Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
23 October 2012
Teatro alla Scala Milano
Recording Type
  live   studio
  live compilation   live and studio
Siegfried Lance Ryan
Mime Peter Bronder
Wotan Terje Stensvold
Alberich Johannes Martin Kränzle
Fafner Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Erda Anna Larsson
Brünnhilde Nina Stemme
Waldvogel Rinnat Moriah
Stage director Guy Cassiers (premiere, Berlin 2012)
Set designer Enrico Bagnoli
TV director Patrizia Carmine
Opera News (live)

The first two parts of the new Ring cycle devised by Guy Cassiers for La Scala and the Berlin State Opera (with Daniel Barenboim in the pit) offered a relatively unobtrusive postmodern framework within which some remarkable singing actors could explore the relationships among the characters they were playing. The Belgian director/designer, assisted by Enrico Bagnoli (sets and lighting) and Tim Van Steenbergen (costumes), seemed less consistently attuned to the music and text in Siegfried (seen at La Scala on Oct. 23). The high points of this Siegfried proved to be a skillfully-mimed killing of Fafner (a potent-voiced Alexander Tsymbalyuk) and an intelligently paced, poetically illuminated final scene on the mountaintop, with Nina Stemme radiant in voice and visage as Brünnhilde and Lance Ryan demonstrating appreciable physical agility and vocal resilience as a dark-haired, leather-clad Siegfried. Earlier in the opera, the character of Siegfried was not particularly well served, either by the Canadian tenor — whose timbre, when heard at full volume, seemed intermixed with the sort of base metals we associated with Mime, and who lacked proper support in soft passages — or by Cassiers. The director — as confirmed in the twelve-page program essay by Erwin Jans, which explained the production act by act — had little sympathy for the character’s sublime ingenuousness, or for his total connectedness with nature. One cannot help feeling that if Cassiers had prepared for his task by roaming the forests and observing a swordsmith at work, instead of poring over the critical studies quoted in the program essay, he might have come up with a less aridly pessimistic vision of Wagner’s hero. A Siegfried transposed into a computer-controlled environment is, quite simply, no longer himself, and in the technological simulation of a forest in Act II, it was, unsurprisingly, Johannes Martin Kränzle’s Alberich who appeared most at ease — an impression that owed as much to the baritone’s richly inflected phrasing as to the setting. Kränzle’s phrasing was consistently underpinned by the strong legato that Wagner’s music thrives on — a quality that was conspicuously lacking in the singing of Ryan and Terje Stensvold. A veteran singer of sturdy voice and presence, Stensvold failed to bring much nobility to the Wanderer. Peter Bronder’s Mime — though an undeniably well acted portrayal — was also too monotonously declamatory in utterance, and Rinnat Moriah’s Forest Bird (a role that was mimed onstage by Vivian Guadalupi) proved disappointingly metallic in its warblings.

It was fascinating, on the other hand, to observe and listen to Anna Larsson’s slenderly beautiful, introspective Erda, and Daniel Barenboim — who obtains a much more inspired response from the Scala Orchestra in Wagner than in Verdi — was careful never to cover her voice. The dynamic range of the orchestral accompaniment was in fact enormous, but it was never exhibited for its own sake. The entire drama was paced as naturally as possible, making us quite unaware of the hiatus that separated the composition of Acts II and III and building up to a breathtaking climax in the final scene, in which Stemme had no trouble in sailing exultantly to the top B and C.


Opera News (BD)

Guy Cassiers’s Ring, a Scala–Staatsoper Unter den Linden coproduction, looks messy and pointless on Arthaus’s video issues. A beyond-pretentious booklet note makes dramaturgical claims for the allusiveness and “lisibilité” of Enrico Bagnoli’s video-saturated designs (Leopold of the Belgians, Joseph Conrad, a lurid sculpted frieze in Ghent, Gulf War coverage — enough said). Seen here as filmed by Patrizia Carmine, rather awkwardly for the television format, there is little visual power, but much confusion is transmitted. The sets’ main pleasures come from Daniel Barenboim’s architecturally disciplined if typically stately work with the fine Scala orchestra, its strings and brass differently sonorous than Bayreuth or Met forces.

Siegfried comes from October 2012. The bad news is that Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s omnipresent dancers, who helped torpedo Das Rheingold, are back in force. More bad news: Canadian tenor Lance Ryan (Siegfried) makes a steady diet of Tannhaüser, Énée and other Unsingable Guys; he sounds like it too — one never feels he won’t stay the course. But who wants to endure such a dry, nasal, undistinguished sound for so many hours? (He puts Boulez’s lumpen but vocally tolerable Bayreuth Siegfried into perspective.) That Brünnhilde could not recognize his cawing tone when he is disguised as Gunther challenges credibility. Tim von Steenbergen has decked Ryan out in the all-purpose black-leather rock-star duds — yes, with dyed Fabio hair — that so many costumers today seem to equate with the word “tenor.” Scowling seems to be part of his voice production, and his eyes frequently seek out Barenboim’s baton.

In Siegfried, Peter Bronder takes over as Mime from Das Rheingold’s Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke, proving very accomplished, though Ryan’s singing and Terje Stensvold’s tired-sounding Wanderer allow but little enjoyment in Act I. The supporting cast and orchestra bring Act II to a higher level vocally. Fafner — Timo Riihonen in Rheingold — gets replaced by the steadier-voiced Alexander Tsymbalyuk, and Rinnat Moriah sounds bright and lovely as the Woodbird. The hero of this whole Ring may well be its Alberich, the sonorous and vivid Johannes Martin Kränzle. Sometimes the camera work makes it hard to judge how Cassiers staged particular scenes: Anna Larsson’s worthy Erda is superimposed by means of a second camera for her scene with Stensvold, vocally nearing exhaustion. Fortunately, Nina Stemme continues from Die Walküre as Brünnhilde and, despite some awkward close-ups and her unpleasing duet partner, upholds her Wagnerian reputation with style and a free, ringing top.

Götterdämmerung was filmed in 2013. Ryan remains distressing as Siegfried, but Brünnhilde is now Iréne Theorin. Their Prologue duet finds Ryan in particularly unattractive voice. Theorin makes a sound of a different caliber, though the bottom of her soprano sounds occluded as things get going. Hemmed in by an awful dress and unflattering makeup — evoking Albin from Cage aux Folles playing Bianca Castafiore — Theorin does what she can, and she’s a reliable, idiomatic interpreter. Her voice grows in steadiness and appeal for the rigors and splendors of Act II. If she is neither Nilsson vocally nor Jones or Behrens dramatically, Theorin provides dignity and the great role’s vocal scope, rising (as does the orchestra) to the immolation with considerable distinction. Other holdovers from the previous “evening” are Kränzle’s Alberich, superb in his one haunting scene, and two of the satisfying Rhinemaidens (Aga Mikolaj’s Woglinde and Maria Gortsevskaya’s Wellgunde; Anna Lapkovskaja supplants Marina Prudenskaya as Flosshilde).

Anna Samuil, Freia in 2011, here takes on the Third Norn and that tricky part, Gutrune; neither succeeds stylistically or vocally. In the first assignment — next to the plaintive-timbred Margarita Nekrasova (First Norn) and luxury-cast Waltraud Meier (Second Norn), Samuil sounds brittle and edgy in a part usually awarded to a future Brünnhilde. Gutrune starts the evening with her head in the lap of Gunther (Gerd Grochowski) and — wearing a bear-print dress that evokes Fanciulla’s Nina Micheltorena — is directed into a gauche characterization, smiling with coy banality and sounding more like Musetta. With Meier — whose Waltraute, if tonally variable, remains a riveting, complete portrayal — the handsome Grochowski is the sole principal flattered by close-ups. As is often the case, he’s been cast a bit beyond his vocal range (lyric bass), but at least he phrases German effectively, unlike his onstage sister and half-brother. Mikhail Petrenko certainly projects a character as Hagen. His brand of detached-from-colleagues facial mugging suits the scheming loner in picturesque ways; but isn’t it time for the bass-baritone, so often cast in Wagner these days, to bring his sung German up to international grade? His bass-baritone lacks the traditional resonance on either end of Hagen’s music; perhaps to compensate, he whispers many lines stagily and overindulges in parlando. This may have been an interesting approach in the theater — Petrenko, like Grochowski, figures in the reflex European critical pantheon — but it doesn’t consistently read well on video. What is clear about Cassiers and Bagnoli’s work is that it’s genuinely ugly almost throughout, though an occasional green or fire-red lighting effect strikes home. The ruinous dancers appear in Siegfried and Götterdämmerung as the Tarnhelm, ravishing Brünnhilde in a group grope as Siegfried stands apart. One might want to sample the two Brünnhildes’ scenes and Kränzle’s fine Alberich; but approach this whole enterprise with caution.


La presenza di un titolo come quello di Siegfried, all’interno della corrente stagione scaligera, ha costituito un appuntamento imperdibile sia per chi ama Wagner sia per coloro che hanno voluto accostarsi al musicista tedesco. Una favola dell’avventura umana: l’iniziazione alla vita di un ragazzo orfano (Siegfried), cresciuto da un nano (Mime) nelle insidie quotidiane della foresta. Il viaggio di Siegfried si compie attraverso cinque prove: il riforgiare, mettendone insieme i frammenti, la spada Nothung (appartenuta al padre Siegmund), l’uccidere il drago Fafner nella foresta, il conoscere il linguaggio degli uccelli, lo scontrarsi col viandante (Wotan), il superamento del fuoco che avvolge il mausoleo nel quale dorme Brunilde. Con quest’ultima prova Siegfried conquista l’amore e nel contempo la coscienza di quella paura che fino a quel momento non aveva provato, nemmeno affrontando il drago. Questa produzione, realizzata in collaborazione con la Staatsoper di Berlino, si è avvalsa della prestigiosa bacchetta di Daniel Barenboim e della regia di Guy Cassiers che ha unito la tecnologia più moderna ad una iconografia che si rifà all’antichità germanica pagana.

Enrico Bagnoli ha firmato le scene e le luci realizzando effetti meravigliosi e sorprendenti (un esempio su tutti: la suggestiva foresta nei pressi della caverna di Fafner, del secondo atto).

Per il primo atto (la fucina del nano Mime) lo scenografo ha ideato una struttura quadrata che occupava la parte centrale del palcoscenico, con pavimenti e pareti fatti di cubi e gabbie di ferro. I video di Arjen Klerkx e Kurt D’Haeseeler hanno saputo coinvolgere integrandosi perfettamente con l’impostazione del regista e dello scenografo. Di bell’impatto visivo, nella loro moderna eccentricità, i costumi creati da Tim Van Steenbergen, così come coinvolgenti sono state le coreografie di Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui eseguite da cinque bravissimi danzatori, intensamente impegnati anche nel realizzare con i loro corpi la creatura mostruosa Fafner.

Venendo alla parte vocale, si è perticolarmente messo in luce Lance Ryan, nei panni del protagonista. Il tenore ha dimostrato di possedere la resistenza fisica e vocale per sostenere un ruolo decisamente oneroso. Ryan ha inoltre evidenziato una accurata attenzione nel plasmare la frase scenica, nel massimo rispetto della musicalità del dettato wagneriano. Nella sua recitazione e nelle movenze poi, ha perfettamente incarnato questa figura di eroe per eccellenza, immemore e disinvolto e perciò eletto ad affrontare pericoli ch’egli non sa valutare e a sperimentare prodigi che a malapena sospetta.

Solida la vocalità di Terje Stensvold (Wotan in sembianze da mendicante) che, unita alla grande dimestichezza del ruolo, gli ha permesso di scavare nella profondità del personaggio, esprimendo le complesse emozioni del dio cesellando ogni singolo dettaglio con un gusto quasi liederistico. L’intensa Erda di Anna Larsson è parsa proprio come la dea della terra, la custode delle conoscenze del futuro, figura che mostra grande comprensione e profondità. Eccellente il nano Mime interpretato da Peter Bronder. Una recitazione impeccabile basata su grandi qualità, anche acrobatiche. Ragguardevole la voce solida e sicurissima di Nina Stemme, anche se la sua Brunilde l’abbiamo potuta apprezzare solo nel terzo atto.

Omogeneo e di ottimo livello il restante cast vocale, dal quale segnaliamo in particolare le prova di Johannes Martin Kranzle (Alberich) – sicuro negli accenti e squillante nel timbro- e quella di Rinnat Moriah che interpretava il canto degli uccellini del bosco. Le note più liete e sorprendenti dell’allestimento milanese giungono soprattutto dalla splendida direzione musicale di Daniel Barenboim e dalla prova dell’Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala sempre attenta e concentrata durante le quasi quattro ore di musica dell’opera wagneriana. Il pubblico- a tratti entusiastico- ha mostrato di aver apprezzato in toto la rappresentazione, gratificando voci, regia e direzione musicale.

Federico Vazzola | Milano, 31 ottobre 2012

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Media Type/Label
Arthaus Musik
Arthaus Musik
Technical Specifications
1920×1080, 17.9 Mbit/s, 31.5 GByte (MPEG-4)
Telecast (RAI)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.