They're enthusing about Washington National Opera's new production of Wagner's Die Walk‹re, directed by Francesca Zambello, which opened Saturday night (March 24) at the Kennedy Center Opera House.
It's true that Zambello directed the work at Washington National Opera as recently as 2003 — but that was while the Kennedy Center was getting a makeover and the company was camping out at DAR Constitution Hall. The logistics of production were very different: with no orchestra pit or stage equipment to speak of, the primary design element was projections on scrims. Now that the company is back at home, Zambello has completely reworked the staging (as you can see in the photos below) as part of the "American Ring" cycle shared by the Washington National and San Francisco Operas. Both critics praised her work with her actors, Silverman attributing much of the performance's success to "the vivid emotional connections Zambello established among the characters."
Heading the cast are the tireless Plšcido Domingo — the 66-year-old general director of both Washington National Opera and Los Angeles Opera as well as one of the most famous tenors in the world today — as Siegmund and soprano Anja Kampe as his twin sister/lover, Sieglinde. "Their voices — fresh, lithe and lustrous — easily filled the hall," writes Page, "but they never sounded strained and there was none of that amped-up shouting that so commonly passes for Wagnerian declamation. A glorious teaming: Exactly what an operatic love duet should be.
"Indeed, I don't know whether the Washington National Opera has ever presented a more thrilling 70 minutes than Act I."
Alan Held takes the role of Wotan, in this production a sort of CEO of the gods; Silverman praised his "admirable vocal stamina as well as keen dramatic instincts." Soprano Linda Watson plays his willful, doomed daughter Br‹nnhilde, with Elena Zaremba as Wotan's wife Fricka, the goddess of home and marriage, and Gidon Saks as Hunding, Sieglinde's husband. Company music director Heinz Fricke conducts, providing what Page called "musical and thoughtful [leadership] throughout."
The new Washington National Opera production of Die Walk‹re receives six more performances at the Kennedy Center Opera House from March 28 through April 17; details and tickets are available at www.dc-opera.org.
The next installment in this "American Ring," Siegfried, has been postponed by one year to the 2008-09 season, with G‹tterd‹mmerung and the complete cycle to run in 2009-10.
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All photos by Karin Cooper.