Better than Das Rheingold and Die Walkure, but not by much
It is not as if I dislike Wagner's Ring Cycle, far from it actually. All four operas are wonderful in every way and as a cycle is a monumental. I just feel from watching three of the Weimar Ring productions(Gotterdammerung I'll be watching very soon) that the operas and Wagner haven't been done justice. I'll give you this though, this Weimar Siegfried does have redeeming qualities, it is better than the previous two productions before it(if not by much) and it is not as irritating as the Stuttgart production of the opera. However there is much wrong with it.
Starting with the redeeming qualities, although I do think Siegfried's Horn Call could have done with more rousing excitement the orchestra do do a solid job with the forging of Notung having at least some driven energy. Carl St Clair's conducting is not what I call enigmatic like Boulez and Barenboim but he does his job and does provide good leadership. There are two performances that are good, Catherine Foster, who sings thrillingly and acts with intelligence, and Nadine Weismann whose Erda is commandingly sung and moving.
Everybody else is problematic though. That said, I have to say that Hidekazu Tsumaya does give his best performance of the three productions he was in, the others being his wobbly Fafner(the fact that he looked ridiculous on stage didn't help) and his nonthreatening Hunding. I do think Fafner in Siegfried does need a darker voice than the somewhat lightweight one in comparison of Tsumaya, but his tone is richer and much steadier than it was in Rheingold especially. He at least has some sinister tones to his voice, even if it wasn't matched visually.
Tomas Mowes dramatically is the best of the Wotans(in Siegfried in his Wanderer guise) with the noble and authoritative quality that Renatus Meszar in Walkure lacked. Where he is let down is his vocal production, which is precisely the same as his Alberich in Rheingold, very wobbly and approximate in pitch. Just as bad is Mario Hoff in the role of Alberich. Again I was intrepid, as his Wotan in Rheingold was underwhelming. Unfortunately his Alberich has the same problem. He lacks the skin-crawling quality that Alberich should have, and like his Wotan is too lyric in tone and instead of bass-baritone is like a mix of tenor and baritone.
I was hoping that Siegfried would at least elevate, but sadly he was little better. Johnny Van Hal has no charisma whatsoever which makes Siegfried's journey from youth to hero unbelievable, often Siegfried comes across as an idiot, and I found his singing far too shouty on the whole. Freider Aurich is suitably oily as Mime, but I found his singing unpleasant, coming across as flat and dry. Heike Porstein has an alluring presence as the Woodbird, but I would have preferred a brighter sound vocally.
Visually, there's no better news. Generally the sets are too stark and cold-looking, and for a monumental work that literally has epic leaping out at you the stage itself is too small(same applies with Rheingold and Walkure too). The costumes don't stand out amongst the sets either. The staging does have one touch that sort of works, Fafner in the first act prelude celebrating his hoard does actually fit with the music. Crucial scenes however are not as good, it was not clear to me at all who was forging Notung in this production, it is meant to be Siegfried but everybody seems to be doing it, and despite Weismann's singing the confrontation between Wanderer and Erda didn't at all touch me. Siegfried slaying Fafner is meant to be thrilling and quite intense, neither of those were here, part of the problem of Fafner(again) looking very unconvincing.
I have noticed before in Walkure that stage director Michael Schulz seems to have an obsession with guest appearances and walk-ons, none of which add anything to the drama. There are unidentified henchmen, Froh and Donner, the Valkyries for Waltraute's visitation practising the one-eyed salute(in relation to Wotan perhaps) and a boy resembling possibly a young Siegfried, but the one that was really unnecessary was the use of the Grane doubles, not only is Grane mostly an elderly woman instead of Brunnhilde's horse in the Weimar productions but what she is given to do when she walks on seemingly has no aim.
Overall, not the worst Siegfried but a long way from the best(1993 Bayreuth is still the definitive one in my opinion). While the best so far of the Weimar Ring it has a lot of major problems that have actually been apparent throughout. 4/10 Bethany Cox
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