Andreas Conrad (Mime) and Alan Held (Wanderer, seated) in Siegfried, Washington National Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello (photo by Karin Cooper)
The same criticism of the first two operas continues to hold true, in that taken as a whole the individual scenes, set in wildly different times and locales, do not add up to something coherent. The production is left-leaning in a fairly heavy-handed way (the Washington Times critic labels it "socialist"), but somehow casting the struggle of the gods against the races of the earth on the battleground of American capitalism makes sense dramatically. In Siegfried Zambello leans even closer to the infamous environmental message of the Patrice Chéreau Centennial Ring at Bayreuth: the opening projected images of clouds slowly become instead the choking fumes of smokestacks, the poisonous blood and spittle of the dragon become the polluting by-products of the industrial revolution. The dragon is conceived as an enormous mechanized digger, with the Teamster Fafner inside the cabin.
Gidon Saks (Fafner) and Pär Lindskog (Siegfried, front) in Siegfried, Washington National Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello (photo by Karin Cooper)
The cast was as a whole good but with several weak links. Pär Lindskog, who debuted as Siegfried in the Royal Swedish Opera's Ring Cycle, came down with bronchitis. The solution worked out for opening night was to have American tenor Scott MacAllister, who just performed his first Siegfried this spring, sing from a score at the edge of the stage, while Lindskog acted the role on stage. A few missed entrances and a rough start aside, MacAllister sounded quite good, and we hope to have the chance in the run to see him act the role as well as sing it. At the same time, Lindskog owned the role as an actor and was entirely believable as this headstrong, white trash Siegfried, who might appear on Jerry Springer to have a DNA test proving that Mime is not his dad. Alan Held reprised his powerhouse Wotan and was the shining jewel of the cast, embracing his character's transformation into a sort of wandering hobo, with a bandana pulled down over one eye and silver duct tape covering the holes in his tattered coat.
Anne Midgette, Two-Tenor 'Siegfried' Triumphs (Washington Post, May 4)
T. L. Ponick, D.C. 'Siegfried' tricks an illness (Washington Times, May 4)
Tim Smith, Washington National Opera delivers compellng 'Siegfried' despite major obstacle (Clef Notes, May 5)
Wagner's Siegfried continues at Washington National Opera with four more performances on May 5, 9, 14, and 17, in the Kennedy Center Opera House.