Die Walküre

James Levine
New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
14 May 2011
Metropolitan Opera House New York
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundJonas Kaufmann
HundingHans-Peter König
WotanBryn Terfel
SieglindeEva-Maria Westbroek
BrünnhildeDeborah Voigt
FrickaStephanie Blythe
HelmwigeMolly Fillmore
GerhildeKelly Cae Hogan
OrtlindeWendy Bryn Harmer
WaltrauteMarjorie Elinor Dix
SiegruneEve Gigliotti
GrimgerdeMary Ann McCormick
SchwertleiteMary Phillips
RoßweißeLindsay Ammann

The Met in HD, Die Walküre, 2011

This 2011 production of Die Walküre comes from Robert Lepage’s production of the Met Opera’s first complete Ring cycle in 20 years, with its notorious multi-million dollar “machine” – a set consisting of 24 independently moving platforms, with additional video projections, that could be raised or lowered to form different scenes. Although the machine caused several mishaps during the production run, and reviewers complained about its noise, none of these flaws are evident on the filmed version and visually it is stunning in places – becoming a tangled forest, a rolling bed of lava, and even the graceful flapping wings of Brünnhilde’s horse. Other complaints about the production were that the machine limited the movement of the singers, resulting in very static staging, that the singers were obviously nervous about it, and that Siegmund and Sieglinde spent most of the first act standing a couple of feet below the apron. These aspects also become less problematic on film, were plenty of camera close-ups and changes of view add variety, although the Act I staging does still look a little odd and there are still one or two nervous wobbles to be seen as the singers navigate the machine.

The small cast is made up of experienced Wagner singers and some newcomers. Jonas Kaufmann smoulders his way through the role of Siegmund, with warm, honeyed singing with musical passion to match his looks – it didn’t matter that his acting was a little wooden. Eva Maria Westbroek making her Met debut as Sieglinde is beautifully well-matched to Kaufmann, and with them both kitted out with luxuriant pre-Raphaelite hair, it’s easy to believe that they’re twins. Ms Westbroek allows Sieglinde’s character to grow, from put-upon bullied housewife, girlishly eager to please her handsome guest, to the serene purity of the idealised mother-figure, the woman who will bear the great saviour.

Bryn Terfel is a magnificent Wotan, terrifying in his blustering rage, and touchingly bewildered as his wife and daughter run rings around him, and finally at the end, tragically stubborn. Stephanie Blythe’s Fricka is an imperious battleaxe, treating Wotan like a wayward child, her terrifying demeanour only enhanced by glorious singing. The weaker point is Deborah Voigt, singing Brünnhilde for the first time; her voice was clean and bright, but it lacked power, and although her flirtatious simpering manner worked well in Act II, it never went away, and so did not match up to Mr Terfel’s very moving performance of the final scene when Wotan condemns Brünnhilde to her fiery sleep. This production film includes some nice shots of James Levine’s distinctive conducting style. The Met Orchestra switch nimbly between the characters’ emotions, giving wonderful support to the acting and the narrative.

This production certainly enraged the critics, but for anyone who doesn’t have ready live access to singers of this calibre, and for newcomers to the Ring, it is well worth seeing.

Jane Shuttleworth | 01 Dezember 2013


On the final day of its 2010-11 season, the Metropolitan Opera broadcast world-wide in HD its new production of Die Walküre, the second instalment of Robert Lepage’s high-technology take on Wagner’s ‘Ring’ cycle that is to be completed next season. Before the performance could begin, however, a problem with the gigantic, computer-driven ‘machine’ that serves as the set for the entire cycle had to be solved, delaying the start of the opera for some 45 minutes. During the first interval, the HD audience was given a detailed and fascinating explanation of the problem and its solution by the Met’s technical director, John Sellars.

Although James Levine, the Met’s music director, has sharply curtailed his conducting duties for reasons of health, Die Walküre is one of only two operas that he kept on his Spring schedule (Berg’s Wozzeck was the other), and he brought undiminished energy to the task, evoking from the orchestra a performance rich both in sweeping grandeur and in fine detail. The cast was equally brilliant, with Deborah Voigt shining in her first run as Brünnhilde, and Bryn Terfel giving an even more powerful and sensitive characterisation of Wotan than his portrayal in Das Rheingold earlier this season.

Terfel’s every note and gesture conveyed Wotan’s seething anger – at Fricka for not allowing him to aid Siegmund, at Hunding for his abuse of both of the Volsung twins, at Brünnhilde for her disobedience, and at the Valkyries for protecting Brünnhilde – and then became poignant and tender as he bade farewell to his beloved daughter. Voigt was a youthful and energetic Brünnhilde, hitting exuberant high notes with assurance and evoking sympathy with her dismay at the severity of her punishment.

Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund & Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde (Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, April 2011). Photograph: Ken Howard As Siegmund and Sieglinde, Jonas Kaufmann and Eva-Maria Westbroek sang superbly, with beauty and accuracy of tone. Being attractive in appearance and of equal and appropriate age, they also matched perfectly how we might imagine the twins whose coupling sets in motion the plot not only of this opera but also the two that follow it. Kauffmann’s youthful and heroic appearance was a particularly welcome change from the often over-sized or over-aged Siegmunds that had been cast at the Met in recent years, however well they may have sung.

Stephanie Blythe’s commanding portrayal of Fricka took up where she left off last Fall in Das Rheingold. The imperious goddess’s confrontation with Wotan was gripping, her unwavering commitment to principle compelling her husband’s acquiescence, with Terfel conveying effectively the god’s pain as he reluctantly accedes to her demands. Hans-Peter König’s rich, pitch-perfect bass and stern demeanour made a chilling and menacing Hunding. The octet of Valkyries also excelled, and their singing of Wagner’s eight individual vocal lines (without some doublings used in the previous Met production) came through especially clearly in the HD venue.

During the opera’s brief opening ‘storm’, the ‘machine’ went into action. Its 24 planks at first bore projections evoking the icy, wind-swept tempest that raged in the orchestra, then tilted, separating to become trees in a forest through which Siegmund is seen being pursued by Hunding’s kinsmen. Finally, the planks rotated forward to become the sloping roof of Hunding’s house, with the two central planks remaining upright and, via projection, becoming the ash-tree with the sword set between them, waiting to be discovered by Siegmund. This dramatic portrayal of the action being depicted in Wagner’s score was quite effective, and Lepage used this idea again later in the opera during two extended monologues that challenge the stage director to create visual interest. As Siegmund relates his life story to Sieglinde, shadowy projections on the roof show the events of which he sings, and in Wotan’s extended monologue in Act Two, Lepage used a sequence of projections in the shape of a circle to represent Wotan’s lost eye and his shield, and then to illustrate his retelling of the entire plot of Das Rheingold.

Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde with the Valkyries (Die Walküre, Metropolitan Opera, April 2011). Photograph: Ken Howard Lepage began and ended the final Act with manoeuvres of the ‘machine. As the orchestra accompanies their ‘Ride’, the eight Valkyries, reins in hand, sit astride as many planks, which rock up and down to simulate galloping steeds. This ingenious high-tech effect was more amusing than realistic, but was a considerable improvement over most stagings in which there are no horses at all to be seen. (It could not, however, top a staging that I had the pleasure of seeing in Seattle some years ago, in which the Valkyries sat astride carousel horses that flew high above the stage suspended on wires – an effect that alone was worth the price of my ticket!). In the final scene, the planks rotate to give the audience a birds-eye view of the sleeping Brünnhilde (actually a body-double for Voigt), suspended upside-down and surrounded by fiery red projections. This, together with the magnificent ‘Magic Fire’ music, brought the opera to a touching close, although I did miss the realistic fire and smoke of the Met’s just-retired Otto Schenk production.

As in Lepage’s production of Das Rheingold, virtually all of the action had to be set in the relatively narrow area of the stage in front of the ‘machine’. That constraint brought the singers closer to the audience, but also made the staging more static and less interesting, deficits only partially compensated for by the beauty of the projections and lighting effects created by lighting designer Étienne Boucher and video image artist Boris Firquet. HD viewers also benefited from the multiple camera angles, close-ups, and reaction shots that were directed for TV by Gary Halvorson. Thus, although Lepage’s staging of Wotan’s confrontation with Fricka was quite dull – she was seated or standing directly in front of her ram-drawn cart through the entire scene – Halvorson created some memorable images, including one with Wotan and his spear in close-up in the foreground, with the seated and stern-faced Fricka looming above him. François St-Aubin’s costumes were rather more pleasing than those in Das Rheingold, with Wotan’s eye-patch being a distinct improvement over having his hair hang down across half of his face as in the earlier opera.

Seeing the performers’ facial expressions, both as they sang and as they reacted to the other characters, added a marvellous dimension to the HD experience, but it also made some production glitches more visible to HD viewers than to most of the audience in the Opera House. For example, whenever one of the performers stood in front of the ash tree in Hunding’s house, the projected image of the tree’s bark was cast upon the performer instead, making part of the “tree” look like the bare plank it actually was.

This continuation of the Ring remains on the path on which Lepage set out in Das Rheingold – a straightforward telling of Wagner’s epic tale without imposing any external ‘concept’ upon it. Although the staging was somewhat less interesting than in Rheingold, all of the singers in this performance of Die Walküre were superlative. Siegfried and Götterdämmerung will offer many more opportunities for creative use of the ‘machine’, as well as for great music making, so the ultimate assessment of this Ring must await its completion in the spring of 2012.

David M. Rice | May 14, 2011


Première véritable journée du cycle, La Walkyrie donne l’occasion de développer et d’approfondir les caractères dramatiques de certains personnages déjà rencontrés lors du prologue que constitue L’Or du Rhin. Nous verrons ainsi comment évoluent les rôles de Fricka et de Wotan. Mais la grande attente se focalise sur Brünnhilde, un des personnages les plus essentiels. L’entrée en scène du très médiatique ténor allemand Jonas Kaufmann est également un atout de premier ordre pour la réussite de cet ouvrage. Suite à des problèmes de santé et pour la dernière fois avant un retour espéré en 2013, James Levine dirige son orchestre du Met, avant de céder sa place à Fabio Luisi. Cette Walkyrie est disponible en Blu-ray et DVD Deutsche Grammophon.

La Walkyrie (Die Walküre) comprend, tout comme L’Or du Rhin (Das Rheingold), quatorze rôles. Mais si l’on isole les huit Walkyries, les six autres personnages accaparent durant des scènes entières quasiment la durée de l’opéra. Pour obtenir un bon résultat global, il est par conséquent absolument nécessaire de réunir des têtes d’affiche capables de soutenir le poids écrasant qui leur incombe.

Après un prélude tempétueux figuré de troncs d’arbres vidéo projetés sur les fameuses vingt-quatre pales mobiles de l’unique décor, Siegmund et Sieglinde apparaissent enfin dans une atmosphère sombre. Jonas Kaufmann possède l’organe du heldentenor wagnérien idoine : puissance, sûreté des attaques, excellence des tenues de notes et timbre d’airain. D’aucuns pourraient être gênés, toutefois, par les effets de glotte sur certaines chutes ou au commencement de certains phrasés. Mais il y a un aspect vivant et engagé dans l’instant qui permet de neutraliser l’émission d’un trop beau chant qui rendrait une présence sur scène bien artificielle. Sa partenaire Eva-Maria Westbroek, manque sans doute parfois d’une bonne assise, mais son chant demeure très ouvert et fluide. Physiquement, Siegmund et Sieglinde possèdent une même chevelure, choix naturaliste assumé, tandis que, sur le plan scénique, des effets de neige un peu faciles, et les redondances projetées en ombre chinoise sur le décor en écho au récit de Siegmund sur ses origines et son histoire sont bien peu utiles.

Hunding (Hans-Peter König) apparaît étrangement comme un colosse bienveillant, tout à fait à l’encontre de l’approche habituelle de ce rôle. Fafner dans L’Or du Rhin, il incarne ici le mari jaloux de la Walkyrie. Pourtant, Hunding n’inquiète pas. Sans doute aurait-il fallu davantage de graves à l’interprète pour vraiment terroriser son monde, d’autant que son allure un peu débonnaire de géant blond ne va pas vraiment en ce sens. Mais la prestation reste honnête à défaut d’être inoubliable. La tension énorme qui devrait emporter tout ce début, avec ses non-dits et ses jeux de regards – assez bien mis en valeur par les caméras – retombe de ce fait un peu à plat. La Scène 3 de cet Acte I finira cependant par une envolée lyrique de l’orchestre qui nous laissera sur une bonne impression conclusive.

L’acte II, central, permet de retrouver tous les personnages principaux. Après le visionnage de L’Or du Rhin, nous ne nourrissions aucun doute sur la prestation idéale du Wotan de Bryn Terfel, et c’est pour ainsi dire un pléonasme de préciser ici la qualité de la continuité interprétative du chanteur. La partition écrasante ne l’empêche nullement de développer tout son talent expressif au service d’un rôle qui le place à la fois aux prises avec son épouse jalouse et ses filles rebelles pourtant soumises, mais aussi face à des sentiments les plus contradictoires. Troquant son armure romaine du précédent opus pour celle d’un chevalier du Moyen Âge, bandeau métallique sur l’œil gauche, le baryton basse donne la formidable puissance et la douceur tourmentée requises par le rôle.

Face à lui, la Fricka de Stephanie Blythe nous avait posé quelques problèmes lors du prologue : physiquement mal assortie à Wotan, elle n’imposait pas l’épouse jalouse et dominatrice voulue par Wagner. La voix s’exprimait dans son registre mais possédait un petit vibrato légèrement désagréable. Dans La Walkyrie, nul doute que la mezzo-soprano a su faire évoluer son personnage. Bien qu’installée sur un trône digne de figurer dans les accessoires d’un film d’Heroic Fantasy comme Conan le Barbare, l’épouse jadis dominée s’est muée en digne femme bafouée qui sait également se montrer touchante. Elle reprend la main vocalement par un son, cette fois, parfaitement assis, puissant et frondeur, propre à tenir la dragée haute à Bryn Terfel. Cela chante fort, les répliques fusent, le ton monte et Wotan se soumet. L’ovation de la cantatrice après le tomber de rideau sera grandement méritée.

Deborah Voigt interprète ici pour la première fois un des rôles les plus lourds de l’histoire de l’opéra. Habituée à des rôles chargés, la soprano américaine ne convaincra pourtant pas totalement. Fidèle du Met, le public l’ovationnera, mais qu’en aurait-il été à Bayreuth ? Le timbre de Deborah Voigt laisse en effet perplexe car la Brünnhilde jeune guerrière se transforme avec elle en Brünnhilde mature. Un manque net d’homogénéité vocale, une tendance fâcheuse à compenser cette faiblesse par un vibrato permanent et la tendance à forcer le son desservent considérablement sa crédibilité. Ceci posé, l’aisance vocale relative pourra être interprétée comme expression de la fragilité du personnage. Il est vrai que le chant est expressif et que la soprano est une bonne actrice. Elle sait porter avec assurance et bienveillance armure, lance et bouclier – le metteur en scène ayant eu la très bonne idée de lui faire grâce des encombrantes et improbables ailes en plumes traditionnelles -, mais elle parvient aussi à nous toucher dans le rapport fille/père savamment construit avec le Wotan de Bryn Terfel.

La mise en scène de Robert Lepage reste fidèle à son parti pris pour L’Or du Rhin, soit un décor unique qui nous donne au bout de plusieurs heures les prémices de ses limites. Il accroche, certes, le regard par les images de synthèse – visuellement réussies – qu’il reçoit, mais l’effet de surprise et de découverte est éventé. Nous laisserons découvrir au spectateur l’usage qui est fait du décor pour la Chevauchée des Walkyries à l’Acte III, mais nous nous inclinons devant la réussite visuelle de la dernière composition graphique qui clôt l’opéra.

En l’état, cette Walkyrie s’inscrit en parfaite cohérence avec L’Or du Rhin et propose la vision équilibrée recherchée par Le Met et Robert Lepage : une tradition exprimée par des moyens techniques actuels. Nous attendrons maintenant l’opus suivant, Siegfried, pour savoir comment la forte théâtralité (tout comme celle du Prologue) de cette deuxième journée du Ring, – avec sa forge, son dragon, l’oiseau, le combat – sera pensée.

Note générale: 8/10

Nicolas Mesnier-Nature

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 524 MByte (MP3)
Matinee broadcast
A production by Robert Lepage (2011)
Also available as telecast and commercial DVD/BD release.