Götterdämmerung in Seattle (Shamefully Belated)
Well, this is why the smart move is to keep your blogging up-to-date (and why newspaper deadlines, as onerous as they are, are necessary aids for some of us). Otherwise you leave Ring-ville — and the all-encompassing mindset that comes with a full week's immersion in Wagner's masterpiece — and return to your everyday life with all its attendant obligations and trivia, and before you know it the sense of the experience is starting to slip away. And you cry, "Verweile doch! du bist so schön!" but good luck with that.
In any case, the Götterdämmerung of the first Seattle cycle (we're talking August 9 now) was very much in keeping with what had come before. Alwyn Mellor, the scheduled Brünnhilde, was still under the weather, which meant that Lori Phillips stepped in once again, as she'd done for the third act of Siegfried — and that in turn meant that between her and tenor Stefan Vinke, this performance boasted the single best Brünnfried combo the Stephen Wadsworth production has yet witnessed. I wouldn't want to venture much of an opinion about Mellor on the basis of her Walküre Brünnhilde, but Phillips — even with some understudy shakiness — sure seems like the real deal. She's got a big, tireless voice with enough color and clarity to do more than simply ride out the assignment; she brought pathos and emotional transparency to Act 2; and if her final Immolation wasn't quite the commanding flame-out one might dream of, it was still a forceful and canny response to the scene's challenges.
Vinke, meanwhile, improved even further on his Siegfried Siegfried, adding greater musical suavity on top of the virtues of physical stamina and theatrical vividness. I'd complained about a lack of color in his sound, but for the cycle's finale he brought out a new range of tonalities that hadn't been evident before. In particular, when Siegfried pledged to Brünnhilde before drinking the potion, there was a ringing sweetness to Vinke's delivery that was absolutely heartbreaking; you could hear the depth of his love, and feel keenly how much everything was about to go astray (cheap irony, perhaps, but damned effective). The Act 3 scene with the Rhinemaidens (one of Wadsworth's most wonderful comic inventions) played as delightfully as ever.
The Gibichungs were a mixed bag, with Wendy Bryn Harmer's sympathetic and strong-willed Gutrune in marked contrast to Markus Brück's weaker-than-necessary Gunther. Daniel Sumegi was a rather unprepossessing Hagen (Andrea Silvestrelli, who was a superb Hagen in San Francisco two years back, was on hand singing Fasolt and Hunding, but I guess they decided to go a different way). Asher Fisch conducted with the same blend of sonic finesse and rhythmic flabbiness that he'd brought to the entire cycle.
And, as always, there was what I now think of as the Stephanie Blythe Problem — the fact that she's such a powerhouse, both vocally and theatrically, that nothing else seems to matter when she's on the stage. One of the great things about the burgeoning strength of Greer Grimsley's Wotan is that he can actually hold the stage with Blythe. But the Norns scene in Götterdämmerung was a weirdly imbalanced spectacle that seemed to be all about the Second Norn and two other gals who didn't really matter. And as good as Lori Phillips' Brünnhilde was, once Blythe appeared as Waltraute she became the focus of the entire drama.
Beyond anything having to do with casting or specific moments, though, the evening's biggest emotional charge involved saying goodbye to this magnificent production, with its extraordinary combination of visual splendor and dramatic specificity. I've gone to Seattle every four years just because I can't bear to let an opportunity pass to experience it — to see Thomas Lynch's impeccably detailed storybook sets, their colors sumptuously lit by Peter Kaczorowski; to watch the Rhinemaidens do their aqueous ballet far above the stage and see the jets of fire spring up around Brünnhilde's mountain; and above all, to go along with the characters in Wadsworth's deeply felt and precisely etched staging. Aw, hell. Alles was ist, endet — but still.