Jonathan Pell, Summer of Opera, Part 4

by Megan Meister

Yesterday’s performance very nearly was GOETTERDAEMMERUNG for tenor Ian Storey, who was singing the punishing role of Siegfried.  Near the end of the second act he was obviously having vocal trouble, and barely  managed to finish the act.  David Gockley, the San Francisco Opera’s general director, came out in front of the curtain before the start of the third act, and announced that in spite of Mr. Storey’s obvious indisposition, he had agreed to complete the performance, which he gallantly did.

The star of the show, though, and the heroine of this entire RING was Swedish soprano Nina Stemme as Bruennhilde.  Her performance was one for the history books, and she sounded as fresh at the end of her “Immolation” scene as she had at her first appearance in the second act of DIE WALKUERE several nights earlier.  The ovation that greeted her solo curtain call at the end of the performance was deafening, and well deserved.

At the cast party afterward, I had the chance to tell her how much I enjoyed her performance.  David Cangelosi, who was so wonderful as Mime in this RING, was with us,  and he gave her an unsolicited (and unpaid) endorsement of the The Dallas Opera and the Winspear Opera House and told her that she had to sing in Dallas. David, of course was “Goro” in the TDO BUTTERFLY in our opening season at the Winspear and returned for Shuisky in BORIS GODUNOV that closed this past season.  Thank you, David !

As it turned out, Miss Stemme’s manager, Rita Schuetz was also there, and so we chatted.  Rita, who is based in Switzerland, and I have been dealing together for more than twenty years via phone and fax and e-mail, but this was the first time that we had ever met !  Rita also represents, among many other singers, tenor Christopher Ventris and soprano Catherine Naglestad, both of whom won the Maria Callas Debut Artist Award when they appeared at TDO ( for the title roles in LOHENGRIN and TOSCA respectively.)

Let us hope we can add Miss Stemme to the list !

It was also wonderful to congratulate Francesca Zambello on her stunning production in person.  We had been e-mailing one another all week (she was already in Glimmerglass rehearsing her next production, which couldn’t be more opposite in compositional style—Irving Berlin’s ANNIE GET YOUR GUN) but had flown back to San Francisco for the performance on Sunday.    I was happy to be able to see her and tell her how brilliant I thought the entire cycle had been.  I also was able to congratulate Donald Runnicles, who had conducted the cycle with great subtlety and nuance, and with a real architectural sweep to the entire undertaking.

All in all, this was undoubtedly, one of the most satisfying RINGs of my experience.

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