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Countdown to Siegfried: 2...

"Siegfried" is a difficult opera: long, intense, and without as many greatest-hits tunes as "Walküre" or the end-of-the-world action of "Götterdämmerung." Talking to the four stage directors I interviewed about the opera, I was struck not only by the disparities but by the overlaps in their views - Zambello and Wadsworth, for instance, agreeing on how the story has to be furthered by vivid story-telling on stage.

Achim Freyer: “‘Siegfried’ is the most difficult [of the four “Ring” operas]. It's also the most beloved. “
“With “Siegfried,” you get human time… Siegfried is linear, in a straight line.” He explains it describes the line of human life, from birth to death. “That’s linear, and if you come out of it, you’re out: that’s mortality. The path to death, that’s very clear. Hope is always the goal. The goal is also the dragon that has the gold. Everyone waits. Mime waits for Siegfried to grow up. Siegfried waits for his sword… But how do you depict waiting in the theater? That could be deadly. I’m [setting it up as] a running track, a race: starting on parallel tracks, on your mark, get set, go. That’s the action of Siegfried, who then shatters this track with the sword. He destroys these lines and creates new lines, creates a new time. And in this new time he forces his way through to Brünnhilde.”

Stephen Wadsworth: “Everything I do is about structures, whether it’s melodic or harmonic….You can describe different arcs. But what is that arc. … I mean, in ‘Siegfried’ Act I there’s a lot of stuff that happens. There’s a sword that gets forged. There’s soup that gets made. But there’s also whittling that happens. And there’s the contemplation of a flower. Those are actions, which are not stipulated necessarily by Wagner. Act I of ‘Siegfried’ is chock-a-block full of action, and… what you need to do is supplement what he’s given you, and fill it out so it sort of has a flow. It follows the big dramaturgical beats in the scene.”

Otto Schenk: “In the first act of ‘Siegfried,’ there’s a lot of drama. Including the riddle scene with the Wanderer, where you can understand a lot. First, you can see that one person is asking questions and the other is answering, or bursting with rage because he doesn’t know the answer. The fundamental situation is easy to understand. And at the beginning, you see a bad boy who is being brought up by a dwarf, who isn’t succeeding very well at the bringing up. And that’s a primal theme, that a dwarf does a bad job at bringing up someone… and a bad boy, raised in a natural state, who doesn’t know fear. That’s an archetypal situation.”

Francesca Zambello: “This is the piece that’s underrated of the four. [People say,] “Oh, God, we have to sit through ‘Siegfried.’”
“[In] Act I of ‘Siegfried,’ which is a little over an hour, basically they’re talking the whole time. You rarely have a play where two or three characters talk non-stop for over an hour.”
“It’s all about that language. It always goes back to that. And I do think we have to …give it an inner tension or a life… whether that’s through action or event or visual change in the landscape or in this case the use of projections, or hopefully very front and center storytelling.”
“The main story of ‘Siegfried’… is still the pursuit of the Ring, of the haves and the have-nots. And Mime … is plotting, basically, for the first two acts, until he meets his death, to better himself…
“Mime is like the have-nots. You’ll see, they live in a trailer park. …When he comes up to the world, that’s where he lives. And that’s where he raised Siegfried. It’s a small place; he had to be completely paranoid about keeping Siegfried as his own. Out in the middle of nowhere.”

By Anne Midgette  |  May 1, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  interviews , opera  
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Comments

Thank you for this wonderful series of insights and comments!

Please keep up this great blog. A real gift to be able to supplement the printed newspaper info.

Posted by: BethesdaFan | May 1, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

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