Well, Alwyn Mellor’s “vocal allergy” was later diagnosed as a viral infection, and she had to cancel last night’s performance. At least the audience who came for this first of Seattle’s RING cycles (of three) had the pleasure of hearing her impressive Seattle debut in DIE WALKUERE on Monday evening.
I doubt if anyone in the audience could have been too disappointed, though, since understudy Lori Phillips rose to the challenge magnificently. With weeks of observing rehearsals she knew the blocking, but with little musical rehearsal and absolutely no time with the orchestra or the conductor, this was an impressive feat.
It is not the way any singer wants to debut a new role, particularly one as daunting and full of challenges as this one in terms of the vocal technique and sheer stamina required, but how exciting to be in the audience to experience it.
We all wish Miss Mellor a speedy recovery, but Seattle is lucky to have Lori Phillips!
The rest of the cast was wonderful, and German tenor Stefan Vinke was as impressive in this as he was as the young “Siegfried” two nights before.
Bass Daniel Sumegi, so memorable in THE LIGHTHOUSE at the Dallas Opera two seasons ago, was a dangerous “Hagen” and looked and sounded suitably villainous. Also outstanding was Stephanie Blythe as a distraught “Waltraute.”
The most important contributions to this remarkable RING, though have to be the meticulous stage direction of Stephen Wadsworth and the wonderfully paced conducting of Asher Fisch. Mr. Fisch was able to maintain a balance between the pit and stage throughout the four parts of the massive work that was impressive, never overpowering the singers, while maintaining an overall musical architecture to the whole that was amazing.
This was a thoroughly satisfying and thrilling production on almost every level, and a suitable valedictory RING for retiring general director Speight Jenkins. His successor, British stage director and administrator Aidan Lang, faces the challenge of putting together his own RING team for performances in four year’s time, and it will be fascinating to see and hear what he has in mind.