Awe-inspiring performances in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Wagner’s Die Walküre
Richard Wagner changed opera when he fathered the concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk – the Total Work of Art. In his vision, beautiful music and singing were not enough. All aspects of the production, story, set, costumes, lights and score, needed to fit together as equal components of a harmonious spectacle. The Canadian Opera Company’s 2015 production of Die Walküre (The Valkyrie), the second installment of the renowned Ring Cycle, paid homage to Wagner’s vision with a modern spin on this larger-than-life mythological epic.
The orchestra outdid themselves; ensnaring the listener from the evocative opening strains of the grandiose overture. The set juxtaposed industrial and natural elements, and expressed Wagner’s ideal of totality by uniting traditional and modern aesthetic sensibilities. The environment was a monochromatic, stark and imposing landscape; punctuated with brief and striking flashes of colour and light. Atom Egoyan managed to find an interpretation for this work that was innovative, contemporary and thoughtful, while preserving the work’s original majesty. Egoyan’s meticulous attention to detail was also evident, with gestures and movements carefully synchronized to the score and a closing tableau that was visually arresting until the curtain closed.
This production will linger in the memory in no small part due to some truly awe-inspiring performances. The complex relationships that tie this fantastical tale together were beautifully rendered. The nuances of the father-daughter relationship between Brünnhilde (Christine Goerke) and Wotan (Johan Reuter) were especially intimate and moving. Goerke’s Brünnhilde was so supple, free and rich that she made one of the most challenging roles in operatic history seem completely effortless and natural. She immersed herself in the role completely, bringing Brünnhilde’s tragic heroism to life. I look forward to hearing more of Ms. Goerke’s singing when she returns to the role in Siegfried in the 2015-2016 season.
I was stirred to profound compassion for Sieglinde’s plight by Heidi Melton’s exquisite performance. Her voice united strength, vulnerability, power and sweetness in a manner that was entirely relatable and engaging.
Johan Reuter as Wotan was simultaneously formidable and candid, capturing all the complexities and inner conflict of this wrathful god and loving father.
The singers not only sounded, but looked their parts. This, combined with sleek costumes that created another point of contrast between old and new, cunningly wove the tale of a battle of epic proportions between gods and mortals.
This stylish, grand production was rich with thought provoking contrasts and emotionally evocative relationships – a must-see for lovers of Wagner and newcomers to the genre alike.
- Die Walküre is playing until February 22 at Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (145 Queen Street West)
- Show times are 7:00 PM on February 10, 13 & 19 with additional matinees on February 7 at 4:30 PM and February 22 at 2 PM.
- Ticket prices range from $45 – $365. Patrons under 30 can purchase tickets for $22 or $35 here.
- Tickets are available online, or through the box office at 416-363-8231 (long distance 1-800-250-4653)
Photo: Michael Cooper