Michael Schønwandt
Orchestra of the Royal Danish Opera Copenhagen
May 2006
Royal Danish Theatre Copenhagen
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegfriedStig Andersen
MimeBengt-Ola Morgny
WotanJames Johnson
AlberichSten Byriel
FafnerChristian Christiansen
ErdaSusanne Resmark
BrünnhildeIréne Theorin
WaldvogelGisela Stille
Stage directorKasper Bech Holten
Set designerMarie í Dali and Steffen Aarfing
TV directorPeter Borgwardt

Bringing Up Knucklehead

This third opera is the “light” chapter in Wagner’s mythological drama. But Siegfried presents the director with a mighty set of challenges. It is to Mr. Holten’s credit that he ignores them, re-imagining the opera as a situation comedy. This approach is clear from the set designs for Mime’s cave: a low-rent townhouse complete with an attic bedroom for the restless young hero, with comic books, posters, and a guitar on the wall.

Mime (Bengt-Ola Morgny) is a picture of creepy domesticity, a bachelor who does not want this brat in his house. Stig Andersen is powerful, unsubtle but generally pleasant of tone as Siegfried, perhaps a good fit for conductor Michael Schønwandt’s chamber music approach to the score. The Wanderer (James Johnson) drops by for tea without his spear. In the Riddle Scene, he threatens Mime with a kitchen knife, the same one that he used to remove Alberich’s arm with in Rheingold.

Fafner’s “Neidhole” cave is just that–a hole, with a loudspeaker mounted outside for the fearsome voice of the dragon. Fafner himself is in a bunker, seated at a control panel. Siegfried impetuously stabs him in the back. What’s even more interesting is what’s outside the cave. Alberich (Sten Byriel) is now a one-armed homeless man. He holds his nocturnal vigil accompanied by a sulky, silent teenager who’s got to be Hagen. When the Wanderer appears, he stashes the kid out of sight. And Susanne Resmark acts better than she sings, playing a bedridden Erda dying of cancer.

The bass-baritone James Johnson is not a Wotan of the first rank. But the slightly lower role of the Wanderer is good fit for the American baritone. He is excellent in the riddle scene and facing off with the one-armed Alberich. In another change, the God literally quits–breaking his own spear over his knee before Siegfried can fight him. The look of confusion on the young hero’s face is the best moment in the opera.

It is a credit to Mr. Andersen that he brings enough power to get through the final duet with Iréne Theoren’s Brunnhilde. When he wakes her up, he dodges out of sight–showing that his character has finally learned fear! Ms. Theoren sings a capable “Heil dir Sonne”, and her high-lying dramatic instrument is enough voice for this short but challenging part. Her “Ewig war ich” is nicely sung but a little bland. However, she is better in the final pages, hitting those three tricky high Cs and the “Hojotoho!” before the final bars.

Paul J. Pelkonen | November 8, 2011

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
720×480, 2.7 Mbit/s, 4.0 GByte (MPEG-4)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.