Siegfried ex Machina

I had very mixed feelings about today’s HD broadcast of Siegfried from the Metropolitan Opera. Early reviews and comments by friends had been largely negative about the staging and there was a widespread view that “the machine” was intrusively noisy. As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised. For once Gary Halvorson’s relentless close ups were a boon. From what little we could see of them, the first and second act sets were both uninteresting and gimmicky. The 3D leaf scattering, the crudely pixellated woodbird and the laughable Wurm were just among the sillier features. To be fair , the beginning of the third act made effective use of the set but that was the only place that it did work well. So focussing on the singers made a lot of sense.

Fortunately musical values were such that it was pretty much possible to ignore the staging. Singing across the board was excellent with both Bryn Terfel as Wanderer and Jay Hunter-Morris in the title being very effective. I didn’t detect any insecurity or lack of power in Deb Voigt’s Brünnhilde. Of course it’s quite possible that the sound team balanced the singers well forward in the broadcast to disguise a lack of power but that’s not something the audience needed to worry about. Actually I don’t think that’s what happened. I suspect the singing was more lyrical and less heavy than some Wagner productions but it was matched by some superbly transparent work from the orchestra so I imagine it sounded fine in the house too. In fact Fabio Luisi’s handling of the orchestral texture and the relationship between orchestra and singers was very good indeed. It was Wagner as I’m not accustomed to hearing it but I was instantly converted. The only place where it all seemed to get a bit congested again was in the final duet but that could as easily have been fatigue on my part as anything else. Certainly the sound in the cinema for me was much better reproduced than has often been the case for these broadcasts with very little THD even in very loud passages.

All in all, much better than Anna Bolena or Don Giovanni.

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