Göteborg Opera’s Ring cycle continues to unfold in instalments with the virtual premiere of their new production of Siegfried. Former artistic director Stephen Langridge accommodated pandemic constraints for the recorded closed-house stage premiere in December, enabling the recent international digital exposure that must be regarded as a silver lining to the extreme conditions still limiting the performing arts. Conductor Evan Rogister guided a slightly reduced and carefully-spaced orchestra to colorful effect, together with a solid vocal cast whose fresh and vital performances surely satisfied hungry audiences far and wide.

Daniel Brenna (Siegfried)
© Lennart Sjöberg

Many, like me, will have encountered this performance without experiencing Göteborg’s Das Rheingold or Die Walküre. Supporting interview material indicate continuity in the overall theatrical conception, and allusions to earlier portions of the production (props and video clips) are transparent enough to serve as meaningful backstory. Still, it was thought-provoking to encounter Mime at the top of Act 1 framed by the production’s extras (“Narrators”) whispering solutions to the dwarf’s dilemmas into his ear. That the vaguely modern stage hands/facilitators also gently mocked Mime’s mentally unfolding drama seemed to undercut not only his agency but the dramatic enterprise as well. Mime’s characterization steadily evolved, however, into a nuanced embodiment of a histrionic figure not inherently malicious. Dan Karlström’s physically and vocally agile performance grounds the figure throughout, without veering towards flat, hard-edged caricature. Karlström’s character-rich timbre partners especially well with Ólafur Sigurdarson’s more traumatically shaped Alberich, while serving as a vibrant counterbalance to his unsettled and passionate stepson.

Ólafur Sigurdarson (Alberich)
© Lennart Sjöberg

American tenor Daniel Brenna now has a dozen Siegfried interpretations under his belt. His seemingly effortless stamina bodes well, as does his sumptuous tone. Here, too, Langridge molded a dramatic figure inviting understanding. Siegfried’s interest in his heritage came across as eagerly credible vs vengeful, although he thrust a metal bar at Mime in their first scene together with surprisingly unreflective ease. Some musical timing issues smoothed out by the end of the act, where effective use of multiple stage revolves lend visual structure to what is essentially two simultaneous victory songs. Allison Chitty’s minimalist stage designs are symbolically evocative throughout, here suggesting concentric rings of fire, while showcasing Mime’s dramatic aside. Paul Pyant’s lighting effectively favors a cameo approach to each of the soloists within the production’s generally dark setting.

Dan Karlström (Mime)
© Lennart Sjöberg

Siegfried’s forging of Nothung unfolds symbolically as a forging of his emerging mature character from the fragments of his past, pointing forward to his encounter with Brünnhilde as a crucial step along that path. Frederick Zetterström’s Wanderer, depicted as a homeless person replete with a shopping cart full of his meagre possessions, lays out the intermediary phase of overcoming Fafner and Mime with majesty and authority in Acts 1 and 2. Mats Almgren lends a weariness steeped in experience and vocal nuance to the dying Fafner, although the stage business of an encaged golden child and shadow projections involved a bit too much visual overlay.

Sofie Asplund (Woodbird) and Daniel Brenna (Siegfried)
© Lennart Sjöberg

The Woobird, visible, and with visual ties to Sieglinde, gains dynamic energy through video projection and is gorgeously and gleamingly voiced by Sofie Asplund. Hornist Philip Foster well earns his soloist spotlight on stage as Siegfried expresses his heroic persona approaching Fafner. Anders Lorentzson (Wotan in the earlier operas) takes up the Wanderer role as a decisively weaker figure in Act 3. His waning presence lacks orchestral bluster, while Hege Høisæter’s Erda is poignantly remote, even ethereal. Wotan/the Wanderer eventually suffocates her with nostalgic film reels in her damaged transparent encasement, destroying the scenic allusion to Sleeping Beauty.

Ingela Brimberg (Brünnhilde)
© Lennart Sjöberg

By contrast, Siegfried’s awakening of Brünnhilde is suffused with hope, while physically distanced. Ingela Brimberg offers an attractive, vocally appealing, and confidently mature Brünnhilde. While we know her newly mortal state will involve strange challenges, cautious optimism undergirds the drama leading into Götterdämmerung. While fervently hoping we can soon safely return to live performances in theatres, I also hope that this Göteborg Ring will remain virtually accessible as it reaches its conclusion.


This performance was reviewed from the Göteborg Opera video stream

****1