GÖTTERDAMMERÜNG — A World Premiere, Today At San Francisco Opera

Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

GÖTTERDAMMERÜNG – the final chapter of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung reaches its transcendent climax with this world-premiere production, a suspenseful tale of bravery and sacrifice, treachery and betrayal, destruction and renewal. The sacred union of Siegfried and Brünnhilde is threatened by three scheming siblings, one of whom was sired by Alberich to take possession of the ring. Driven by greed, their actions inevitably lead to chaos and destruction, until Brünnhilde—wise, pure of heart, heroic—steps forward to return the universe to its natural order in an act of self-sacrifice. Sung in German with English supertitles, the approximate running time is 5 hours, 15 minutes including two intermissions.

THE NORNS – Heidi Melton, Daveda Karanas, and Ronnita Miller.
All production photos by Cory Weaver

THE PLOT: Siegfried gives Brünnhilde the ring as a token of their union and sets off for new adventures. He meets the self-serving siblings Gunther and Gutrune and their half-brother Hagen, the son of Alberich. Seeking the ring, Hagen uses a potion to trick Siegfried into abandoning Brünnhilde, who joins him in plotting revenge. Hagen murders Siegfried, and Brünnhilde, understanding too late the deception, orders a funeral pyre built for Siegfried. As she strides into the fire, the flames rise to destroy Valhalla, the Rhine overflows its banks and the ring is returned to its rightful owners, the Rhinemaidens. The era of the gods is now over.


NINA STEMME (Brünnhilde) makes her Ring cycle role debut as Brünnhilde this summer, having previously performed the role in the Company’s Die Walküre in 2010. She made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2004 as Senta (Der Fliegende Holländer) and appeared later that season in a concert in honor of Donald Runnicles’s fiftieth birthday. The Swedish soprano has performed Brünnhilde (Siegfried) with the Vienna State Opera, a role that she reprises with that company last season. A former winner of the Plácido Domingo Competition and finalist of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, Stemme regularly sings with the world’s leading opera companies, including the Metropolitan Opera; the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; Paris Opera; the Vienna State Opera; Frankfurt Opera; Zurich Opera; Stockholm’s Royal Opera; Madrid’s Teatro Real; and the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona.

Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde) and Ian Storey (Siegfried)

IAN STOREY (Siegfried) makes his San Francisco Opera debut in the Company’s 2011 Ring cycle. The British tenor’s career highlights include Cavaradossi (Tosca), Rodolfo (La Bohème), Manrico (Il Trovatore), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Boris (Kát’a Kabanová), and Florestan (Fidelio) with Scottish Opera; Cavaradossi, Boris, and Erik (Der Fliegende Holländer) with Welsh National Opera; Erik for Milan’s La Scala and Washington National Opera; Števa (Jenůfa) and Tristan (Tristan und Isolde) at La Scala; Tristan at both the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper in Berlin; Barcelona, Dusseldorf Genoa and in Zurich. Upcoming engagements include Bacchus and Canio (Pagliacci) in Vienna; Tristan (Tristan und Isolde) in Berlin, Venice and Washington, D.C.; Siegfried in Berlin and at Milan’s La Scala; Florestan in Turin; the title role of Parsifal at the Wels Festival; and Siegmund in Dusseldorf.

GERD GROCHOWSKI (Gunther) made his San Francisco Opera debut as Jaroslav Prus in this season’s production of The Makropulos Case, a role he has also performed at Stuttgart State Opera. Career highlights include Kurwenal (Tristan und Isolde) at Milan’s La Scala, the Metropolitan Opera and Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam; Scarpia (Tosca) and Orest (Elektra) at Bavarian State Opera in Munich; Šiškov (From the House of the Dead) at the Aix-en-Provence Festival and in Vienna; Orest at Netherlands Opera; Kurwenal and Don Pizarro (Fidelio) at Berlin’s Linden Opera; the title role of Busoni’s Doktor Faust in Stuttgart; Don Pizarro in Hamburg and Vienna; Friedrich von Telramund (Lohengrin) with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and Linden Opera; and the Music Master (Ariadne auf Naxos) at Welsh National Opera.

Ian Storey (Siegfried) and Gerd Grochowski (Gunther)

ANDREA SILVESTRELLI (Hagen) made his San Francisco Opera debut as Oroveso in Norma (1998) and returned as Fasolt (Das Rheingold) in 2008 and as the bass soloist in the Verdi Requiem in 2009. He returned in the 2009–10 season as Il Talpa (Il Tabarro) and Simone (Gianni Schicchi) in Company’s production of Il Trittico and as Osmin (Die Entführung aus dem Serail). His recent career highlights include Simone and Basilio (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) with Los Angeles Opera; Sparafucile (Rigoletto) with Houston Grand Opera and Washington National Opera; Hunding and Fasolt in Seattle Opera’s Ring cycle; and Colline (La Bohème), Ferrando (Il Trovatore) and Timur (Turandot) with Lyric Opera of Chicago. Other credits include Sarastro (Die Zauberflöte) with the Santa Fe Opera; Caronte (Orfeo) and Gofreddo (Il Pirata) at Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet; Oroveso and Fafner (Das Rheingold) in Turin.

Melissa Citro (Gutrune)

MELISSA CITRO makes her San Francisco Opera debut in the 2011 Ring cycle. As a participant in the 2001 Merola Opera Program she performed Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte. A former winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Citro made her international debut in the title role of Jenůfa at Stuttgart Opera in 2008. Other career highlights include Magda (The Consul) with Glimmerglass Opera; the High Priestess (Hippolytus and Aricia) with Opera Theatre of Saint Louis; and the Nursing Sister (Suor Angelica) in Los Angeles Opera’s production of Il Trittico. On the concert stage, she recently performed Strauss’s Four Last Songs with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra. Her other recent engagements include Ortlinde (Die Walküre) and the Third Norn (Götterdämmerung) in Los Angeles Opera’s recent Ring cycle.

GORDON HAWKINS makes his San Francisco Opera debut as Alberich, a role he has previously performed at Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, and in performances with the BBC Symphony. A former winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the baritone recently performed Alfio (Cavalleria Rusticana) with Washington National Opera; Tonio (Pagliacci) at Seattle Opera; the title role of Rigoletto with Arizona Opera; Renato (Un Ballo in Maschera) with Montreal Opera; and Porgy (Porgy and Bess) with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Dallas Opera. Hawkins’s discography includes the premiere recording of Floyd’s Of Mice and Men (Albany) and the title role of Simon Boccanegra with the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts.

Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) — Daveda Karanas (Waltraute & Second Norn)

DAVEDA KARANAS (Waltraute & Second Norn) marks her first complete Ring Cycle at San Francisco Opera under Donald Runnicles. In Francesca Zambello’s staging, she will sing both Waltraute and the Second Norn in the new production of Götterdämmerung as well as Waltraute in Die Walküre. Ms. Karanas also sang Suzuki in Madama Butterfly and covered Amneris in Aida, both under Nicola Luisotti at the San Francisco Opera. This summer, she will cover performances of Judith in Duke Bluebeard’s Castle at the Saito Kinen Festival under Seiji Ozawa in preparation for a major European debut in 2012 with Ozawa. Next season, she will sing Amneris in Aida at Vancouver Opera and Arizona Opera, as well as covering the role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She will also make her role debut as Azucena in Il trovatore at Opera Grand Rapids.

RONNITA MILLER (First Norn) is a recent graduate of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program and makes her San Francisco Opera debut in the 2011 Ring cycle. Her appearances with Los Angeles Opera include the Abbess (Suor Angelica), Schwertleite (Die Walküre), and Berta (Il Barbiere di Siviglia). An alumna of the Merola Opera Program, Miller is also a graduate of the Juilliard Opera Center, where she appeared as Háta (The Bartered Bride), the Mother (L’enfant et les Sortilèges), Hippolyta (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Public Opinion (Orpheus in the Underworld). With Wolf Trap Opera, she has appeared as Ascalax in the North American premiere of Telemann’s Orpheus, Ragonde (Le Comte Ory), Marcellina (Le Nozze di Figaro), the Prison Matron (Musto’s Volpone), and the Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte).

Ronnita Miller (First Norn) and Heidi Melton (Third Norn)

HEIDI MELTON (Third Norn) began the 2010-11 season as Sieglinde in a concert version of Act 1 of Die Walküre with the BBC Scottish Symphony under Donald Runnicles . She returned to both Opéra National de Bordeaux in the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos and the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Gertrude in Hänsel und Gretel. She will sing her first complete Sieglinde in Die Walküre and Third Norn in Götterdämmerung in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen with San Francisco Opera, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Donald Runnicles. Ms. Melton covered the title role in Aida for San Francisco Opera and sang performances of Rossini’s Stabat Mater with the San Antonio Symphony. Next season, she will return to the Metropolitan Opera as the Third Norn in the new Robert Lepage production of Götterdämmerung under James Levine and the Deutsche Oper Berlin as Gutrune in Götterdämmerung under Donald Runnicles. She will also be a member of the ensemble at Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe where she will sing Elsa in Lohengrin, Didon in a new production of Les Troyens, and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.

STACEY TAPPAN (Woglinde) makes her San Francisco Opera debut with two roles that she has previously performed with Los Angeles Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago. The soprano’s career highlights include Adele (Die Fledermaus) with the Glyndebourne Festival; Gilda (Rigoletto) in Lille and Dijon; Despina (Così fan tutte) with the Jacksonville Symphony; the Wren (The Birds), Virtú and Pallade (L’incoronazione di Poppea), and the Dew Fairy (Hänsel un Gretel) with Los Angeles Opera; and Beth (Little Women) with Houston Grand Opera. A graduate of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Center for American Artists, her roles with that company include Nannetta (Falstaff), Bella (The Midsummer Marriage), multiple roles in Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten, the Charmeuse (Thaïs), and the First Esquire (Parsifal), among others.

LAUREN McNEESE ((Wellgunde) made her San Francisco Opera debut as Wellgunde in 2008’s Das Rheingold, a role she has performed at Lyric Opera of Chicago and Los Angeles Opera. She made her Los Angeles Opera debut as Thibault (Don Carlo) and has since returned there as Javotte (Manon), Karolka (Jenůfa), Zerlina (Don Giovanni), La Ciesca (Gianni Schicchi), and the Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte) among other roles. Other notable credits include her Michigan Opera Theater debut as Stéphano (Roméo et Juliette); Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) and Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro) at Minnesota Opera; the title role of L’Enfant et les Sortilèges and La Ciesca at Opera Company of Philadelphia; Cherubino at the Ravinia Festival; Dorabella (Così fan tutte) with Arizona Opera; and Rosina (Il Barbiere di Siviglia) and Stéphano at PORTOpera in Maine.

THE RHINE MAIDENS — Lauren McNeese (Wellgunde),
Renee Tatum (Flosshilde) and Stacey Tappan (Woglinde)

Renée Tatum (Flosshilde) is in her second year of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, and was also an Adler Fellow in 2009 with The San Francisco Opera. Ms. Tatum made her Met debut this past season as Inez (Il Trovatore). Also this season, Ms. Tatum performed Háta (The Bartered Bride) under the baton of Maestro Levine, and covered Pauline (Pique Dame) with The Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Tatum is an alumna of The 2008 Merola Opera Program, and as an Adler Fellow with The San Francisco Opera she performed such roles as Inez (Il Trovatore) and Emilia (Otello). Other recent engagements include Dritte Dame (Die Zauberflöte) with the Santa Fe Opera, Amando (Le Grand Macabre) with The New York Philharmonic, The Richard Tucker Gala at Avery Fisher Hall, The Secretary (The Consul) with Chautauqua Opera, and Bersi (Andrea Chenier) with Mobile Opera.

Click on the date for ticket information:
SUNDAY, 6/19
SUNDAY, 6/26

San Francisco Opera has commissioned famed Bay Area artist Michael Schwab to create an original artwork commemorating the Company’s summer 2011 Ring cycle. The design features a striking image symbolizing the heroic Brünnhilde silhouetted against a fiery orange background evocative of the final immolation scene of the cycle’s conclusion in Götterdämmerung. The poster is printed on archival fine art paper and is available as a limited edition.

Click on the photo to download order form:

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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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