NZSO performs Ride of the Valkyrie, plus another five hours of Wagner
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Pietari Inkinen
Simon O’Neill, Siegmund
Edith Haller, Sieglinde
Christine Goerke, Brünnhilde
John Wegner, Wotan
Jonathan Lemalu, Hunding
Margaret Medlyn, Fricka
Morag Atchison, Amanda Atlas, Sarah Castle, Kristin Darragh, Wendy Doyle, Lisa Harper-Brown, Anna Pierard, Kate Spence.
Michael Fowler Centre
Sunday, July 22, 3pm
CBS Canterbury Arena
Wednesday, July 25, 5pm
Saturday, July 28, 4pm
Probably the most impressive and influential piece of classical music of the last 200 years is Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen), composed of four separate operas with a collective running time of around 15 hours.
Wagner lovers have generally had to travel to Europe to see full performances of The Ring, although in recent years there have performances in Adelaide. The Australian city next year will again be performing the cycle in November, with ticket prices ranging from $1000 to $2000.
New Zealand audiences have seen full-scale and concert versions of various parts of the cycle and now the NZ Symphony Orchestra will perform The Valkyrie (Die Walkure) in a concert version featuring an international cast of singers.
Full of love, abandonment, infidelity and incest, The Valkyrie is the second of four operas that form the cycle The Ring. It features some of Wagner’s most memorable music, including the popular excerpt Ride of the Valkyries.
Between the end of Das Rheingold and the beginning of Die Walkurie, Wotan has had nine daughters – his Valkyrie, who bring heroes slain in battle to Valhalla.
He has also taken a human form under the name Walse, and fathered twins, Siegmund and Sieglinde, the Walsunds, who are destined to produce a hero who can recover the Rheingold from the giants.
The heldenbaritone John Wegner is no stranger to the role of Wotan, King of the Gods, with an impressive six seasons at Bayreuth Festival – the spiritual home of Wagner’s music. He finds his match in the dramatic prowess of Margaret Medlyn’s Fricka.
Internationally-renowned Wagnerian tenor Simon O’Neill returns home to sing the demanding role of Siegmund – one he has already performed at the Royal Opera House and La Scala.
Soprano Edith Haller is Sieglinde, who was first heard in this role at the 2010 Bayreuth Festival.
Dramatic soprano superstar and prestigious Richard Tucker award recipient Christine Goerke will be an indomitable force singing the role of Brunnhilde, and in the role of Hunding is another shining star – the charismatic New Zealander Jonathan Lemalu, whose rich, resonant bass makes him an audience favourite.
Supported by what the NZSO describes as a hoard of “Valkiwis” (Valkyries who are all Kiwis), and backed by an expanded orchestra, including three harps, four french horns, four Wagner tubas, a contrabass trombone, bass trumpet, steerhorn and even a thunder machine.
Renowned New Zealand bass-baritone Roger Wilson will give a free 30-minute talk in all three centres, starting 45 minutes before each performance.
Wagner’s epic tale of gods and men is a marathon work lasting for five hours and 40 minutes, including two intervals. The NZSO advises patrons to bring a cushion and also suggests pre-buying food hampers.
Siegmund stumbles into Hunding's hut. Sieglinde gives him a drink and we hear the first stirrings of their love motive. Hunding returns. Siegmund identifies himself as Wehwalt (Woeful) and tells the story of his heritage. He defended a woman forced into an unwanted marriage and is on the run. Hunding recognises him as an enemy but gives him sanctuary for the night with a promise to fight him in the morning.
Sieglinde gives Hunding a sleeping potion. She returns to see Siegmund eyeing the sword, Nothung, which the Wanderer (Wotan) stuck into a tree during her wedding. They recognise each other as siblings, children of Wotan. Siegmund pulls the sword from the tree and they fall into each other's arms.
Wotan commands Brunnhilde to protect Siegmund in the fight with Hunding. Fricka, however, is the protector of marriage and asks Wotan to punish Siegmund for sleeping with his sister Sieglinde. Wotan reluctantly agrees and commands Brunnhilde to ensure Siegmund loses the fight.
Brunnhilde tells Siegmund she can take him to Valhalla to be with the other fallen heroes. He rejects her offer because it means he can no longer be with Sieglinde. Inspired by his bravery, Brunnhilde decides to go against her father's wishes and help Siegmund. Wotan steps in and shatters Siegmung's sword, Nothung, so Hunding can kill him. He then kills Hunding too.
Brunnhilde brings Sieglinde to the other Valkyrie and begs them to protect her, for she is now pregnant with Siegfried, who will become a great hero. They send Sieglinde to the forest, where she will be safe from Wotan.
Wotan punishes Brunnhilde by making her mortal and putting her into an enchanted sleep. Surrounded by walls of flame, she can only be rescued by the bravest hero – but when he wakes her with a kiss, she will belong to him.