Die Walkure | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Die Walkure 

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Wagner's epic retelling of the German saga Der Ring des Nibelungen gets more convoluted and psychologically complex with each installment. The prologue, Das Rheingold, which covers the theft of the Rhine maidens' gold and the curse put on the ring forged from it, sets the stage for tragic confrontations between gods, giants, dwarves, and humans. In part two, Die Walkure, incest, oedipal love, jealosy, and revenge move the plot along briskly; the ominous tone is established by thunder and lightning at the opening. Three main protagonists dominate the complicated proceedings: Siegmund, a mortal who tries to defy destiny by falling in love with his twin sister, Sieglinde, and provokes the wrath of his father, the god Wotan; Brunnhilde, a Valkyrie and Wotan's favorite goddess daughter, who angers her father when she acts all too human and aids the twins; and the tormented Big Daddy, Wotan himself, who, bound by honor and pride, slays the unhappy Siegmund and banishes the softened Brunnhilde from Valhalla. All this Sturm und Drang leaves a lot of loose ends--Sieglinde is left with pieces of Siegmund's potent sword and pregnant with his son; Brunnhilde is lulled into a long sleep from which the first man who finds. her shall wake her--but many of them are tied up in the third episode, Siegfried, another five hours of glorious, sensuous Wagnerian leitmotivs. Lyric Opera is mounting the entire Ring cycle over four seasons, starting last season with Das Rheingold, which was staged by veteran Met director August Everding (who got mixed reviews for his conservative, literal approach) and conducted by Zubin Mehta (faulted in some quarters for his erratic pacing). The same team collaborated on Die Walkure. At the very least, this production is a must-hear for its cast of top-notch Wagnerian singers. Siegfried Jerusalem, a rare heroic tenor, makes his Lyric debut as Siegmund; James Morris is Wotan; and Eva Marton ought to be perfect belting out Brunnhilde's trademark cry, "Ho-jo-to-ho," with its high Cs and Bs and trilled ending. Tuesday and next Saturday, November 27, 6:30 PM (plus seven more performances), Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Christian Steiner.

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