Review: ‘The Ring Cycle’: ‘Siegfried-The Ring of the Nibelung-Part Two’ at Washington National Opera

The epic tale continues as the Washington National Opera’s production of Siegfried –The Ring of the Nibelung-Part Two played to a very appreciative audience last night at The Kennedy Center Opera House. Perhaps the most psychologically penetrating of the operas in the Cycle, there is a pensively absorbing and introspective, reflective essence to much of the operatic narrative presented here as characters sing at length about their dilemmas, the possible consequences of their decisions and the unyielding hand of fate.

Siegfried (Daniel-Brenna) faces off against Fafner. Photo by Scott Suchman.
Siegfried (Daniel-Brenna) faces off against Fafner. Photo by Scott Suchman.

These reflective, introspective themes were enhanced by the absorbing and compelling Wagnerian music as played so subtly and sensitively by the Washington National Opera Orchestra under the superb supervision of Conductor Philippe Auguin. The radiant and immersive repeated Wagnerian musical patterns and leitmotifs pulled me into a thoughtful world of immediacy and feeling just as the fascinating visual projections propelled my subconscious into this world of psychological complexity.

The scenes presented in Act One, showed the young Siegfried (Daniel Brenna) brooding about his place in the world and questioning his parental upbringing. Mr. Brenna’s lustrous tenor voice vividly matched his character’s myriad moods as he very aptly conveyed his character’s youth, idealism, defiance, and callowness. It was a pleasant casting decision to watch a Siegfried who truly had a boyish, raffish, and endearing air of defiant nonchalance about him (rather than much older singers that have played this part). Brenna’s interpretation of the character was invigorating and refreshing throughout.

Tenor David Cangelosi delivers a very physically comic “tour-de–force” performance as the cunning, supposed caring caretaker of the young Siegfried. As Mr. Cangelosi feigns affection for Siegfried and dances a merry jig while he sings of his wily plans, I knew that I was witnessing detailed comic acting of the highest degree. Cangelosi rubbed his hands in glee, threw his arms out expansively and even performed giddy somersaults as he obviously relished the potential of this multi-layered role.

A definitive operatic standout was the singing of Cangelosi’s Mime while planning his nefarious plans juxtaposed with Brenna’s Siegfried character forging his sword with repeated musical emphasis —with each tap of his hammer on the steel weaponry came a stimulating orchestral accompaniment.  Lighting Designer Mark McCullough highlighted both characters at the opposite ends of the stage to convey the differing aspirations of the characters while Cangelosi’s wry, sensitive, fastidious tone contrasted so effectively with Brenna’s bold, breathtaking, and sonorous tone.

David Cangelosi (Mimi). Photo by Scott Suchman.
David Cangelosi (Mime). Photo by Scott Suchman.

Alan Held’s Bass-Baritone shone effectively as he portrayed the God Wotan as a Wandering character who appears at important intervals throughout the opera. Held’s singing as he played a game of wit by posing and answering riddles was intriguingly conveyed. Held’s rich vocal tones were also effectively employed as he engaged in mutual taunting with Alberich (Gordon Hawkins) in Act Two.

Gordon Hawkins’ rich Baritone reverberated with emotional depth as he sang of his misfortunes in the dark lair (so evocatively designed by Michael Yeargan) that appears in Act Two.

Soon Daniel Brenna’s Siegfried begins to fulfill his destiny as he approaches the sliding steel doors that enclose the Dragon (Bass Soloman Howard) who, in reality, is the current visage of the Giant, Fafner, from the previous operas. Brenna’s rich interpretation here is a marvel to watch as he slays the Dragon Fafner and he gains the magical Tarnhelm and the Golden Ring. This Dragon is a gigantic mechanized creation (ingeniously created  by Yeargan) with huge steel claws and blinking glowing eyes that continues to propel Director Francesca Zambello’s interpretation of Wagner’s masterwork  as a critique of mechanization and the destruction of the natural environment.

Soprano Jacqueline Echols charms as the Forest Bird—of lithe and charming human visage—who counsels and warns the increasingly heroic Siegfried to beware of Mime and to find the sleeping  Brünnhilde. Ms. Echols portrays her role with a delightfully charming, sagacious yet ethereal essence. As she hovers over Siegfried on the platform overhead, she is fascinating to observe in her contemporary attire and her gentle yet commanding poise.

As Act Three begins we witness the sleeping Erda, (Goddess of Wisdom, Fate and Earth) who is woken up by the Wanderer Wotan. Scenic mountains move apart with ease as Erda, contralto Linda Ammann, arises out of the earth. Ms. Ammann’s contralto voice is delicately ethereal and completely compelling as she desires to help Wotan yet she is, concurrently, startled and dismayed by learning of his punishment of Brünnhilde.

Wotan realizes that “the God yields to youth” and that Siegfried’s time for true heroism is arriving. However, when Wotan–dressed as the Wanderer—is seen by Siegfried on the road he is travelling on, Siegfried’s single-minded pursuit to find Brünnhilde causes frustration and violent tension between these characters.

The final scene of Siegfried’s finding of the sleeping Brünnhilde is enchantingly reminiscent of the Prince awaking the Princess in ancient fairy tales yet with much added complexity. The single-minded character of Siegfried is thrown into initial trepidation until the elemental and ultimate moment when he kisses the sleeping Brünnhilde.

The soaring and passionate Soprano of Catherine Foster‘s Brünnhilde is portrayed in its entire splendor as Brünnhilde’s character is initially startled by her awakening from her deep sleep. It was a privilege to listen to Foster’s exciting and resonant Soprano as she ran the gamut of emotions from arrogance to confusion and finally to complete acceptance and love for Siegfried.

As Mr. Brenna and Ms. Foster sang together in their final notes of euphoric joy, this absorbing and reflective production of Siegfried ended with thrilling triumph and powerful satisfaction.

Running Time: Almost four hours with one 40-minute intermission and another 35–minute intermission.

Siegfried–The Ring of the Nibelung–Part Two was presented on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 6 PM by the Washington National Opera performing at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC.

Future Performances of Siegfried are on Wednesday, May 4, 2016 at 6:00 PM, Friday, May 13, 2016 at 6:00 PM, and Friday, May 20, 2016 at 6:00 PM. Purchase tickets online.

Future performances of The Valkyrie are on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 6 PM and on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 at 6:00 PM. Purchase tickets online.

Future Performance of The Rhinegold are on Tuesday, May 2, 2016 at 7:30 PM, and Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at 7:30 PM. Purchase tickets online.

Future Performances of Twilight of the Gods is on Friday May 6, 2016 at 5:00 PM, Sunday, May 15, 2016 at 1:00 PM, and Sunday, May 22, 2016 at 1:00 PM. Purchase tickets online.

Review: ‘The Ring Cycle’: ‘The Rhinegold at Washington National Opera by David Friscic on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Review: ‘The Ring Cycle’: ‘The Valkyrie –The Ring of the Nibelung-Part One’ at Washington National Opera by David Friscic on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Review: ‘The Ring Cycle’: ‘Siegfried-The Ring of the Nibelung-Part Two’ at Washington National Opera by David Friscic on DCMetroTheaterArts.

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.


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