What would Wagner think?

I’ve often wondered what certain composers would think of how their works are interpreted by musicians and artists of the theater. Richard Wagner was a revolutionary force in music in so many ways. It is no secret that I have a special relationship with his music dramas and feel a strong urging to present his works to the best of my ability.

Certainly, I strongly support any director to bring their own stamp to the works when they re-create the drama on stage. Achim Freyer, our director in Los Angeles of The Ring, is a genius. He has created a feast for the eyes utilizing incredible color and lighting. Somtimes, it may be difficult for any production to make absolute sense to the audience at all times. I always hope that it makes sense to the singers as well. It is only then that we can all come together to understand the concept and how it reflects upon the composer’s composition.

The rehearsal period for “Gotterdammerung” here in Los Angeles was a tough developmental process. On the whole, I think the show has come together well and that the singers are doing an outstanding job in trying to bring something to the stage. We have a wonderful cast. Due to the nature of the style of this production, I have to admit that I’m not sure how it is all coming across. This is hard to reconcile at times. Mind you, I have sung the role of Gunther probably more times than any other role in my repertoire. I know this opera VERY well. I am all for new interpretations. I think concepts must always be true to the original story and to the composer’s intentions. I hope that we’ve hit that mark in this presentation of this great opera in Los Angeles. It certainly has been a different approach and I do have to admit that I’m having fun behind my mask.

In the picture above (I’m on the right), you can see me singing (well, not really) with the wonderful tenor, John Treleaven, the “blood-brotherhood” duet from Act 1 of “Gotterdammerung”. This is one of the scenes of this production that makes pretty much complete sense. As a singing actor, it is tough to accept that so little of my acting is coming through facial expression (usually the most important aspect of an artist’s dramatic presentation). I basically stand behind that facade most of the evening and do basic hand and arm gestures. It is a tribute to the very fine conductor, orchestra, and cast that the story is still coming through. We are asked to do a great deal on stage during our performances. This concept goes a bit beyond the normal request in some ways---but I’ve heard many in the audience are truly liking the experience as well. One man told me that this was the finest “Gotterdammerung” he had ever seen. Obviously, we all have varied tastes---I wish this was a production I could see as well as be in so that I could get a better picture of it all.

Other than that, I am still enjoying being in Southern California. I missed the earthquake of 10 days ago as I had flown to Pennsylvania for Easter---and what a joyous time that was on the east coast. Spring is certainly here for most of the country. Another winter has passed. Life is good (even in Wagner land).