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Musically magnificent, visually subdued

The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
02/05/2017 -  & February 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 25, 2017
Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung
Christine Goerke (Brünnhilde), Andreas Schager (Siegfried), Ain Anger (Hagen), Ileana Montalbetti (Third Norn, Gutrune), Martin Gantner (Gunther), Robert Pomakov (Alberich), Karen Cargill (Second Norn, Waltraute), Lindsay Ammann (First Norn, Flosshilde), Danika Lorèn (Woglinde), Lauren Eberwein (Wellgunde)
The Canadian Opera Company Chorus, Sandra Horst (chorus master), The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Johannes Dubus (conductor)
Tim Albery (director), Michael Levine (set and costume designer), David Finn (Lighting designer), Patti Powell (choreographer)

A. Anger & chorus (© Michael Cooper)

Tim Albery’s production of Götterdämmerung concluded the Canadian Opera Company’s Ring cycle that inaugurated the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts in September 2006. It was enthusiastically received then and it is no surprise that its success has been repeated.

Once again Christine Goerke debuts a Brünnhilde in Toronto (after Die Walküre in 2015 and Siegfried last season) and once again is triumphant. She soars through even the most demanding sections of the role and, despite the bleakness of the production, she manages to exude glamour.

Almost but not quite her equal is Andreas Schager’s Siegfried. For several years his career has been firmly within the helden fach but he still sings the much lighter role of Tamino. He is very much a tenor, so without the baritonal sound of so many in Wagnerian roles; as a result the lower parts of the role can get overwhelmed by the orchestra. He brings a bloke-ish affability to the character who, in the wrong hands, can get wearying.

Another outstanding performance is Ain Anger’s Hagen. He seems to be the go-to guy for this role and I can see why as his burly presence and matching voice commands the stage. Martin Gantner’s Gunther is pale in comparison, while Robert Pomakov as the haunting Alberich holds his own in his single, almost subliminal, scene.

Ileana Montalbetti is nicely cast in the role of Gutrune. Karen Cargill is a powerhouse Waltraute.

And once again the company’s policy of careful, from-the-ground-up preparation has wonderful results. The augmented orchestra (about 100 players) under Johannes Dubus impresses with the scores huge range from the glowering menace of low-pitched passages to the savage yowps from the stierhorns. The men’s chorus (also enlarged) was as hair-raising as one would want.

The one flaw in the production is an excess of closed curtain during sometimes lengthy scene changes. The orchestra keeps playing, but after awhile the music loses lustre in an absence of a visual counterpart. There is a good reason for the lengthy scene changes as the Rhine scenes (devoid of any hint of water or greenery - just a deserted highway with power lines overhead) are so different from the Hall of the Gibichungs which has elements of an over-size modernist board room. The direction of the performers is fine (other than the damp squib of the final conflagration), but there are stretches when interest can flag.

According to the website Operabase, there are just 40 performances of Götterdämmerung in the world this calendar year (September 2016-August 2017), most of them as part of a Ring Cycle. It is somewhat remarkable that seven of them are in Toronto which is not exactly a Wagnerian capital. There’s no Wagner scheduled for next year, alas, while François Girard’s production of Parsifal still waits in the wings.

Michael Johnson



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