“DAS RHEINGOLD” – The slippery slopes to Valhalla

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By Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

DAS RHEINGOLD now at San Francisco Opera through June 28th is a refreshing treatment of the first of four episodes of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. Although it’s running time of two hours and thirty-five minutes without an intermission present an unnecessary challenge, the special effects from projection designer Jan Hartley along with the lighting by Mark McCullough and sets by Michael Yeargan offer compelling distractions to the cry for a listening break and away from the occasionally drawn-out silliness of Francesca Zambello’s stage direction.

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Lauren McNeese (Wellgunde), Gordon Hawkins (Alberich),
Renee Tatum (Flosshilde) and Stacey Tappan (Woglinde).
All production photos by Cory Weaver

Much emphasis has been given to the production’s relocation to the Yukon and to the Gold Rush of the 19th Century. The feeling of isolation and other worldliness certainly rings true as does the view of the metropolis from the Executive Suite occupied by the gods Wotan and Fricka – now high powered Overlords with a serious cash-flow problem. The friction is high and the banter is edgy between the formidable baritone Mark Devalan as “Wotan” and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop as the shrewish “Fricka” – both former members of the Adler Fellows and Merola Opera Program.

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Mark Delavan (Wotan) and Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka)

The loftiness of the couple’s newly-constructed Valhalla is emphasized by the arrival of its chief duo of constructionists, the oafish giants from the firm of Fasolt & Fafner played by Andrea Silvestrelli and Daniel Sumegi. The last nut and bolt has been tightened and it’s time to pony up the final payment. According to the contract terms, as etched into Wotan’s spear, that would be “Freia” – sister of Fricka and goddess of love (soprano Melissa Citro). The problem is that Freia grows these delicious golden apples which keep the Wotans and their kin perpetually youthful. If she goes, then so does the family vim and vigor.

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Daniel Sumegi (Fafner), Melissa Citro (Freia) and Andrea Silvestrelli (Fasolt)

The shoe size of Fasolt and Fafner is enough to make everyone nervous for Freia. Thus, Wotan and Loge, god of fire (Stefan Margita), set out to capture a magic ring forged from the Rhineland gold once guarded by the Rhine maidens and now in the control of Alberich the dwarf (Gordon Hawkins) who has enslaved the Nibelungs into constant mining. Mime, his brother (David Cangelosi), has fashioned a headdress of gold chain mail that enables Alberich to be whatever he wants – including a giant snake or a silicone frog. Yes, this is the sweaty pit where the direction gets tedious and the finale seems further upstream.

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Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) with the Nibelungs

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Stefan Margita (Loge)

Brilliant tenor Stefan Margita reprises his role as “Loge” which marked his first appearance with SF Opera when the production debuted in 2008. He is the perfect cynic, mocking in his tone as he watches the gods – giddy with champagne cocktails – ascend the ramp to Valhalla. He will not join them in their delusions, but warns us of their pride and ill-fated adventures. Stay tuned.

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Melissa Citro (Freia), Brandon Jovanovich (Froh),
Gerd Grochowski (Donner), Elizabeth Bishop (Fricka) and Mark Delavan (Wotan)

Click on the date to purchase single tickets to DAS RHEINGOLD:
Tuesday, June 21st
Tuesday, June 28th

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Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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