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A CurtainUp Los Angeles OperaReview
The three Norns begin the story, powerless because the Rope of Destiny has broken. Wotan, king of the gods, is also powerless because Siegfried, his mortal grandson, has unknowingly broken his spear, the symbol of his sovereignty. He encircles Valhalla with stacks of wood and gathers the gods within to await the cataclysm.
Enter Siegfried and Brunnhilde. Their costumes are red, the color of passion, and they tug a scarlet rope between them playfully. In one of the most joyful duets in opera, they sing of their love before Brunnhilde waves Siegfried off to see the world on her magical flying horse Grane. He leaves her with a souvenir, the ring!
In the Hall of the Gibichungs, malice is afoot. Hagen, the dwarf son of Alberich and half-brother of Gunther their king, advises the King to wed Brunnhilde and his sister Gutrune to wed Siegfried. He's prepared a magic potion for the hero that will erase his memory. Siegfried bounces in and he does bounce, a happy nature boy, and innocently downs the draught. Brunnhilde is forgotten and Gutrune is his all. He eagerly becomes Gunther's blood brother and dons the Tarnhelm, the magical hat that transforms the wearer into whoever he pleases and moves him wherever he want to go. The Tarnhelm is symbolized by a silver top hat hanging above the stage.
Siegfried breaches the magical fire, disguised as Gunther by the Tarnhelm. He wrests the ring from Brunnhilde and drags her back to Gunther's castle. Here she is aghast to find Siegfried wearing her ring. She accuses him of treachery but he, under Hagen's spell, denies her.
Heartbroken, Brunnhilde reveals Siegfried's vulnerable spot, his back, the one place she left unprotected by her magic spell as he would never turn his back on the enemy. Hagen gives Siegfried a potion of remembrance and, in a beautiful aria, he recalls his love for Brunnhilde - just before Hagen stabs him in the back.
Brunnhilde realizes they have both been betrayed and, in a fury of vengence, causes the flames to soar, the Rhine to flood, drowning Hagan, and the opera to end in dissolution, before consigning herself to the flames.
The finale includes tiny figures dropping on the stage and bright lights piercing the audience while "The Ride of the Valkyrie",from the orchestra seems to shake the auditorium. It may be a bit overdone but it works.
Linda Watson's rich voice gave us a flawless Brunnhilde. Her final aria, which seems to go on forever, is a triumph. By contrast Welsh heldentenor John Treleaven's Siegfried sang with a lighter quality but with a boyish gamboling that set him apart from the heavier moroseness of the other actors. Eric Halfvarson as Hagan had a deep bass that rumbled ominously. James Conlon conducted with exuberance and passion.
Freyer takes us out of the everyday world and, with authority that never leaves us laughing, involves us deep in the world of the ring. We emerge gasping at a glorious achievement.