The SFO “Götterdämmerung”: Laughter and catastrophe

San Francisco, June 27

Review by David Gregson pending.

Today is a traveling day for me (San Francisco back to San Diego) — so I have no time to write about "Götterdämmerung" or to finish up on my "Siegfried" comments. Or to sum up this Francesca Zambello "Ring" in general.

I will say that in all my experience of "Ring" going, this is the first one in which many scenes or parts of scenes have been played deliberately for laughs. I found it refreshing, but many Wagnerites are bound to be outraged. A funny "Götterdämmerung"? Unthinkable!

When the Rhine Maidens return to the story at the start of Act Three, they are wearing rags and toting black garbage bags which they fill with discarded plastic water bottles. One of them even takes a swig out of a not-quite-empty container. In the Immolation Scene, they get their gold back from Brünnhilde, and just before the final curtain, they suffocate Hagen with a yellow bag they pull over his head.

Gutrune — perhaps the only likable and memorable Gutrune ever, as a seat companion remarked — looks and acts a bit like My Friend Irma. She’s a blonde bimbo who gets the vapors — and Zambello has assigned her a ton of comic schtick. One scene has her in bed with her brother, Hagen (more incest?), fighting over a remote control for a widescreen television image (of static) that fills the whole stage on the scrim.

It’s a challenge remembering where all the laughs were — but I’ll try to recall on today’s flight back home.

All in all — it was a terrific and (obviously) unique "Ring".


Today I did a brief summing up of the whole experience. It’s difficult to write about something so huge and to remember to mention everybody. I needed to say that I found Andrea Silvestrelli’s Hagen to be well conceived as a character, and his voice has a distinct timbre — but I felt there were many moments when Silvestrelli could not find the pitch.

Gunther is just not a memorable character, and Gerd Growchowski seemed content to leave him that way.

The Norns (Ronnita Miller, Daveda Karanas, and Heidi Melton) made an excellent ensemble as the worked to keep the cables connected inside the Great World Ash Computer Chip. Call them the iNorns.

The male chorus was quite exciting in Act Two, and they looked murderously militaristic, all in black — like Blackwater? How do those guys dress I wonder?

Many moments were visually striking, but the finale was so full of various goings-on, it took away a bit from the impact of the music. Most people found the final gesture of renewal, a child planting a tree, very affecting, but I thought it slightly kitschy.

But, I was once again moved as the photos of the fallen heroes rained down like snow!


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