Last night’s performance of Wagner’s SIEGFRIED was filled with surprises, both expected and unplanned. The physical production is still breathtaking (scenery by Thomas Lynch, costumes by the late Martin Pakledinaz and lighting by Peter Kaczorowski), and the singing at a remarkably high level. German tenor Stefan Vinke in his Seattle debut sang the title role with great conviction and seemingly endless vocal stamina. The surprise here was his committed acting, an asset I don’t remember from my previous encounter with him singing this role in Robert Carsen’s production from Cologne and Venice. This must be attributed to both his maturity as an artist (although he still looks believably boyish) and to stage director Stephen Wadsworth. Particularly notable was the scene with “Siegfried” cutting reeds to try to imitate the call of the Forest Bird. I cannot recall this scene ever played so broadly, but the laughs were genuine and the audience loved it.
The unplanned surprise, and it was a thrilling one, was the last minute replacement of soprano Alwyn Mellor as “Bruennhilde.” Miss Mellor, who had been so effective on Monday night in DIE WALKUERE, had apparently awakened yesterday with some sort of vocal allergy. In order to preserve herself for Friday’s GOETTERDAEMMERUNG and the remaining two cycles, she decided to withdraw from last night’s performance late yesterday afternoon. Since the character doesn’t appear until the last twenty minutes or so of the opera, general director Speight Jenkins didn’t have an announcement made until just before the beginning of Act III.
The audience was slightly alarmed, but they needn’t have been. The “cover” or understudy, Lori Phillips, had a triumph in the role. Lori, who was one of the valkyries when Dallas Opera last did DIE WALKUERE, was magnificent. She also sang the role of the mother the last time Dallas Opera did HANSEL AND GRETEL, but last night’s performance in Seattle was one of those nights where the understudy goes on and becomes a star! At least I hope that this is what happens…
Lori’s identical twin sister is mezzo-soprano Mary Phillips, who was so wonderful two seasons ago as “Brangaene” in the Dallas Opera’s production of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, and also appeared at Dallas Opera in DIE WALKUERE, as well as Handel’s ARIODANTE and Lee Hoiby’s THE TEMPEST.
I don’t know what their parents fed them growing up, but whatever it was, it turned them into extraordinary singers.
The rest of the cast last night was very good, too, including Greer Grimsley’s “Wanderer” and Richard Paul Fink’s “Alberich.” Richard was the “Alberich” in the Dallas Opera RING, and he continues to give a remarkable performance as this unsavory character, both physically and vocally.
Asher Fisch led a taut performance from the pit, and managed to keep the piece from seeming as long as it is!
This RING cycle comes to an end on Friday, and we’ll just have to wait and see what surprises are in store!