Gods and mortals suffer in Die Walkure at Lyric Opera

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The movement towards the impending doom of the gods that began with the stealing of a ring in ‘Das Rheingold,’ creeps forward in ‘Die Walküre,’ the second opera of Wagner’s famed four-part Ring cycle.

Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera's Die Walkure. Photos b Cory Weaver.
Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Lyric Opera’s Die Walkure. Photos by Cory Weaver.

For those attendees at Lyric’s ‘Walküre’ production who are not familiar with the story, a guilt-ridden Wotan, king of the gods, brings people up to date.

Sung by the fine base-baritone, Eric Owens, Wotan admits to succumbing to the greed, lust and love that trapped him in decisions he detests now, such as allowing his bastard mortal son, Siegmund (Brandon Jovanovich) to die in battle as demanded by his wife, Fricka, ((Tanja Ariane Baumgartner).

How audiences feel about the second part of the story as it unfolds, depends on how they relate to its characters.

If they care that Fricka, goddess of marriage vows, feels dishonored by husband Wotan’s actions and those of Siegmund who rescued his twin sister, Sieglinde (Elisabet Strid) from a forced marriage to Hunding (Ain Anger), they may feel she is justified in her demands.

Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.
Christine Goerke, Brandon Jovanovich and Elisabet Strid in Die Walkure.

If they love warrior-maiden Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favorite Valkyrie daughter endearingly played and beautifully sung by Christine Goerke, they will dislike Fricka and wish Wotan could stand up to his wife.

The set, designed by Robert Innes Hopkins (originally designed by the late Johan Engels) is excellently evocative of spring in Act I where Siegmund and Sieglinde fall in love and realize they are brother and sister. In Act II, its darkness equates with the power struggles between foes and the gods. Act III offers the overly bloody hero’s hall of the Valkyrie maidens.

Brünnhilde’s and other Valkyrie’s transportation are delightfully manipulated and a fun part of the opera.

However, the death minions carrying black wreaths move in a silly fashion that distracted from the serious scene when Brünnhilde at first tries to dissuade Siegmund  from fighting and begs that he come with her to Valhalla as a hero.

Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.
Eric Owens looks down at the Valkyrie maidens.

Sir Andrew Davis, conducting the Lyric Orchestra, did justice to Wagner’s heroic score.

Directed by David Pountney, this is a new production with interesting costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca reminiscent of early last century.

DETAILS: ‘Die Walküre’ is at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, through Nov. 30, 2017. Running time is about five hours that include two 30 minute intermissions.  For tickets and other information visit call (312) 827-5600 and visit Lyric.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

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