Well, the audience out there in radioland was not too impressed with Saturday's Walkure, but all in all it was a pretty successful outing in-house. Based on the handful of Wagner I've seen live, I feel like there's a sort of minimum floor for such things, and once that is met, the whole thing basically takes off, i.e., I am REALLY eager to get to a point where I can stop fretting about whether it is good enough and can just bask in the big-dub Wagner of it all.
Just to be contrary, I'll start with the orchestra. Jimmy wasn't making a HUGE impression on me Saturday...everything was nice and in place and stuff, but it didn't feel like much more than the normal polished classiness one expects from The Band. EXCEPT for this guy on the trumpet. Wow. It was like a Heppner CrackTM horn edition. Dude even whiffed that exposed line the first time you hear the sword motif or whatever. Hopefully they've sent him to whatever penalty box RV is languishing in these days so he can think about what he's done.
JMo, as you can imagine, is near the end of the line. But let's very clear: his Wotan is a towering thing--it has nothing to do with his Scarpia butchering of recent years. The big monologue was gripping, and the Act III dialogue through the Leb Wohl--some of it almost like a whisper (with Jimmy showing maximum sensitivity in restraining the pit so that you could hear all the nuance)--was at times almost unbearable in its bitterness and grief. Not like I still don't want to see this, for instance, but what a tremendous valedictory Wotan this was.
So, as we all know, Botha was out, hopefully sharing a giant divan with Christine Brewer somewhere, and Gary Lehman, last seen riding the scenery in Tristan, stepped in. Lehmann has a seriously powerful instrument, which certainly helps make his Tristan Act III so compelling. But sometimes it was a bit much in the friendlier confines of Walkure Act I. It's a good, exciting sound, but I wanted some more Botha creaminess. That said, he's a fine actor and I don't doubt that I would have sacrificed a lot of the kinetic energy he created with Waltraud for the Botha cream. It should also be noted that his sweet business in Act II was quite enchanting.
Oh man. Waltraud Meier is such a good time on stage. Yes, there are whole swathes of the voice that get lost in the orchestra. And no, the middle is not priddy. But when it is go time, she GOES. As J noted, her top bears an uncanny resemblence to Karita Mattila's thrilling upper reaches, all shivery coolness and hummingbird vibrato. Oh, and when Siegmund pulled the sword out she hit the deck and started writhing around on the floor. So crazy and so perfect. Like her Nordic colleage Waltraud doesn't know how to stop at boring ol' opera. She does THEATRE.
As fer that new Brunnhilde in town. Theorin is quite good. Clearly a notch above the Watson/Gasteen baseline. She's a strong actress too (nice chops all around in this show, really). Now, I would be lying if I said I didn't miss the Brewer "Wall of Sound" I'd been pining after since the Lyric Frau last year...it just feels so nice on the ears. But Theorin was secure up and down the role, earned a solid B+ on her Hojotohos, and, when it really mattered, made a big sound that was decidedly a thrill. Her and Morris had a nice chemistry that brought home all the pathos of the final scene.
I guess everyone's ready to get rid of the nasty old Schenk production, and yeah, you can be traditional and also have a bit of style, and this really doesn't. But it feels a bit strange to think that major houses are just DONE with traditional Ring productions. But compared to my experience with the Washington Ring, where you have to spend a lot of time wading through superimposed layers of meaning, its nice to just focus on, you know, the Ring. It doesn't need to be as bombastic as this, but a naturalistic production isn't the WORST thing.