When one thinks of Wagner’s Ring cycle, what comes to mind is a huge cast, orchestra and set which can only be performed in the world’s largest opera houses. But Union Avenue Opera has brought the Ring to St. Louis thanks to the reduction and adaptation by composer Jonathan Dove and stage director Graham Vick. The company will mount the second opera, Die Walkure, on August 16, 17, 23 and 24.
Karen Coe Miller, who directed Das Rheingold for Union Avenue Opera in 2012, returns for Die Walkure. She explained to Cityscape host Steve Potter that the reduction was originally done so England’s Birmingham Opera Company could tour with the Ring using limited technical resources. The operas are reduced both in the number of musicians and in length, and can be performed in smaller venues. Said Miller, “What they [Dove and Vick] have managed to do is actually keep all of the musical information and the themes intact, get the entire story across and, I think, really focus it for an audience. I find these reduced versions very engaging.”
Soprano Alexandra LoBianco sings the role of Brunnhilde in Union Avenue Opera’s production of Die Walkure. The character is the favorite daughter of Wotan, the ruler of the Gods. One can picture Brunnhilde as a statuesque woman with a spear, shield and in many productions, a helmet with horns. Said LoBianco, “It’s almost a coming of age story, definitely for her. Warrior, God, daughter, child, mortal, is kind of her pathway in this.” She continued, "This character is an iconic character and if you don’t know anything about opera, you still know the word Brunnhilde.”
Tenor James Taylor sings the role of Siegmund who is one of a pair of twins separated at birth and is a half-sister to Brunnhilde. Taylor explains his character, “Siegmund is a pawn in a bigger story and doesn’t really understand it and has no clue who he is. He has a white knight syndrome and he keeps running into circumstances that he thinks he can handle and fix and he ends up leaving in worse shape than he found it.”
As the story unfolds, Brunnhilde is first told by Wotan to protect Seigmund, and then later to kill him after it comes to light that he has had an incestuous relationship with his twin sister Sieglinde, being unaware of her identity. When Brunnhilde cannot bring herself to kill Seigmund, she is the subject of her father's wrath and loses her immortality.
Both LoBianco and Taylor agree that singing a Wagner opera is physically and emotionally exhausting and one of the most challenging but rewarding things they have ever done. Their goal is to make it a rewarding experience for the audience as well. LoBianco summed it up, “That’s our job – to tell a good story and to help our audience come in in one frame of mind and leave in a different. At least that’s for me one of my goals - to always take the audience on a journey as well as the journey we’re having on stage. It’s really important.”
“Die Walkure” will be performed in the original German with English subtitles. Union Avenue Opera Artist Director Scott Schoonover will conduct the orchestra. The company will complete the Ring cycle with a production of Siegfried in 2014 and Gotterdamerung in 2015.
Union Avenue Opera Presents Wagner's "Die Walkure"
August 16, 17, 23 and 24, 2013
Union Avenue Christian Church, 733 Union Blvd.
For more information, call (314) 361-2881 or go to the Union Avenue Opera website.