Critic’s notebook: The chapter of the gods concludes

Here’s one of the performances I’ve been lucky to catch this fall in Cincinnati.

Soprano Mithra Mastropierro was superb as Brunnhilde
Soprano Mithra Mastropierro was superb as Brunnhilde

Last month, Queen City Chamber Opera mounted the final installment, Act III, of Wagner’s opera “Siegfried,” at the Dunham Performing Arts Center on the West Side. The performance, which was well attended on a bright Sunday afternoon, marked the first complete performance of “Siegfried” in Ohio in a century. (It was in collaboration with the Wagner Society of Cincinnati.)

(The first two acts were performed in the previous two years. It’s a rather epic way to perform a Ring Cycle… )

What is so remarkable about the efforts of the company’s founding music director Isaac Selya is the quality that he has been able to achieve on a shoestring. His orchestra — complete with five extraordinary horn players, harp and timpani — filled nearly half of the auditorium floor.

And what a noble and glorious sound he drew from those musicians! Their playing was impressive, especially given the tricky acoustics in the old auditorium. Selya paced the work expertly and also summoned some lovely atmospheres.

As soon as she awoke from her deep sleep and uttered her first notes, it was clear that Mithra Mastropierro’s Brünnhilde would be something very special. The soprano communicated with a powerful but sumptuous tone, able to soar easily over an orchestra playing at full throttle. Her tender “Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich,” in which Brünnhilde tells Siegfried of her great love for him, was beautifully felt. She is clearly a star on the rise.

In the role of Siegfried, tenor Jason Wickson sang with dramatic heft and thrilling high notes. He consistently brought character as well as charisma to the role.

The opening scene was delightful, thanks to production designer Lizzy DuQuette. For her whimsical design, the earth mother Erda (beautifully sung by Ellen Graham) had a “double” who materialized from clouds in the scenic backdrop and sank back into them at the end of her scene. Brilliant!

Bass-baritone Daniel Scofield — who also performed last year in Act II — was excellent as Der Wanderer. (Read more about the cast here.) The chapter of the gods has now been brought to a close. We will see if we get the sequel in a future season.

 

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