Thursday, May 02, 2019

Robbing the cradle

Siegfried - Metropolitan Opera, 4/13/2019
Vinke, Goerke, Volle, Siegel, Morley, Cargill, Koniecszny, Belosselskiy / Jordan

As astounding and enjoyable was Stefan Vinke's vocal endurance and forcefulness in the title role in this house debut last month, so disappointing was the one-note personal characterization that accompanied it. The result was a barn-burner of an aural show that undoubtedly thrilled the general audience but frustrated me as the vocal failures of past revivals had not.

A decade ago, in praise of Christian Franz - whose physical assumption was everything that Vinke's was not - I noted that his Siegfried "didn't, as is sometimes the case, seem the villain of the piece". And with this revival we saw how easy it takes to make Siegfried unsympathetic (one opera ahead of when he does, under mind-affecting magic, in fact act the bad guy). Whether it was the revival stage directors (J. Knighten Smith for the overall Ring, Stephen Pickover for this installment, with Paula Suozzi and Paula Williams assisting) or Vinke's choice or even the nerves of his big debut, this performance maximized Siegfried's buffoonery and minimized his introspection and awakening of self: instead of the archetypal youth maturing to heroism and first love, we got an unchanging brat alternately mugging for approval (entirely inconsistent with his lack of fear and solitary upbringing, one might notice!) and hamhandedly - and without recognition or understanding - forcing his way past everything on stage. With incipient growth and self-understanding no longer established in Act II (where Vinke understandably but unfortunately decided to conserve voice) his union with Brünnhilde in the last act became very odd indeed. (As with other too-cleverly cynical takes, one can argue for the psychological truth of these reductions but they make the story less significant.)

Not that we should short the vocal accomplishment. Vinke's basic sound here isn't the most best I've heard in brief stand-alone doses: though pleasant, there's a too-covered quality that comes out in the lyric bits. But for a small trade (much smaller than what many predecessors have given up just to get through the thing) Vinke gave us a seemingly limitless heldentenor outpouring that sailed through the Forging of Act I and outshouted Goerke's fresh voice in Act III. If only the quality of sound had been matched by a similar quality of sense!

Perhaps Andreas Schager - who made a remarkable NYC debut four years ago as Apollo alongside the Leukippos of this Ring's Loge (Norbert Ernst) - will do better tonight.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.