Well it’s here at last! Saturday evening, November 12, the Minnesota Opera began a five-performance run of the blockbuster powerhouse by the inimitable Richard Wagner, Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold), the first of a four-opera series the composer entitled Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). As Das Rheingold is a significant operatic work by a significant operatic composer, the performance delivered by this company of artists is truly significant, not merely in its expert reproduction of the music, but also in its presentation design and execution. It is a delight to the ears and the eyes!
The first character to be introduced is the Minnesota Opera orchestra which is not in its usual pit location under the stage, but actually on-stage as one of the actors as Wagner composed it. The clarity of tone is breathtaking as is the expert delivery of every instrument’s voice under the superb direction of Michael Christie. As the curtain rises, a scrim is lowered in front of the orchestra upon which is projected an evocative video effect as if the orchestra is underwater. There are several places in the production where David Murakami‘s powerful video design is used on the scrim and in other locations as well and with great effect. The water effect is appropriate since the action in the first scene is at the edge of the River Rhine with the appearance of three Rhinemaidens–Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde played by three of this year’s resident artists Mary Evelyn Hangley, Alexandra Razskazoff and Nadia Fayad respectively. What a marvelous trio of Wagnerian female sound they are and their amazing performance is but a foretaste of voices to come.
It is difficult to differentiate the qualities of all the voices in any Wagner opera so suffice it to say that all the actors were powerful, which is the salient descriptor of any of this ingenious composer’s works. So here goes: Alberich, the Nibelung dwarf played by Nathan Berg–Powerful; Fricka, the goddess of domestic virtue played by Katherine Goeldner–Powerful; Wotan, ruler of the gods played by Greer Grimsley–Powerful; Freia, goddess of youth and beauty played by Karen Wolverton–Powerful; Fasolt and Fafner, brother giants played by Jeremy Galyon and Julian Close respectively–Powerful; Froh, god of joy played by a fourth resident artist Christopher Colmenero–Powerful; Donner, god of thunder, played by Kyle Albertson–Powerful; Loge, demigod of fire played by Richard Cox–Powerful; Mime, Alberich’s brother played by Dennis Petersen–Powerful; and Erda, goddess of the earth played by Denyce Graves–Powerful!
Every other aspect of this wonderful production was equally powerful: Costume Design by Matthew LeFebvre; Lighting Design by Nicole Pearce; Wig and Makeup Design by David Zimmerman. Also important to mention are: Stage director Brian Staufenbiel, assistant director David Radames Toro, assistant conductor Jonathan Brandani, repetiteurs Jessica Hall and Lindsay Woodward, production stage manager Kerry Masek, and English captions Christopher Bergen.
Needless to say, but here it is anyway. If you can still get tickets, (Tuesday, 11-15, 7:30 pm; Thursday, 11-17, 7:30 pm; Saturday, 11-19, 7:30 pm and Sunday, 11-20, 2 pm) (all performances are at the Ordway, St. Paul, Minnesota) you will not regret it!
Bye for now.