The legendary Bayreuth Centenary production of Wagner's Ring is distinguished by Patrice Chéreau's once-shocking production, which has acquired the status of the most trenchant modern interpretation of the cycle. Siegfried... more » is the third of the four Ring operas, introducing the hero, Siegfried, son of the demi-gods Siegmund and Sieglinde. Though raised by the dwarf Mime, Siegfried discovers his true identity and forges the magic sword, Notung, with which he slays Mime and the dragon Fafner. He then defies the Wanderer (Wotan in disguise) and rescues the sleeping Brünnhilde from her circle of flames. The opera ends with their radiant love duet. Pierre Boulez's penetrating interpretation supports a cast led by the powerful Siegfried of Manfred Jung. Cast: Hermann Becht: Alberich
Fritz Hübner: Fafner
Gwyneth Jones: Brünnhilde
Manfred Jung: Siegfried
Donald McIntyre: Der Wanderer
Norma Sharp: Waldvogel
Ortrun Wenkel: Erda
Heinz Zednik: Mime
The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez« less
I wish Mime had been successful in killing Siegfried in this
Charles H. Miller, Jr. | Martinsville, Virginia United States | 10/24/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Unlike most Wagnerites, I like Siegfried best of all the Ring
operas. To me, it is the most fairy tale-like, the most full of
nature and nature imagery, has the most interesting characters, the
most fascinating confrontations and also the most sublime love scene
in all opera. It is a coming-of-age story, full of Freudian intuition
on Wagner's part, and its symbolism is universal...the depth of the
libretto alone and the mental stimuli it provides are enough to give
a lifetime of study and enjoyment. Add to all this the sublime,
rapturous music and its thread of subliminal subconcious thought and
you have one whale of a work of art. IN LOVE with Siegfried, I
decided that I had to have the Bayreuth Siegfried of 1980... So, disregarding the mostly negative reviews that
customers on Amazon had written about this production, I ordered it.
It arrived yesterday. With heart pounding, I tore the wrapping off
and plugged it into my DVD player with trembling fingers. I settled
in, with my cat on my lap and a cup of hot Earl Grey nearby, ready
for an uninterrupted evening of my favorite opera. I lasted two acts.
What can I say other than that I was grossly disappointed? The
sets were unusual, to say the least, but this was ok. In fact, they
were fascinating and I got to see how Wagner "works" for a specific
age as well as universally. As a whole, the vocal quality was
entirely passable, even good at times, the orchestra was a little
under-volume but otherwise balanced and completely presentable, and
the sets, though dark, were visually beautiful. Even the dragon was
not as laughable as I had been prepared to see. Heinz Zednick, as in
the Met version, was fantastic as Mime...in fact, he outdid himself
both vocally and dramatically and stole the show, for me. The guy
who sang Fafner was excellent, and Donald McIntyre and Manfred Jung
seemed to be in good voice for the performance, and were dramatically
into their roles. In fact, the acting as a whole was superb. Except
for some slightly distressing rushing on Jung's part at the end of
Act 2, there was good synchronization between the orchestra and
singers. All in all, it was excellently sung and acted, the orchestra
was in good form, the sets were visually interesting and it was a
perfectly good professionally-rendered presentation of Siegfried.
But----there was one thing wrong with this performance that
spoiled it for me, and that was Jung's characterization of Siegfried. Siegfried, at best, is hard to like. But knowing that
he is the hero of the whole tetralogy, we TRY to like him, even
though Wagner does not make it easy for us to. There is a subtle way
the tenor can help us out, despite the sometimes hateful language and
actions of Siegfried, and make us regard him with more sympathy and
give him a lot of slack. Jerusalem did it in the Met production---
played Siegfried as an innocent who knew no better than the ways of
the forest, and who showed remorse when he had to kill both Fafner
and Mime. And he did his best to interject a boyish charm to the
role, and came across as utterly believable, human and likeable. Jung,
on the other hand, seemed to actually play up the coarse and brutish
aspects of Siegfried. I could easily imagine him pulling the wings
off insects and torturing the bears and the birds of the forest. He
not only cleaved the anvil, but wielded Notung as if he were a
character in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, smashing the sword down
again and again and again. Aside from the constant and brutal abuse
of Mime, he kicked Fafner's dead body, kicked and shook the tree in
impatience to hear the bird's song, and in short acted like an
enraged and rabid animal. The most chilling thing he did, though,
was to walk close to the dying Fafner, unconcerned and uncaring, only
curious about his own past. I'm sure this was calculated only to
show that he indeed had no fear, but to me, the way it was done wasmost disturbing. He was almost intimate with Fafner, putting his
hand on the giant, almost as if in possession of him, but totally
indifferent and cold to his suffering, and Fafner with Notung stuck
in his chest with the blood running down....then when Fafner died and
Siegfried killed Mime and hung him on the tree, my blood was chilled
anew when Siegfried started singing the lyrical, longing music set to
the Forest Murmers....all with the two dead bodies in evidence a few
feet away. The incongrousness of this was jarring and a little
revolting. I found myself grieving for Mime in this production...and
so wishing that there had been a sudden plot change and Siegfried had
drunk Mime's potion! As it is, I am dreading Act 3, and don't know
if I want to see this sociopath wake Brunnhilde or not (let me
guess...he shakes her and kicks her)....much less see the final
portion, which I'm sure will be more like a rape scene than anything
Why did Jung have to play Siegfried like a Nazi? I thought we
were trying to get away from that sad and inappropriate connection
anyway....this production does not help the cause one little bit.
I give this production three stars because it has its merits, but is totally lacking in garnering any sympathy for its main character.Message 131 of 131 | Previous | Next [ Up Thread ] Message
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A passable performance
Anthony Louis | USA | 02/23/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a decent performance of Siegfried; however, Manfred Jung as Siegfried is rather weak as an actor. He has a decent (though beefy) voice, but he can't seem to get into the part. His face seems to have two expressions: either a silly smile or an angry snarl. As a result, the 'hero' Siegfried comes across as an unsympathetic crude arrogant bully who takes what he wants without regard for the rights or feelings of others. I don't think this is what Wagner intended, and it's hard to fathom what Brunhilde sees in this haughtly adolescent. I guess Wotan really did punish her quite harshly by sending this churl to be her lover. Jung's kiss to awaken Brunhilde had about as much passion as Michael Jackson kissing Priscilla Presley on national TV (at the time he was being accused in the press of pedophilia). The other actors are much better performers. The stage directions often don't match the words. Examples: Siegrfried sings about Brunhilde being covered with a shield (but she is not), or he sings about his hand trembling over his heart, when at the time his hand is outstreched and perfectly still. The sound quality is also quite variable, probably due to the placement of microphones and the movement of the actors across the stage. Sometimes the singing ranges from too loud to almost inaudible in the space of a few minutes. Another problem is that the 2nd DVD in the set skips in parts on my DVD player. This is the only DVD that my DVD player ever had trouble reading, so I thinkt here may be a defect in the manufacturing."
C Booth | 04/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Like many people, Siegfried is the least favourite of all the Ring operas. However, I must praise the interesting interpretation and direction of Patrice Chereau here. Just like elsewhere in this centenary Bayreuth production, the drama is so vivid and believable, aided by superior acting on the part of the singers. Although Manfred Jung doesn't exactly conform to my idea of a great helden-tenor, he does well in the production. The other singers also give excellent support, as have Boulez and the excellent Bayreuth orchestra."
Very interesting performance
C Booth | 12/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I personally found this performance to be very interesting. Initially, I was astonished by all those "up-dates" in the action. However, most finally makes good dramatic senses. The singing is fine, and the acting is superior. I must admit that I've never liked this opera much. Yet, this recording has no doubt increased my interest in the music as well as the drama, which is evidence of its quality."
SIEGFRIED; THIRD PART OF THE GREAT METAPHOR
Josef Bush | Phoenix, AZ | 11/21/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In many ways this is the most difficult of all the operas of THE RING to mount. Not only are the casting requirements as high as they are in any other part of the dramaic poem, but the premise of the thing is fundamentally incredible, fantastic, and cannot be presented realisically or even, sometimes, convincingly on any stage. SIEGFRIED can only take place in the mind, on the battlefield of metaphors and symbols. But, it is fascinating noneheless, to see what Boulez and Chereau did with it at Bayreuth, because even though they could not solve all the problems of the production to everybody's satisfaction, they did make remrkable and original choices; choices which were carried out in accordance with Bayreuth's highest standards, without compromise in artistic integrity. Their concept was rigorous and whole.
ACT ONE: When the curtains part, instead of a cave in a cliff face with a rustic forge in it, we find the solitary tinker Mime, standing, his back to us, at the edge of the metal grating that forms the floor of what appears to be (in metaphor) his pre-industrial artisan's Chop Shop in the woods. The grating in the area around his foundry is the same grating that we saw in DAS RHINEGOLD, through which Erda initially rose and then slid down in her final exit. It reminds us again of the stage; that this is a filmed record of a staged production and not a movie. To the left, a tall masonry edge, and to the right, three large, iron industrial cogwheels between riveted, lattice-type iron girders. Here, these not-quite-functional construction elemens used as design motifs, are reminders of the architecural vernacular of the Festspielhaus itself, or riffs on a 19th century building which was daring when it was first built because it utilized contemporary industrial techniques like iron beams for both suspension and support, which allowed the theatre to span largre spaces wihout using interior pillars; something masonry archiecture could not do.
In this production, instead of using painted scenery to show a wood, the designer has creaed a thicket or grove of what looks like aspen, made of realisic arificial trees. The effect is not real, exacly, but shaply photo-realistic and solid-looking, and relates well to the other three-dimensional elemens in the set in such a way that the scene does not look as many "traditional" outdoor settings do, or like a painting in false perspective of a locale in a National Park. I looks more like an old 19th cenury photogaph of a real place, but colored. Plausible.
Anyway, ugly old Mime, like an angry and resentful step-parent, is waiting for Siegfried to return, and kvetching because he's unable to forge a sword strong enough for Siegfried to use -- though Mime's convinced him to use it -- to kill Fasolt the dragon who sleeps on piles of ghelt stolen originally from the Rhinemaidens.
Mime is sung and acted brilliantly by Heinz Zednik (who played Loge in DAS RHINEGOLD) and really the first half of this opera belongs to him. Not to the briliant Zednik, personally, but to the character of Mime. Here he's dressed in shabby clothes of the period, and wears a long apron. Although traditionally Mime is supposed to be a dwarf, he isn't presented as anything but an unfortunate old Tinker with thin hair and weak eyes behind glasses. That's reasonable or at least plausible because before there was the mass production of household goods, there were bands of itinerant Tinkers, menders and Smiths in both precious and base metals. These folks often roamed Erope, mending pots and farm implimens. They lived or camped outside cities and appear in EL TROVATORE as Gypsies and in LA JUIVE as Jews. Here embodied by Mime, they are the indigenous people of the ?Rhineland; the woodland and bog people.
It is the hour before dawn. A mist hangs in the air. Mime hears Siegfried's horn somewhre off in the distace, and suddenly Siegfried appears wih a brown bear. That would be a Grizzly, because the German-Russian brown bear is the same speies, and standing should be about 11 feet high. Sadly, on stage the bear is always a man in a fur outfit, but as a metaphor it tells us that not only is Siegfried fearless, he is immensely strong and powerful and, to Mime, at least, terrifying. The bear leaves after only a few seconds. The point is it's nothing at all to Siegfried to capture such an animal and to bring him to Mime's sheler merely to torment and tease the old man. Alas, Siegfried laughs at Mime's terror and his own joke, but turns angry when the sword Mime has forged for him shatters almost at a touch.
Siegfried insults the old man, snatches the food Mime offers and throws it at him. He slaps and cuffs Mime. Mime complains that the ungrateful boy has neiher affection nor respect for him though Mime has nurtured him. Zednik's faux-femenine whining povokes rather a distasteful reaction; one keen in Siegfried and familiar enough in ourselves. We neither like nor respect Mime for one who cannot command respect can only provoke contempt. ("Woe to the weak," as Hitler said.) Mime calls Siegfried "Son" but Siegfried says they can't be relaed because their looks are too different, and Siegfried says "I hate to look at you." It is an argument that goes on both in the music and on the stage, with much pushing and shoving and harsh movemen. It's a protraced and tumultous male duet made up of threats and half-threats between an old man of the working class and a youth of unceain paternity seeking to escape social obligations to an inferior. In contemporary terms this is the rage children who've been raised in foster care often feel towards those who've raised but not adequately or appropriately loved them.
Manfred Jung sings Siegfried with gret assurance and expressiveness, while playing the character with a certain crudeness and adolescent naifte. His projection of voice matches his physical self; strong, muscular, agile. If you fancy Siegfried as the hero and prototype of the Germanic folk, you probably have taken your image from the Fritz Lang Nibelungen silents. But film is film and like all photography, benevolent, and a beautiful, half-naked youg man running through the woods with a weapon in his hand will always be a Superheroic atraction, and will usually make box office money. Opera, on the other hand, is the demanding medium it is: There, illusions are hand-made nightly. As Mark Morris said: Theatre is "Something people do in a certain space, for other people." And, of course, at great cost and with incredible dedication and effort.
.Jung is well cast in this production because he's not the handsome, debonaire Froh (Siegfried Jerusalem) of DAS RHINEGOLD, or the tragic and willowy Siegmund (Peter Hofmann) of DIE WALKURE. He is who he is, and looks like the kind of young man you'd want on your side in a fist fight. He is not what Schwartzenekker would call, a "Sissyboy." But, when he goes off into the woods again to get away from Mime, and to give the old man time to forge the pieces of the broken sword his mother left for him, Mime despairs. The wretch hates his lot and wants the dragon's money as reimbursement for all the tme and trouble he's spent on this unpredictable, ungrateful, unruly and monstrously inflexible orphan. Under the circumstancs his decision to use guile to get that money seems reasonable.
Stealthily, Wotan, disguised as The Wanderer has been listening to most of this, and he enters to play something like Twenty Quesions with Mime, who won't give him hospitality and wants him to leave. Donald McIntyre's performance throughout THE RING is outstanding, not only as an actor, but as a singer. I put actor before singer because in this production the accent is on his ability to portray the character of the man called Wotan through physical movement, and this he does superlatively. However, his singing should not be slighted, for it is very fine indeed; wonderfully well sustained, noble and most expressive. Unfortunately, what the role demands is that he express the soul of a man who is corrupt to the core. Yes, I'm afrid he won't please many viewers because he appears to have been directed to make no attempt to be charming, either to the characters on stage or to the audience. After all, Wotan is not merely an aristocat, but a god, and has no need to ingraciate himself with anybody. His voice, then, is like beautifully carved granite. (It is in DIE WALKURE, particularly, that the effect of his conrol of his voice pays off. When, near the end, as the first angry then sorrowful, then heart-broken father of Brunhilde, he puts her to sleep and, in effect, banishes her immortality, he gains our sympathy much as SIMONE BOCANEGRA does in the Verdi opra, through a display of profound and universal fatherly love.) Here, in SIEGFRIED, McInyre's tone, like his manner, is cool, slightly sarcastic and somewhat threatening. This is not merely recitative, but a quirk of Wagner's narrative declamation, the purpose of which is dramatic rather than lyric. There is no operatic lyricism in SIEGFRIED until the ultimate scene when, unexpectedly, we experience an orgasmic explosion of it that almost blows away everything that's gone before. Nevertheless, this prosaic dclamation suits Wotan's appearance, for now he's dressed as a counry gentleman in a walking outfit. Mime reacts to him (a a one-eyed man with a squint) as any poor, working peasant would to a plainclothes policeman, or tax-gatherer or upper-class grifter with notions of entitlement. Though he cannot adequately grasp the horror of his predicament, Mime has every reason to be suspiciouc because Wotan, through Sieglinde, has atached Siegfried to him the way a predatory carnivore wasp attaches one of her eggs to the abdomen of a paralyzed cockroach she's dragged into her den. She does this in order to insure that her grub, as it develops, will be able to eat live and therefore fresh food until it reaches adulthood. By then the cockroach will be an empty husk.
All this has been a thinly-disguised display of sadomasochistic homoeroticism and dominance, and reminds one of Berg's WOZZEK. However, by the time Wotan leaves, Mime understands that he has been visited by not only a god, but by the ruler of all the immortals, and that he has been threatened. The warning was devine: He must not interfere with Siegfried's progress, for if he does he risks Wotan's anger. Meanwhile, the stage has modified itself yet again. Brick walls, windows and iron grates appear. When Wotan leaves, a huge, steam-powered hammer appears, sparking and smoking. Seeing this, Mime has a frightening vision of the Giant and Dragon Fasolt, and goes through a series of occult frenzies. Out of them, or by means of them he attempts to teach the newly-returned Siegfried what fear is. It doesn't work.
The two men are in a brick-and-mortar foundry now, with the woods just beyond a wall, and eventually, after a struggle, Siegfried takes the pieces of the sword from Mime and begins to forge them himself. The atmosphere is sooty. A monumental flywheel appears behind one of the walls. Siegfried files the blade into powder, melts it with the heat of the kindling he's taken from a forest ash tree (Wotan's totem) and casts the sword. Then he forges it with the steam hammer which is, again, Wotan in metaphor. Sparks fly and the great wheel turns as Siegfried's mechanized foundry produces Necessity, Siegfried's god-given weapon in a crecendo of terrifying masculine sound.
The synthesis is perfect: The forge is merely a clockwork replica of the once world-famous steam hammer at the Krupps steelworks. As Siegfried toils, Mime, shining with envy and hate, decides to poison him once he's killed Fasolt, and he sets a-mixing. Mostly, he does this while standing in the lower spaces of the floor, which spaces hold all the props he uses. During this act, Chereau has Zednik "in the hole" (or barrel) for most of the action. It lends an illusion of height and physical power to Jung and McIntyre as they torment the old man. Until recently people felt that this act which depends on the humiliation of Mime, was a thinly-disguised expression of Wagner's personal anti-semitism. That notion is fading because now we have available to us not only Wagner's articles on French Opera, translated into English, but new recordings of Halevy's The Jewess (LA JUIVE: Antonio de Almeida, Phillips) which was the most popular opera in Paris when Wagner was there learning his craft, and which he saw in several productions over time. He admired LA JUIVE greatly and openly, and learned much from it. Much of what he learned he displays here in SIEGFRIED.
I believe Wagner fashioned his character Mime after what he saw in LA JUIVE and in other nearly-forgotten works, and realized that the composers and librettists of these shows, used toiling people of low station and little wealth symbolically. Then, parcipatory democracy was unknown in Europe and struggled for live across the seas in the sometimes dis-United States of America. They felt that these sufering people were bieng abused and exploited by militry bullies working in the service of narcissistic, morally bankrupt and paracitic elites of the sword, the cross and of commerce.
In visualizing this production of THE RING, it appears that the Director, Conductor and the Producer sought to evoke something out of Richard Waner's tastes and values as they would have been at the time, and to project a contemporary feeling through all that. Written and produced in an era when railroads were just beginning to cross and re-cross Europe, the designers here attempted to evoke an atmosphere of hot iron and noise and clouds of steam and smoke, much as the French Impressionist painters experiened it as they saw huge, black locomotives thundering through Paris. They focused on his career as a social rebel and revolutionary who'd been exiled from his native counry as an enemy of the State. As a sworn proto-comunist or socialist -- which he certainly was -- he knew he would have to rehabilitate his professional image if he intended to become a financially successful composer, and over time he did so, becoming therefore, a crypto-socialist. That is, a socialist whose purposes are given in a kind of code. Hence, the mythological clap-trap of the Sagas became the vernacular with which he disguised his motivation; which was an unrelenting hatred of the aristocrat class, and a will to conribute to its destruction and replacement.
Nevertheless, Mime is created fatuous and ineffectual in order that Siegfried, who is god-driven, may seem inevitable. For in his might he can...
"...fettle for the great, gray dray horse His bright and battering sandal."
Therefore, unable to imagine fear or to tolerate hesitation, Siegfried reconstructs his sword and with it slices Mime's anvil to pieces as the curtain falls with a tremendous din.
ACT II: Night in the woods. Two similarly dressed and fairly obvious rogues are seen prowling through this artifical but convincingly 3D forest. They are discovered to be Wotan and Alberich. Difficult to tell them apart. Which figures because their intetions are virtually identical. Like scavenger ravens, they are prowling through the thickets before Fasolt's cave in order to either frustrate or to profit by Siegfried's attempt to kill the dragon. Fasolt, nevertheless, is vaguely aware both of them and their desire for his gold, but unseen, he simply snores that he wants to be left alone, to sleep. All this takes place in nearly pitch darkness, until Fasolt allows us to glimpse, not the treasure itself, but the illumination given off by it. Suffused with covetousness, both Wotan and Alberich leave, separately, though intending to return after Siegfried has accomplished his objective.
The lightening in this production is so remarkable that, in this instance, instead of illuminating what is, after all, only a stand of artificial trees, it intensifies the illusion of a woodland glade by directing the light to fall from above, like moonlight, and to filter through the leaves, creating patches of dappled light on the stage. This lends versimilitude and credibiity to the entrances and exits of the characters -- charactes who are luking about, spying and attempting to hide from one another. Soon, Siegfied and Mime enter, still quarreling irritably, and at one point Mime climbs a tree to escape Siegfried's anger. Eventually, though, Mime decides to leave Siegfried to himself and to the dragon, and finding himself alone for the very first time, Siegfried allows us to see himself as he is; an adolescent mooncalf. We know immediately in our hearts, that he's about 15. Behaving as adolescents so often do, he stumbles around, trips, ponders his origin, sighs for his mother, throws hmself on the ground and looks at the sky. Jung's characterization is something! His movements throughout are so adolescent. In the naturalness of his amorality Siegfried is like so many gawky, intense, self-absorbed boys in his fits and starts of coltish gracelessness. In just this one scene Jung makes us forget everything unpleasant about the character we've seen so far, and provokes a sympatheic tenerness. It's the awkward beauty of callow introspection taking place in what appears to be an aspen grove. So clumsy is he, so endearing in his testosterone haze -- he is Everyboy shuffling and smirking, lined up for his first military uniform -- that when the Woodbird sings, through Siegfried's transparency of soul we can see the music enter and animate his body. With yet another coup de decors, Chereau has chosen to let Siegfried ifnd the bird itself (a live one) half-way up a solid tree, in a rustic little wodden cage with a handle. The Woodbird becomes, metaphorically, a portable radio. By means of this device, this wonderful scene shows us how well Wagner understood what happens when a young man first becomes conscious of Music. It talks to him through his nervous system even though he cannot either understand what it means, or duplicae its effects with instruments he himself plays. Neither with a reed pipe he makes, nor with his own horn can he match the beauty of birdsong, but his horn does wake the dragon, and it appears, ready to challenge the intruder.
In this production the dragon is used as yet another stage device dedicated to the genius of Wagner. Here, it is not only a very large and very solid piece of stage equipment, free-standing and free-wheeling, it has flapping wings and ability to rare up and spew smoke. This apparatus appears to be an accurate reproduction of the original basilisk-headed stage machine made for the first production of this opera, in this very Opera House. Remarkable as that is, as a solid machine it fits into this past-friendly, Post-Modern production perfectly because like everything els it has a photo-reality and a tangibility. When Siegfried fights the machine he is in scale as an infantryman would be to a talk on a batlefield. He follows it as it is manoueered around the stage by number of dark-clohed, anonymous men, and sttacks and kils it as a guerilla fihter would do, by stabbing its underside. The effect is convincing withut being in any way eiher spooky or illusionistic. How many productions of this unique opera -- which until now has seemed to be nothing so much as an interminable quarrel between five short-tempered, unpleasant and unsympathetic men, has it not? How many have boasted satisfying dragons? More often than not one sees a show with an idiotic puppet that wouldn't intimidate an infant. I've seen a flopping, rubberized pneumatic assembly of bightly colored inflated vinyl bladders on stage, like a display ape on the roof of a tire outlet garage. No! Siegfried deserves a good dragon, even if the show is only make-believe.
At any rate, after Siegfried kills the thing, staggering, Fasolt in his own giant's form emerges to warn him against the dire power of the Rhinegold and the ring, and then to fall and die, centerstage. Soon, both kites, Wotan and Alberich emerge from their respective thickets, to comment on and to lust over the gold's power, which power appears to be presently Siegfried's alone. Somehow the boy's been splashed with burning dragon blood, and licking it he finds he is able to understand the Woodbird's languge. She sees all from above and warns him.
After wheedling and threatening each other for a bit near the body of the fallen giant, Wotan and Alberich disappear as Siegfried appears from out of the dragon's cave, bearing the helmet of invisibility and the ring of power. Never having had possessions, and puzzled by these new ones, Siegfried flops on the ground to examine them like an ape with a Swiss watch. Then, Mime returns, jubilant to see the treasure in the boy's lap, and grinning, he promptly attempts to poison him. The bird warns Siegfried, and he promptly kills the old man. For reasons best known to himself alone, Siegfried drags the copse off to hang it as a Shrike might, on the branch of a tree. And so, finally, Siegfried finds himself in a moonlit clearning, alone but for the sprawling body of a giant he is unable to drag away. As he puzzles about all this, the Woodbird tells him about Wotan's sleeping daughter and without the slightest hesitation he looks about, sees a bright-lit cleft in the trees far away, and sprints off toward it as the curtains close.
ACT III: In an instant, that is, in a flash of stage time, we find ourselves somewhere else and notice that wherever that may be, Wotan has beaten us to it. He's striding through the swirling murk, dressed as before, and looking a great deal less than godly. In this production he's aged greatly from the one-eyed eagle he was in DAS RHINEGOLD and DIE WALKURE, into rather a furtive character, like a used dragon salesman. (It's all McIntyre's skill.) Abruptly, he finds an outcropping of pale rock and, calling out for Erde, he jabs his spear into the earth at its base. It is at this point that you must prepare yourself for one of the most remarkable entrances and performances not only in SIEGFRIED, but in the entire production of THE RING. Erde, portrayed by Ortrun Wenkel appears as a thick, unrecognizable effusion. She spurts or oozes out of the ground much as pillow lava roils up out of a fissure in a tectonic plate under the Pacific. You cannot tell her head from her hips, her shoulders fom her knees. She rolls onto the stage like the mind of a psychotic feather bed -- in pale, soft lumps, tumbling slowly, clumsily and irregularly -- almost unrecognizable as a human being. Yes, this is the same Erde we irst saw in DAS RHINEGOLD, but now, almost unrecognizable.
Now, in some productions of this opera the Wotan chaacter stops, decorously if petulently, to confer with the disembodiedd head of a lady with a blue and/or green face, wearing a fanciful headress, who sings from a hole in the stage. But here, the somnolent, taciturn nature of the Earth Mother is expressed in a robust if unpleasantly frank physical interaction with or against teh Sky Father. Somehow, in an intercouse with Erde, Wotan begat Brunnhilde at least, and possibly all her sisters. In this scene, Chereau has managed to display both the repulsion and the attraction of Sky and Earth. What we see is not quite a wrestling match, but somehing unique in its depiction of Wotan as an egoistic bully who's priapic spear -- the lightening bolt -- is the sceptre of his erotic and cretive power over the entire prostrate world. Though he finally and with great difficulty rouses Erde sufficiently to respod to his inquires -- and he even de-veils her with a sly callousness shocking in itself (the efect is that of stripping the ancient female naked) Erde is unable to tell him anythng other than that he is likely to be disappointed in his pursuit. Wotan doesn't care even about the approaching end of the rule of the Immortals. He only wants to control that end and to influence the future.
Wotan frees Erde and she exits much as she entered, rolling away like a strangely animated ball of mud. What a performance! Both strenouous and visually incredible. But, through it all, Wenkel's singing is wonderful; even if and when we wonder how she can breathe or articulate. What an artist!
In no time then, Siegfried stumbles through, led by the Woodbird who, seeing Wotan, promptly flies away. Wotan attempts to bar Siegfried's passage but the young hero is as contemptuous of the old god as he was of old Mime, and rudely manhandles him. When Wotan objects, Siegfried shatters the spear and Woan slinks away like a whipped cur. Alone, ;briefly, Siegfried sees the ruddy glow of the magic fire protecting Brunnhhlde, and with a sort of shrug, strides off into the blazing cucible.
And now, the second half of ACT III and the pinnacle of this most ambitious of opera, SIEGFRIED, and indeed the glittering jewel set upon the band of THE RING. Everything that has gone before is, in an instant, blown away like motes in a breeze, the moment Siegfried like a beam of morning light, strides into that area dominated by the monumental ampitheatre of rock where the Valkyres once plied their ghastly trade. But now it is early, dewey morning, and a sense of tantalizing but peaceful expectancy like a Spring green shimmer lies over everything. Brunnhilde lies asleep within the embrase of this structure, but hidden from Siegfried's sight by a shadow that obscures the caldera's interior from him, but not from us.
But here I stop. Beyond this point my poor powers of description fail. We know or remember how it goes, or at least we have the libretto at hand and we know that Siegfried finds an armed figure asleep and removes enough of the armor covering it to discover it is not a man, but something else. He has never before seen a woman and prohibited by ancient incest taboos, he hesitates to touch her breasts. But... Eventully he does touch her. He kisses her and she wakes like the Beauty in the fairy tale and, she, Brunnhilde, seeing him -- not the first man she's seen, but the man her father's power has destined her to love and serve -- she hesitates. They are both frightened, abused and neglected children, but Nature is kinder than Fate, and eventually they reject fear and cling to each other in an appotheosis of biological inevitability disguised as young love. This happy joining together is easily one of the greatest love scenes ever written: It thrills the heart and satisfies the mind. There are many good recordings of this duet, and we have all heard it sung beautifully on the radio. But, it is that quality of depth of artistic perception that separate this production from most. Although one is not likely to see a production of this demanding work sing by unaccomplished performers -- it is technically far too demanding -- what one sees too often is hackneyed stuff; you know, some zoftig woman with pointed breasts and a mop of wild hair, wearing a long, transparent frock, being coyly but lewdly serenaded by a tall job in a fringed leather outfit. They carry on at great length in front of acres of scenery, painted to resemble any Yosemite, and by the time they clinch it is as though they'd been doing the O'Horgan grope'n grovel somewhere in the Baja for Antonioni; and like a methodist family picnic party discovering hippies fornicating in the nearby bushes, we've been gaping, in open-mouthed disbelief. What's missing beside tambourines? Pink Floyd?
Consider: the sexual/emotional awakening of these two innocents is never predictable or ever inevitable. Whatever your imaginery picture of Siegfried and Brunnhhilde may be, Gweneth Jones and Manfred Jung are perfect here because the entire production has in every detail been set up for them, designed around them. Jung we have become accustomed to, but Gweneth is -- like sunrise in the tropics -- sublime. The costumer has defied traditon and put Jones in a deceptively simple gown that is like all the gowns of all the angels and virgins in Quatrocento Florentine painting, and her hair falls across her shoulders and bosom with the chaste artlessness of a Murillo Madonna. The gown is Modesty, which of all qualities attributable to beautiful, chaste women and to worthy men, is the most flattering and the most arousing of all. On stage, the light around them is a perfect radiance and perfectly modulated so that at the duet's summit, the effect is like watching a love scene in a Pre-Raphaelite painting by some opium-obsessed Scotsman. Which effect is much as Wagner himself may have intended it, for when the curtains close with a rush on their first caresse, our eyes are wet with tears of joy and thanks.
NOTE: It appears they aee no longer pressing these discettes. Don't let that stop you. Buy this RING used, or steal any of it if you have the opportunity; particularly this SIEGFRIED. Life is short."