became Lucie. In one letter home the composer wrote that "the management were real donkeys," a true understatement. L'Ange de Nisida (The Angel of Nisida), an opera semiseria, was commissioned by the theater. But the company went bankrupt, and L'Ange never saw the light of day. Donizetti, as opportunistic as any of his contemporaries, promptly recycled the basic plot and much of the music.

The third and most prestigious of these opera houses was the Académie Royale de Musique, better known as L'Opéra. In Donizetti's day it was the home of French Grand Opera, where lavish productions followed the unvarying formula of a grandiose work in five acts with an obligatory ballet. To be commissioned by the Opéra and have one's work greeted with acclaim was considered the height of success. Donizetti received three such commissions, and in a single year wrote 2.5 of them. La Favorite (which I would translate as The King's Mistress, although the clueless tenor doesn't realize it) reutilized the basic plot and much of the music from L'Ange de Nisida. Les martyrs (The Martyrs) was salvaged from Poliuto, written earlier for Naples but vetoed by the pious King, who objected to seeing Christian subjects on the stage. These two operas both debuted in 1840 and proved highly successful essays in the requirements of French Grand Opera. Donizetti's third commission Le duc d'Albe (The Duke of Alba) fell victim to house politics. The prima donna Rosine Stoltz disliked her role, and as she was the director's mistress Donizetti laid it aside half finished. To put Donizetti's astounding feat into perspective, it might take a composer years to write and revise a Grand Opera, while Donizetti fumed with impatience when rehearsals were stalled for a few days. A caricature of the time showed the composer with two quills in his hands, one writing a comic opera while the other writes a melodrama filled with pathos. He was a man in a hurry.


Caricature of Gaetano Donizetti composing simultaneously a comic opera and a drama. Lithograph from the French satirical magazine 
Le Charivari.


It was the fourth theater, the Opéra-Comique, which commissioned La fille du régiment from Donizetti. The Opéra-Comique's hallmark was its emphasis on long passages of spoken dialog, nowadays abridged. The works performed there were "family friendly" and often more like musicals than operas. Here Donizetti's 61st opera had its premiere on February 11, 1840. The tenor was wildly off pitch and the first performance was a disaster. But soon thereafter it became a smash hit. The versatile composer, on his very first attempt at the uniquely French genre of the Opéra-Comique, showed that he had completely mastered this distinctive style. The deliberate naivety, propulsive marching rhythms, chocolate soldiers and over-the-top declarations of patriotism have made it a staple of the French repertory. La fille du régiment is an opera of many moods, but above all it is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the country where it was written and first produced. And the French people have taken this work to their hearts. In 1914 it celebrated its 1,000th performance. In fact, well into the 20th Century it was customary that on Bastille Day, the national holiday akin to our Fourth of July, there would be a performance of La fille du régiment at the Opéra-Comique where it had had its first success.

Between 1839 and 1840 Gaetano Donizetti took Paris by storm. At that time Hector Berlioz was compelled to earn a living as a music critic, and his reviews could be as scathing as they were witty. With Donizetti firmly established in the Parisian musical culture, Berlioz wrote:

What? Two major scores for the Opéra - Les martyrs and Le duc d'Albe - two others at the Renaissance - Lucie de Lammermoor and L'ange de Niside[sic]- two at the Opéra-Comique - La fille du régiment and another of unknown title - and yet another for the Théâtre Italien will have been written or transformed in one year by the same composer! Monsieur Donizetti appears to treat us as a conquered country; this is a veritable invasion. One can no longer speak of the Paris opera houses, but only of Monsieur Donizetti's opera houses.


"Salut à la France." Jenny Lind as Marie, the daughter of the regiment. Lithograph by Sarony & Major, New York, 1845.



DieWalkureEssayPersonal view of Die Walküre

By Peter Dundas
The MET Opera Database shows that Die Walküre is the most popular Wagner opera to be performed there and the 16th most performed of all operas, even more popular than The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss and Otello by Verdi.

This being said, when Die Walküre was first performed as part of the RING in Bayreuth 1876, it was considered to be the worst of the four. Its London debut in May 1882 also came to this conclusion. The review in the "ERA" newspaper, the leading journal for Art and Music, spent most of its time vigorously complaining about the immorality of its plot, especially at the end of Act 1. The unknown reviewer writes, 

"Sieglinde enters, and then ensues a scene which has been defended by the admirers of Wagner as necessary to the completeness of the plot, but which, in our opinion, is not only unnecessary, but is also revolting, indecent, and impure that it ought never to have been tolerated on the English stage. The subject may be simply told. It is nothing less than a sudden impulse of sensual passion between brother and sister. There is no mistake about it, no excuse that the relationship is unknown, for the hero openly requests Sieglinde to become "his sister and bride," which the lady consents to without the slightest hesitation, and the climax of the first act is when the guilty and incestuous pair agree to fly at once; the act closing with a duet, the music of which is evidently written to suggest animal passion in its utmost excess."

Ten years later London was getting better in understanding that Wagner was retelling a Norse saga and gave reasons, written in his own libretto, why the actions in Die Walküre were so important. Act 2 also came in for criticism; and, to make matters worse, it is generally performed after a long intermission. The "ERA" reviewer in July 1892 comments about Act 2.

"Wotan's wife Fricka seems to think the conduct of the brother and sister is anything but correct, and demands that Siegmund be punished. Brunnhilde, Wotan's favorite daughter, also discusses the matter in the dullest and dreariest recitative ever heard. Sitting in darkness, some of the audience had time to enjoy a peaceful slumber and to wake up refreshed for the more exciting scenes."

Yet, even today, the full meaning of the recitatives is not understood. My wife and I attended our first RING at Bayreuth in 1980 and have seen 10 in total. However, it was not until the last one, in San Francisco 2018, directed by Francesca Zambello, that I realized the importance of Fricka. This scene was staged as a boardroom with two chairs, one for Wotan and the other for Fricka. It was Fricka who won and from that point the gods were in decline, cumulating in the final Act of Gotterdammerung. Ms Zambello was asked "Is this a feminist approach to the RING?" She answered, "No, but it suggests the power of female leaders to heal the scars of destruction."

It is for several reasons that I'm going to concentrate on Act 2. At the end of Act 1, Siegmund and Sieglinde flee from the sleeping Hunding, knowing that he will come after them. Wotan instructs Brunnhilde to protect Sigmund in the impending fight. But other clouds are gathering on the horizon. Wotan's wife Fricka storms in and is not happy. Brunnhilde prefers men's battles so she leaves to let Wotan and Fricka wage this matrimonial war on their own.

Fricka is furious. As the goddess of matrimony she deeply deplores what has just happened on earth below. Siegmund and Sieglinde have not only committed adultery, but also incest and Wotan is responsible. This is just the latest complaint in Fricka's litany of woes. Wotan had fathered Brunnhilde and the other eight Valkyries by philandering with various supernatural female creatures; even worse, he had been intimate with a mortal woman, and had conceived that 'brother and sister' abomination of Siegmund and Seiglinde, and now this. Shame had fallen on the gods! 
 
Wotan defends his actions. There is much more at stake, he says: it's all part of a grand design. Bound by his laws and treaties, Wotan is not a free agent. But that is exactly what the gods need. The threat is dire and Siegmund is the kind of unencumbered hero whose time has come. Gradually switching from emotionality to cold analysis, Fricka proves her husband wrong. He has been fooling himself all along, she says. Siegmund was anything but a free agent. He was conceived and raised by a god, that same god who left a sword in a tree for him to find; divine interaction in every stage. Fricka continues to press the case. Wotan is forced to admit that she is right. In despair he accedes to Fricka's demand; Siegmund must die.

When Brunnhilde returns, her father recounts the story thus far. Vacillating between rage and resignation he tells how he stole the Ring of the Niebelungs from the dwarf Alberich, that ring gives power to its bearer. It is currently being held by Fafner, the giant. Wotan, "god of law and order," must observe the law, which in this case, prevents him from regaining the ring. It was Erda, the all-knowing earth mother that pointed out that the entire world order depended on that. Curious to know more, Wotan had sought her out. The 'god father' and the 'earth mother' had conceived Brunnhilde. Now, should the ring get back into Alberich's hands, it would be the end of the gods. For some time the Valkyries had been recruiting fallen heroes to defend the gods, in an inevitable showdown with Alberich and the Niebelungs. 
 
To acquire the Ring and avert the cataclysm, Wotan had tried to fashion a hero unbound by laws and conventions, Siegmund. But, Fricka was right, Siegmund was nothing more than a puppet on a string, Wotan's string. Everywhere he looks, he sees only himself and his own works, and the end is near, because Alberich will soon have a son. Erda had once predicted that that would be a sign of the impending disaster. Wotan now acknowledges and even welcomes the end of the gods. He tells Brunnhilde that she should ensure Siegmund's death. She protests but he insists. 
 
Back down to earth and to the next scene with Siegmund and Sieglinde. The young woman is frantic and delirious. The enormity of the crime of incest has driven her to the point of madness. She faints. Siegmund is approached gently by a herald of death, Brunnhilde. She promises him an eternity of paradise in Valhallah, but she tells him that there will be no place there for Sieglinde. Siegmund turns her down. Brunnhilde is utterly surprised by his spurning of paradise, by his unconditional devotion to that mortal woman, and by the power of love. It's such a revelation to her that she spontaneously decides to disobey her father and to protect Siegmund. But in the battle an even greater power intervenes, Wotan himself. Siegmund's sword is shattered and the young man backs into Wotan's spear. Then, the furious father of the gods, Wotan, begins to looks for his disobedient daughter Brunnhilde, ending Act 2.

In Act 3 Brunnhilde takes Sieglinde to the Valkeries rock. Wotan arrives, belligerent and determined to punish Brunnhilde by removing her immortality and putting her into a deep sleep, venerable to be awakened by any man, to which she must accede. She begs her father to protect the rock where she sleeps with a fire, so that only an invincible hero can cross it. Wotan, deeply moved by his daughter's wisdom, agrees. He puts Brunnhilde to sleep and instructs Loge, the god of fire, to surround the rock where she lies with a fire that can be penetrated only by a man who has no fear of Wotan's spear.

My wife Margaret still says she will never forget 1980, seeing Donald McIntyre carry Gwyneth Jones up to that rock, to such poignant music written by Wagner.

Return to Contents

NewGuildLogo
Submission deadline for the next issue is the 15th of the previous month

Free subscription on-line at operaguildofrochester.org

Facebook Visit Icon
For OGR Channel  
 
Some events are now being recorded.  Click the YouTube logo to visit us there.

Opera Guild of Rochester, P.O. Box 25613, Rochester, NY 14625
Sent by operaguildofrochester@gmail.com in collaboration with
Constant Contact