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Subject: Das Rheingold Cycle One at the Met
From: Jean Scarr <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Sun, 29 Mar 2009 12:01:57 EDT
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I have been attending these cycles for twenty years at the Met.   Usually, a 
"Wagner" cycle audience is extremely careful to be respectful by  silence.  
Yesterday, as the house went completely dark (can't see the  conductor arrive 
and no applause)  I was shocked that many people chose  that moment to cough so 
that the first note of the prelude couldn't be heard!  However, I did hear 
someone "shuss" the coughs. Then a few bars later,  a cell phone went off with 3 
or 4 rings!!!  On top of that a person next to  me said out loud, "I thought 
they were going to play in the dark."  All of  this during the first few 
measures of that awesome prelude.
 
Musically, that prelude was magnificent, building ever so tantalizing from  a 
single note to the full swell of the orchestra's capability.  When stage  
became visible, I was surprised at how well the set has endured the  passage of 
time.  From my second row seat in the Dress Circle, it sparkled,  the waves 
rippled, and when the sun shone on the gold, it was a beautiful  moment.  
Lighting becomes a challenge because with the usage of so many  scrims and 
deteriorating sets, less is better for the effect, but not  necessarily for the 
beholder.  That said, I think that visually the whole  two hours and thirty minutes 
did justice to the piece.
 
Musically, the orchestra remains supreme.  There were a couple of  minor 
blemishes in the brass, but it was a compelling performance  throughout.  James 
Levine did not hold them back, even though some of the  singing was on the 
lighter side.  There were moments when Richard Paul Fink  could not be heard, but 
his final curse was certainly delivered with demonic  gusto.  His 
characterization is that of a nasty and evil Alberich.   James Morris vocally is more 
subdued, but the quality of tone is still  there.  His legendary character remains 
intact.  Kim Begley's Loge is  neither a character or dramatic tenor 
interpretation.  It is quite lyrical  and beautifully sung, but the stage action lacks 
a needed dramatic flourish.  Franz-Josef Selig was a splendid Fasolt and 
Yvonne Naef a vocally secure  Fricka.  In a minor role, Gerhard Siegel really 
excelled as Mime, and one  can look forward to Act I "Siegfried".  The three Rhein 
daughters  needed more volume.  The other cast members (Tomlinson,  Sorenson, 
Taylor and Grove) added to the overall success of the  afternoon.
 
Although the audience was receptive at the conclusion and gave a hearty  
applause, it didn't seem to me to be as enthusiastic as I have heard in the past  
for "Das Rheingold".  Richard Paul Fink and James Morris were the  favorites, 
but James Levine and the orchestra won the gold.   Jean
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