From the Desk of Artistic Director Jonathan Pell – Seattle

by Jonathan Pell

Seattle-20130805-00082

The curtain call from last night’s DIE WALKUERE in Seattle

Two down and two to go—I am halfway through the Seattle RING cycle, and so far it has been a terrific journey!  This RING is the last one produced by Seattle Opera’s long time general director Speight Jenkins (originally from Dallas, by the way) and a fitting tribute to his thirty years here.

This is a sumptuous production, with hyper-realistic scenery designed by Thomas Lynch, and detailed, naturalistic acting wonderfully staged by Stephen Wadsworth.  It is in almost every way the diametric opposite of other recent RING cycles, which have been abstracted or pigeon-holed into “concept” productions, which however intellectually stimulating, often fall short of telling the story in a comprehensible way.

Each scene looks like a visit to one of the Pacific Northwest’s national parks, with Hunding’s cottage set in a primeval forest of such detail that I wouldn’t be surprised if the cast got lost in it during rehearsals.  The final scene set on a mountain top could easily be used between performances for classes in rock climbing.  In short, the scenery is simply staggering, and could have overpowered everything else had the production not also been so well cast and superbly conducted by Asher Fisch.

So far, the outstanding performances have included Greer Grimsley’s “Wotan”, Stephanie Blythe’s “Fricka” and Stuart Skelton’s “Siegmund.”   Margaret Jane Wray is also wonderful as “Sieglinde” as are Andrea Silvestrelli and Daniel Sumegi as the giants.

The real discovery, however, is the “Bruennhilde” of British soprano Alwyn Mellor.  She was the unknown quantity going into this cycle, and she has proved to be a stunning singer in this repertoire.  I first heard her several years ago when she was still singing Mozart and much lighter repertoire, and although I had read about her transition into singing Wagner, I wasn’t prepared for how thoroughly convincing she was.  Her opening war cry was thrillingly secure with every trill and high note in place—something most “Bruennhilde’s” have to fake.  I am sure she’ll be wonderful in the high flying tessitura of SIEGFRIED tomorrow night, but the real test will be Friday’s GOETTERDAEMMERUNG.

I can hardly wait!

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