Isaac Selya
Queen City Opera Orchestra
26 October 2014 [act 1]
25 October 2015 [act 2]
23 October 2016 [act 3]
Dunham Theatre Cincinnati
Recording Type
  live   studio
  live compilation   live and studio
Siegfried Matthew Tschimperle [act 1]
Stephen Carroll [act 2]
Jason Wickson [act 3]
Mime M. Andrew Jones
Wotan Timothy Bruno [act 1]
Daniel Scofield [act 2/3]
Alberich Michael Young
Fafner David Leigh
Erda Ellen Graham
Brünnhilde Mithra Mastropierro
Waldvogel Alexandra Kassouf [act 2]
Carroll Wallace
Stage director James Slouffman [act 1]
Laura Jekel [act 2/3]
Set designer James Slouffman [act 1]
Lizzy DuQuette [act 2/3]
TV director
Janelle’s Notes (I)

Wagner triumphs on the West Side

Last weekend, on a beautiful fall day, I traveled to the West Side of Cincinnati to see the Queen City Chamber Opera mount Wagner’s “Siegfried” Act I. The opera start-up led by Isaac Selya, 28, was putting on a reduced version of the orchestration by Alfons Abbass. It is believed to be the first performance of this edition in the United States.

“Siegfried” is the the third drama in “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” It was the second Wagner opera tackled by Selya, in collaboration with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati — he mounted Act I of “Die Walkure” last spring. It was an ambitious undertaking, but no surprise for those who know about this ambitious young company. Their productions take place in the Dunham Arts Center – a Hannaford-built Arts Deco building that at one time served as an arts center for patients of a tuberculosis sanatorium on the park grounds.

This was a fresh, youthful production that was musically excellent. It included a cast of three rising singers, all with ties to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. The orchestra of 43 players was spread out below the small stage. As might be expected, the set design, by James Slouffman (who also directed), was bare bones but functional. A box with a bellows was the forge, with the anvil front and center. Behind the wall of Mime’s hut was a lovely painted forest backdrop.

Selya’s reading of the score was secure and richly detailed, and he propelled the action well. Wagner’s motives were sharply etched in horns and brass, and the orchestra played expressively. It was interesting to hear this “chamber” version, without those mellow Wagner tubas, which made the sound very bright in a hall that is already bright.

That said, there was something visceral about hearing Wagner up close – almost as if the listeners were part of the music drama. Tenor M. Andrew Jones was superb as the wily dwarf Mime, whose ulterior motive for raising the orphaned young man, Siegfried, is to get the magical Ring – even if it means killing him.

As our hero, a CCM-trained heldentenor named Matt Tschimperle bounded onto the stage with his pet bear (Rob Rosenberg), and put Mime in a choke hold to try to learn his identity. He sang with ardor, once leaping up onto a bench. He gleefully forged his sword (Nothung! Nothung! Neidliches Schwert!), and exuberantly dashed out to slay the dragon.

On Sunday, there were some issues with balance in the tenor voices, but there was no issue with bass Timothy J. Bruno. He was sensational as The Wanderer, and his powerful presence and robust voice filled the hall. His scene with Mime of the three questions was riveting,

Under Selya’s baton, the orchestra was excellent, with special praise going to the horns. The afternoon ended all too quickly; it’s too bad we didn’t get to hear the magnificent Forest Murmurs (Waldweben) in Act 2, or see what fantastic invention might represent Fafner, the dragon. Afterwards, Selya said he might someday perform the entire work.

I have no doubt that he will eventually lead an entire Ring Cycle. But first, it’s on to Mozart’s “The Abduction from the Seraglio” in March. I can’t wait.

Janelle Gelfand | NOVEMBER 2, 2014

Janelle’s Notes (II)

The chapter of the gods concludes

Here’s one of the performances I’ve been lucky to catch this fall in Cincinnati.

Last month, Queen City Chamber Opera mounted the final installment, Act III, of Wagner’s opera “Siegfried,” at the Dunham Performing Arts Center on the West Side. The performance, which was well attended on a bright Sunday afternoon, marked the first complete performance of “Siegfried” in Ohio in a century. (It was in collaboration with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati.)

(The first two acts were performed in the previous two years. It’s a rather epic way to perform a Ring Cycle… )

What is so remarkable about the efforts of the company’s founding music director Isaac Selya is the quality that he has been able to achieve on a shoestring. His orchestra — complete with five extraordinary horn players, harp and timpani — filled nearly half of the auditorium floor.

And what a noble and glorious sound he drew from those musicians! Their playing was impressive, especially given the tricky acoustics in the old auditorium. Selya paced the work expertly and also summoned some lovely atmospheres.

As soon as she awoke from her deep sleep and uttered her first notes, it was clear that Mithra Mastropierro’s Brünnhilde would be something very special. The soprano communicated with a powerful but sumptuous tone, able to soar easily over an orchestra playing at full throttle. Her tender “Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich,” in which Brünnhilde tells Siegfried of her great love for him, was beautifully felt. She is clearly a star on the rise.

In the role of Siegfried, tenor Jason Wickson sang with dramatic heft and thrilling high notes. He consistently brought character as well as charisma to the role.

The opening scene was delightful, thanks to production designer Lizzy DuQuette. For her whimsical design, the earth mother Erda (beautifully sung by Ellen Graham) had a “double” who materialized from clouds in the scenic backdrop and sank back into them at the end of her scene. Brilliant!

Bass-baritone Daniel Scofield — who also performed last year in Act II — was excellent as Der Wanderer. The chapter of the gods has now been brought to a close. We will see if we get the sequel in a future season.

Janelle Gelfand | NOVEMBER 12, 2016

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
1280×720, 3.2 Mbit/s, 4.0 GByte (MPEG-4)
English subtitles (translation by Isaac Selya)
Professionally produced video