Broadcast

Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Götterdämmerung 

Broadcast of Saturday, May 11, 11 A.M.

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In the Hall of the Gibichungs, Brünnhilde accuses Siegfried of treachery (Iain Paterson as Gunther, König, Voigt, Wendy Bryn Harmer as Gutrune, Morris)
© Johan Elbers 2013
The 2012–13 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
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Götterdämmerung

Music and text by Richard Wagner
THE CAST     (in order of vocal appearance)
First Norn     mezzo, MARIA RADNER
Second Norn     mezzo, MICHAELA MARTENS
Third Norn     soprano, HEIDI MELTON
Brünnhilde     soprano, DEBORAH VOIGT
Siegfried     tenor, LARS CLEVEMAN
Gunther     bass-baritone, IAIN PATERSON
Hagen     bass, HANS-PETER KÖNIG
Gutrune     soprano, WENDY BRYN HARMER
Waltraute     mezzo, KAREN CARGILL
Alberich     bass-bar., RICHARD PAUL FINK
Woglinde     soprano, MEREDITH HANSEN
Wellgunde     mezzo, JENNIFER JOHNSON CANO
Flosshilde     mezzo, RENÉE TATUM

Conducted by FABIO LUISI

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Robert Lepage
Associate director: Neilson Vignola
Set designer: Carl Fillion
Costume designer: François St-Aubin
Lighting designer: Etienne Boucher
Video image artist: Lionel Arnould
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
     Linda Hall, John Keenan,
     Howard Watkins, Carrie-Ann Matheson,
     Jonathan Kelly, John Fisher
Assistant stage directors: Gina Lapinski,
     Stephen Pickover, J. Knighten Smit,
     Paula Williams
Prompter: Carrie-Ann Matheson
German coach: Marianne Barrett
Stage band conductor: Gregory Buchalter
Production a gift of Ann Ziff and the Ziff
     Family, in memory of William Ziff

In collaboration with Ex Machina

THE SCENES  Timings
PROLOGUEThe Valkyries' rock 11:00–
ACT I –1:06
     Sc. 1Gibichungs' hall 
     Sc. 2The Valkyries' rock 
ACT IIBanks of the Rhine1:41–2:48
ACT III 3:20–4:43
     Sc. 1Forest clearing 
     Sc. 2Gibichungs' hall 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
     William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni, 
     Elena Park
 
For more information on the broadcasts,
     please visit www.operainfo.org.
 
Send quiz questions to:
     Metropolitan Opera Quiz
     Metropolitan Opera
     30 Lincoln Center
     New York, NY 10023
     or e-mail metquiz@metopera.org.
 
This performance is also being broadcast
     live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
     SiriusXM channel 74.

THE STORY 

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Brünnhilde and her sister Waltraute (Voigt, Waltraud
Meier as Waltraute)

© Beth Bergman 2013

PROLOGUE. On the Valkyries' rock, three Norns weave the Rope of Destiny, recalling Wotan's days of power and predicting Valhalla's fall. When the rope breaks, they descend in terror to their mother, Erda, goddess of the earth. At dawn, Siegfried and his bride, Brünnhilde, emerge from their cave. Though fearful that she may lose the hero, she sends him forth to deeds of valor. To remind her of his love, Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the magic Ring, taking her horse, Grane, in exchange. Rapturously they bid each other farewell, as Siegfried sets out. 

ACT I. In their castle on the Rhine, Gunther, king of the Gibichungs, and his sister Gutrune, both unwed, ask counsel of their half brother, Hagen. Plotting to secure the Ring, Hagen advises Gunther to consolidate his power by marrying Brünnhilde: by means of a magic potion, Siegfried can be induced to forget his bride and win her for Gunther, in return for Gutrune's hand. The hero's horn announces his approach. Gunther welcomes him, and Gutrune seals his fate by offering him the potion. Hailing Brünnhilde, he drinks and forgets all, quickly succumbing to Gutrune's beauty and agreeing to bring Brünnhilde to Gunther. After solemnizing their bargain with an oath, the men depart. Hagen, keeping watch, gloats on the success of his plotting. 

On the Valkyries' rock, Brünnhilde greets her sister Waltraute, who says Wotan has warned that the gods are doomed unless Brünnhilde yields the Ring to the Rhinemaidens. When she refuses, Waltraute rides off in despair. Dusk falls as Siegfried reappears, disguised as Gunther; wresting the Ring from the terrified Brünnhilde, he claims her as Gunther's bride.

ACT II. At night, before the Gibichungs' hall, the Nibelung dwarf Alberich forces the sleeping Hagen (his son) to swear he will regain the Ring. Siegfried returns as dawn breaks, with cheerful greetings for Hagen and Gutrune: he has won Brünnhilde for Gunther, who follows shortly. Hagen summons the vassals to welcome the king and his bride. When Gunther leads in Brünn­hilde, she sees Siegfried and recoils; spying the Ring on his finger, she decries his treachery and proclaims Siegfried her true husband. The hero, still under the potion's spell, vows upon Hagen's spear that he has never wronged her. Brünnhilde swears he lies, but Siegfried dismisses her charge and leaves with Gutrune. The dazed Brünnhilde, bent on revenge, reveals to Hagen the hero's one vulnerable spot: a blade in the back will kill him. Taunted by Brünnhilde and lured by Hagen's description of the Ring's power, Gunther joins the murder plot as Siegfried's wedding procession passes by.

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Brünnhilde (Deborah Voigt) bids a final farewell to Siegfried (Jay Hunter Morris)
© Beatriz Schiller 2013

ACT III. In the forest, by the banks of the river, Rhinemaidens bewail their lost treasure. Soon Siegfried approaches, separated from his hunting party. The maidens plead for the Ring, but he ignores their entreaties and warnings. When the party arrives, Siegfried, at Hagen's urging, describes his boyhood with Mime (his Nibelung foster father), his slaying of the dragon Fafner and finally — after Hagen gives him a potion to restore his memory — his wooing of Brünnhilde. Pretending indignation, Hagen strikes a spear into the hero's back as Siegfried turns to watch two ravens, messengers to Wotan, fly off. Hailing Brünn­hilde with his last breath, Siegfried dies and is borne off.

At the Gibichungs' hall, Gutrune nervously awaits her bridegroom's return. Hagen enters to tells her Siegfried has been killed by a wild boar, but when his body is carried in she accuses Gunther of murder. Hagen admits the crime. Quarreling over the Ring, Gunther is killed by Hagen, who falls back in fear when the lifeless Siegfried's arm rises. Brünnhilde, who has learned of the treachery of which she and Siegfried have been victims, enters and orders a funeral pyre built for Siegfried. Musing on the gods' responsibility for his death, she takes the Ring and promises it to the Rhinemaidens. Placing it on her finger, she throws a torch onto the pyre and, joyfully greeting her horse, Grane, rushes into the flames. As the river overflows its banks, Hagen plunges into it to grab the Ring, only to be pulled to a watery grave by the Rhinemaidens, who at last regain their gold. Flames engulf Valhalla, leaving a human world redeemed by love.

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Brünnhilde prepares to ride into the flames of Siegfried's funeral pyre, below (Voigt)
© Johan Elbers 2013

THE BACKGROUND 

Wagner took more than two decades to complete his Ring cycle, a length of time prolonged by many interruptions. The text dates back to 1848, when Wagner made his first dramatic sketch of the Nibelung myth. By the autumn of 1850, he had written the text for Siegfried's Death (later revised as Götterdämmerung) and was beginning to sketch out the music when he decided to expand the drama with The Young Siegfried (as Siegfried was first called); in time, Die Walküre and Das Rheingold followed, to explain the complex myth that comes to a head inGötterdämmerung. The texts were thus written in reverse order, although the composition of the music was accomplished in the now familiar order of Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.

Wagner, who visualized himself as a heroic crusader, identified with Siegfried in his search for love, his defiance of obstacles and petty interference and his unity with nature. The downfall of the gods in Götterdämmerung represents, according to Wagner, the beginning of the modern world, in which the human race must learn to control its own destiny.

Wagner's plans for the completion and production of his cycle of four music dramas were frustrated by his inability to find proper backing for such a gigantic project. In 1857, halfway through Act II of the Siegfried music, Wagner set aside work on the Ring; before he resumed sustained work on the cycle, in 1869, he completed Tristan und Isolde, the Paris revision of Tannhäuser and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and found the patron of his dreams — Ludwig II, the "mad" king of Bavaria. Ludwig's enthusiastic and generous patronage was not without its drawbacks: at the insistence of the king, Wagner's first two Ring operas were given their world premieres in Munich during the 1869–70 season, before the rest of the cycle had been completed. Wagner finished Siegfried in 1871 and completedGötterdämmerung in 1874, when plans were already well underway for the first Bayreuth festival. It was there that the world premieres of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung were presented, as part of the the first complete Ring, in August 1876. The principal cast of the first Ring, conducted by Hans Richter, included Amalie Materna (Brünnhilde), Georg Unger (Siegfried) and Franz Betz (Wotan).

The first of the Ring operas to reach the Met was Die Walküre, which had its company premiere on January 30, 1885, with Materna as Brünnhilde and Leopold Damrosch conducting. The company's next Ring installments were the U.S. premieres of Siegfried (November 9, 1887), Götterdämmerung (January 25, 1888) and Das Rheingold (January 4, 1889). In March 1889, the Met presented the first Ring cycle in the Western Hemisphere. The operas were conducted by Anton Seidl; Lilli Lehmann (Brünnhilde), Emil Fischer (Wotan and Hagen) and Max Alvary (Siegfried) headed the cast.

The Met's current production of Götterdämmerung, by Robert Lepage, had its premiere on January 27, 2012. The first night was conducted by Fabio Luisi. Jay Hunter Morris and Deborah Voigt were Siegfried and Brünnhilde.

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Hans Peter König as Hagen in Götterdämmerung at the
Metropolitan Opera

© Johan Elbers 2013

WHAT TO READ AND HEAR 

Beginning Wagnerites can start their study of the composer concisely with Michael Tanner's Wagner (Princeton) and The New Grove Guide to Wagner and his Operas, edited by Barry Millington (Oxford); more adventurous readers will find Millington's Wagner (Princeton) and The Wagner Compendium: A Guide to Wagner's Life and Music (Thames and Hudson), edited by Millington, to be rewarding. Ernest Newman's The Wagner Operas, originally published in 1949 and now available as a Princeton paperback, remains valuable. M. Owen Lee's Wagner's Ring: Turning the Sky Round (Limelight) takes a measured, erudite look at the composer's magnum opus. Andrew Porter's brilliant English-language Ring text — intended as a "singing" translation and used as such with great success at ENO and other companies — is well worth seeking out (Norton). 

The history of Wagner's Ring is inseparable from that of the Bayreuth Festival, where the first complete Ring performances were given. Frederick Spotts's Bayreuth (Yale) is comprehensive and respectful; Jonathan Carr's The Wagner Clan (Grove) is a lively history of three generations of the composer's family in and out of Bayreuth.

Most of the Ring operas have been recorded as part of complete cycles, although some notable Die Walküres were conceived as separate recording projects. The 1961 Decca Die Walküre, led by Erich Leinsdorf at his most commanding, features Gré Brouwenstijn's imaginatively phrased Sieglinde, partnered by Jon Vickers's moving Siegmund. George London offers a distinguished Wotan. Birgit Nilsson, Leinsdorf's Brünnhilde, is marginally less authoritative than in her later recording for Georg Solti. Bruno Walter's enthralling 1935 account of Act I of Die Walküre, with Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior and Emmanuel List its high-voltage principals, is available in an excellent remastering from Naxos.

In the late 1980s, while the Met was rolling out its handsome, traditional Otto Schenk staging of Wagner's Ring, the company was also at work on the Ring in the recording studio, under the direction of James Levine. Levine's studio recordings of the four Ring operas (DG) are a testament to the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra's extraordinary development into a world-class ensemble under the conductor's leadership; Levine's reading balances wit, vigor and passion in equal measure. His superb principal cast — most of them veterans of the Schenk Ring staging — includes Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), James Morris (Wotan), Jessye Norman (Sieglinde), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Matti Salminen (Hagen) and Hanna Schwarz (Waltraute). A slightly different group of principals is on hand for the Met's Ring DVDs, recorded and telecast in 1990; for example, the highly telegenic Siegfried Jerusalem, who had sung Loge in the 1988 Met studio recording of Das Rheingold, added the higher-profile assignment of Siegfried for the live telecast.

Georg Solti's Decca Ring — the first studio recording of the complete cycle, begun in 1958 and completed over a period of eight years — remains one of the biggest and boldest Ring performances on disc, undeniably exciting if (occasionally) somewhat relentless in its delivery of heroically-scaled histrionics by the Vienna Philharmonic. Solti's veteran Ring cast includes Nilsson, Hans Hotter (Wotan), Régine Crespin (Sieglinde), Wolfgang Windgassen (Siegfried), Gottlob Frick (Hunding) and Kirsten Flagstad (Fricka, Das Rheingold). The chief contemporary rival to the Solti Ring is the performance by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, who deliver a less elemental reading than that of Solti, but one that is considerably more sensuous and radiant (especially in Das Rheingold). Bernard Haitink's studio set (EMI) is admirable for the exemplary playing of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the splendid Wotan of James Morris. Reginald Goodall delivers vigorous yet meticulous leadership of a brilliantly committed ENO ensemble in a remarkable English-language Ring, sung in Andrew Porter's translation (Chandos). Among the live Bayreuth Rings available on CD are illuminating accounts led by Clemens Krauss (1953; Opera d'Oro), Joseph Keilberth (1955; Testament), Hans Knappertsbusch (1956; Orfeo d'Or), Rudolf Kempe (1960; Melodram) and Karl Böhm (1967; Philips).

On DVD and Blu-ray, the Met's current Ring staging, by Robert Lepage, is available from DG, with James Levine (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre) and Fabio Luisi (Siegfried, Götterdämmerung) conducting. Patrice Chéreau's revolutionary Bayreuth Ring reimagined the drama in a nineteenth-century setting; Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre, Jeannine Altmeyer and Peter Hofmann are Chéreau's highly persuasive principals, conducted by Pierre Boulez (Philips). Kasper Bech Holten's Ring stagingfor Royal Danish Opera, conducted with masterly finesse by Michael Schønwaldt, is imaginatively detailed and refreshingly musical. Lothar Zagrosek conducts Stuttgart's controversial Ring, which fielded a different stage director for each of the four operas: Siegfried, directed by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito as a domestic drama with an aproned, potato-peeling Mime, is probably the most striking of the four stagings (TDK). A 1963 black-and-white film catches legendary Wagnerian Hans Knappertsbusch in late bloom, pacing Claire Watson, Fritz Uhl, Joseph Greindl and the Vienna Philharmonic in a concert performance of Act I of Die Walküre. Fritz Lang's 1924 silent epic Die Nibelungen — consisting of two separate films, Siegfried and Kriemhild's Revenge — presents a fascinating variation on the legends and the iconography that Wagner used in constructing his Ring cycle. spacer 

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6