Terfel leads a fine cast with BSO in a memorable “Walküre” at Tanglewood  

July 21, 2013 at 12:24 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Bryn Terfel and Katarina Dalayman in Wagner’s “Die Walkure,” performed Saturday night at Tanglewood. Photo: Hilary Scott

Wotan’s dilemma in Die Walküre, the second opera of Wagner’s Ring cycle, is a product of circumstance. He desires the ring, now in possession of the giant-turned-dragon Fafner, though he can only obtain it indirectly through his children, the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde. But as a god he is bound by moral law and must protect the sanctity of Sieglinde’s rocky marriage to Hunding, threatened by the appearance of Siegmund when the sibings fall immediately in love. His hands are doubly tied when his favorite daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, ignores his command not to interfere. He must pursue and punish his defiant daughter for assisting Sieglinde, who now carries Siegmund’s child in her womb.

Thus, the stage is set for Act 3 of Wagner’s music drama, which a starry cast joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a concert performance Saturday night at Tanglewood.

The third act of Die Walküre contains some of the most memorable music in the entire cycle, including the Ride of the Valkyries, the Magic Fire Music and Wotan’s long final soliloquy. Saturday’s performance glistened with strong playing and memorable singing from the BSO and company. Lothar Koenigs, music director of the Welsh National Opera, led the way.

The standout in the cast was Bryn Terfel, celebrated for his Wotan at Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera. His stout voice and fine acting ably captured the nuances of the conflicted Norse god. He struck a menacing presence as he paced about the stage during a commanding “Wollt ihr mich höhnen?” His fury gave way to frustration as he contemplated Brünnhilde’s punishment. His voice melted into sweet-tones for “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar,” his sorrowful farewell to his daughter as he puts her to sleep with a kiss.

Reprising her Met Opera role as Brünnhilde, Katarina Dalayman sang with laser-like precision and plump sound. Her pleas for mercy to Wotan in this performance were sometimes unconvincing and lacked dramatic shading. By act’s end she filled out the role, particularly in “Soll fesselnder Schlaf,” when Brünnhilde asks Wotan to cast a protective ring of fire to guard her as she slumbers.

Amber Wagner, who has appeared as Sieglinde in Oper Frankfurt’s production, brought a rich, velvety tone to the character’s brief appearance in this act. Most palpable was her portrayal of the gloomy “Nicht sehre dich Sorge um mich.”

Rounding out the cast as the Valkyrie sisters was a group of experienced Wagnerian sopranos: Elizabeth Byrne, Melissa Citro, Molly Fillmore, Deborah Mayer, Blythe Gaissert, Maryann McCormick, Mary Phillips, and Rebecca Ringle. A few of their solo lines failed to fill up the sprawling space of the Koussevitzky Shed. They fared better as an ensemble, projecting their voices with full power over the orchestra’s thundering Valkyrie motives.

From the podium, Lothar Koenigs, in his Tanglewood debut, drew full sound and beautifully wrought wind and string playing from the BSO.  With the opening strains of Ride of the Valkyries, the orchestra attempted to pull off the composer’s original intent for accenting the opening triplets in each bar. But as the music went on, the musicians fell into the usual and natural pattern, emphasizing the longer second and third notes of the famous motif.

In a few instances, the mammoth brass section substituted volume for precision, resulting in some unclear attacks. But in general, their focused power gave the score weight and depth. Delicate musical textures had the final say when the orchestra’s sound swelled and diminished for a beautiful and affecting conclusion.

Pinchas Zukerman and members of the BSO will present concertos by Bach, Vivaldi, and Telemann, 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Tanglewood. Paul Lewis will perform Schubert’s final three piano sonatas, 8 p.m. Wednesday. bso.org   

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