Review: Die Walküre, by Wagner, at the Wermland Opera

Wotan (Urban Malmberg) and the Valkyries. Photo: Mats Bäcker

Die Walküre [The Valkyrie], opera in three acts and the second part of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen [The Ring of the Nibelung]. Performed at the Wermland Opera in Karlstad, 29 June 2011.

After the great success of Das Rheingold on Monday my expectations for Die Walküre were high, not least because Jan Kyhle, who was singing Siegmund, had made a lasting impression on me when I heard him and Annalena Persson at the Gothenburg Opera’s Walküre years ago. Happily the Wermland Opera has again risen to the occasion.

Sieglinde (Susanna Levonen) and Siegmund (Jan Kyhle). Photo: Mats Bäcker

This opera requires a very special chemistry between its soloists to work. Jan Kyhle’s Siegmund and Susanna Levonen’s Sieglinde were gripping from the very beginning of Act I. The magic of this long scene is how Siegmund and Sieglinde breathe life and hope into each other until they ecstatically break free from the chains that have bound Sieglinde to Hunding and Siegmund to loneliness and rejection. The chemistry between these two singers is something special; a seasoned opera-goer remarked that he was happy to have lived long enough to have seen their love scene. While I knew already that Jan Kyhle was a superb Siegmund I was also greatly impressed with Susanna Levonen’s interpretation. She crowned her debut as Sieglinde with a terrific performance in the opening of Act III.

The most deeply moving moment in the opera was however Siegmund’s conversation with Brünnhilde (AnnLouice Lögdlund) in Act II. His response to hearing he was destined to die was incredibly dignified and yet it was clear that strong emotions lay just below the surface. No one could reject heavenly paradise for earthly love more beautifully than Jan Kyhle’s Siegmund.

Brünnhilde (AnnLouice Lögdlund): "She must yet breathe earthly air/Siegmund will not see Sieglinde there!" Siegmund (Jan Kyhle): "So tell Valhalla, tell Wotan/Tell Wälse and all the heroes/And tell the wonderful wish-maidens/ - I shall not follow you to join them." (Photo: Mats Bäcker)

Hunding (Michael Schmidberger) sounded and acted his part ably, glowering as his guest told his story and taking pleasure in the powerlessness of his enemy. Ivonne Fuchs’ Fricka was every bit as good as in Das Rheingold, leaving Wotan (Urban Malmberg) not so much henpecked as steamrollered by the force of her arguments when she compelled him to turn himself against his own son.

Urban Malmberg’s Wotan was vocally the weak link among an otherwise excellent cast of soloists. His body language was well-chosen (and what a charming idea it was to have Brünnhilde play hide and seek with Wotan at the opening of Act II); he came across as a deeply troubled man whose spirits could only be lifted by his favourite daughter. But his diction could be indistinct, especially in his confrontation with Fricka where he was not so much answering back as mumbling back. That said, he did improve during the opera to achieve a touching farewell to Brünnhilde at the end.

Brünnhilde (AnnLouice Lögdlund) pleads for mercy from Wotan (Urban Malmberg). Photo: Mats Bäcker

AnnLouice Lögdlund played Brünnhilde with great sensitivity especially in her interactions with the other soloists (both as the sympathetic listener to Wotan’s monologue and as the target of his wrath after she disobeys his orders). The strain on Brünnhilde as she forced herself to announce to Siegmund that he was to die despite her urge to fight at his side was visible, and the joy as she rejected her orders in the face of Siegmund’s love for Sieglinde deeply moving. I look forward to seeing and hearing her in the rest of the Ring Cycle.

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The Wermland Opera Ring Cycle continues this weekend. Please subscribe to my blog so that you don’t miss my reviews of the next two parts.

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2 Responses to Review: Die Walküre, by Wagner, at the Wermland Opera

  1. Pingback: Review: Siegfried, by Wagner, at the Wermland Opera | Niklas Smith

  2. Pingback: Review: Wagner’s Ring at the Wermland Opera | Niklas Smith

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