Seattle Opera’s Siegfried takes place in familiar territory. Mime lives in the part of the forest where the gods roamed in Das Rheingold, and the dragon has made its lair where Hunding and Siegmund fought in Die Walküre (there’s even a bloodstain on the rock, which the Wanderer touches regretfully). Also familiar from earlier in the cycle are the extraordinarily high quality of the entire production and the enthusiasm with which it was received.

Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) © Elise Bakketun
Dennis Peterson (Mime), Stefan Vinke (Siegfried)
© Elise Bakketun

Stefan Vinke’s Siegfried burst with energy as he bounded around the stage, threatened Mime, wildly swung his sword, and made friends with the local wildlife. His voice was inconsistent, with some glorious top notes in the final act and an excellent forging song, but an over-rounded quality that made his words mushed and also interfered with the purity of his tone. However, he made up for any vocal deficiencies with his stage presence and comedic antics. This Siegfried provoked laughter many times: at his attempts to play a reed to imitate the forest bird (and his ad-libbed chatter after each failure); at his efforts to speak to the dragon through its tail; at the face he made when the Wanderer’s hand touched his shoulder in Act III; and, of course at his “Das ist kein Mann!”, which was accompanied by a terrified expression and an improbably large leap backwards.

This Siegfried also had a more complicated relationship with Mime than usual. Mime’s claims to love Siegfried and his pleas for affection seemed genuine; only the corrupting lure of the ring made him plot to take Siegfried’s life. Siegfried, in turn, had a moment of regret after stabbing his foster-father, cradling his body as he died. Dennis Petersen was a vocally expressive Mime, who maintained a great sound throughout while acting well with both his voice and body. His riddle-trading with the Wanderer in Act I and his unintentional confession of his intentions towards Siegfried in Act II were especially impressive.

As the Wanderer, Greer Grimsley continued his run of solid performances. He seemed more comfortable now that he had accepted the gods’ end, and he smiled more than in both of the previous operas combined. (He seemed to really enjoy his one-sided contest with Mime.) In the final act, his affection for Siegfried – and the pain he felt when Siegfried disregarded him – came through clearly and affectingly.

Erda and Alberich appear only briefly in Siegfried, but Lucille Beer and Richard Paul Fink shone in their small roles. Ms Beer has a large, well-balanced contralto that is especially shimmering in the middle and top of her range. (Her lowest notes sometimes got lost in the orchestral music.) Her Erda – who emerged from a sheer cliff face at the Wanderer’s call – was appropriately spirit-like in her facial expressions and gestures, but at the same time recognizably human in her motherly reaction to the Wanderer’s treatment of Brünnhilde. Mr Fink’s Alberich crept along the rocks surrounding Fafner’s lair with impressive agility reminiscent of the other Ring’s Gollum. Vocally, he confirmed the good opinion I had formed on Sunday evening at Das Rheingold, with a speech-song quality to his sound that was dramatically very effective.

An unexpected announcement before the third act informed the audience that the scheduled Brünnhilde, Alwyn Mellor, was suffering from an allergy attack and that Lori Phillips would take her place. It was easy to hear from her first cry of “Heil dir” that Ms Phillips has a radiant, ringing dramatic soprano voice. She seemed to get a little lost acting-wise during her changes of heart in Act III, and she did not mesh perfectly (vocally or dramatically) with Mr Vinke’s Siegfried, but it was still a great pleasure to hear her sing.

Conductor Asher Fisch and the Seattle Opera Orchestra struggled more during Siegfried than they had in the previous two installments of the cycle. A glaring horn misstep during an Act II solo made for some unpleasant listening. There were also moments in Act I where the music seemed to be moving a hair fast for the singers or vice versa, and the love duet in Act III dragged. These minor pacing slip-ups notwithstanding, the layering and dynamics of the orchestra were flawless.

On the whole, Seattle Opera continued this week’s streak of performances that combine good singing and acting with sensitive staging and visually stunning sets. Siegfried is admittedly my least favorite opera of the Ring cycle, but the energy and skill displayed in Seattle Opera’s production made it an engaging experience.