Der Blog des Nibelungen
— by Rich Capparela (and Wagner friends and foes everywhere)
9. You Wanna Talk? It’s the Middle of the Night! — 6/4/2010
Thursday was the first of three Siegfrieds. That also meant that it was the first of my three Talk Back post-performance sessions. As was the case in the test run following the final standalone Twilight of the Gods back in April, this was a chance for audience members to vent: ask questions, complain, praise a particular singer, whatever. What was different about this session from the first was the clock. The applause following Siegfried ended at about 11:15 PM. That’s kinda late to start discussing one’s feelings, but that’s how it worked out. As the third act started wrapping up I began thinking “Who’s got any juice left in them for a Q &A? I’ll be happy if ten people show.”
Did anyone stop by? This is Wagner’s Ring, we’re talking about. What do you think?
As it turned out, I was off by a factor of ten or more. Well over a hundred people stood or sat for what turned out to be a full forty-five minute (!!) session, featuring the same wide-ranging set of opinions that characterized the first Talk Back. Even after the house crew gave me the “wrap it up, champ” signal from the back of the Grand Hall, people came up and wanted to continue the discussion. This Talk Back concept is brilliant therapy for the audience. It allows absolutely contradictory opinions to coexist peacefully. My job is to let the opposites connect and talk it through. Because this is an opera audience, no actual blood was shed. Instead, people expressed measured, thoughtful opinions. Ah, if only Congress could have this much class.
The first comment/question came from a woman who complained bitterly that Achim Freyer’s clownish costuming and physical distance between Siegfried and Brunnhilde resulted in a total lack of sexual energy between the two. The microphone then passed to a gentleman who countered that the costumes, the Styrofoam muscle shirt for Siegfried and the dramatic color change in Siegfried’s wardrobe after meeting Brunnhilde made for the sexiest Act III he’d ever seen. It was like that.
As the session went on, and midnight approached, people started peeling off, but there were still a couple of dozen hearty Wagnerians there when I had to say “Good night. Drive safely. See you again at the end of the world.”
I’ll be doing my next cheap Oprah imitation at the conclusion of the next Siegfried, on Sunday, June 13. (“Look under your seat. YOU get a tarnhelm and YOU get a tarnhelm and YOU get a tarnhelm…”).
A word about the orchestra last night. The brass section especially acquitted itself admirably. And if there’s one particular Ring opera where you want the brass to be reliable, it’s Siegfried. I do wish that the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion were not so dry an acoustic space. Still, that steeply raked stage does wonders for the vocalists’ ability to project to the back row. The result is a Ring where the balance between orchestra and singers is doggone close to perfect. How often does that happen?
Finally, in the department of celebrity spotting: in addition to the usual Hollywood contingent last night (Tarantino, anyone? Buck Henry?), there was a great moment when my wife and I were having an out-of-doors pre-performance salad and brat wurst dinner near the Mark Taper Forum. A few tables away, all by himself, no fawning entourage in sight, dining on fast food and taking in the scene, sat director Achim Freyer himself. I was courteous enough to refrain from interrupting his meal with an inane “Hiya. How’s it goin’?” but not discrete enough to resist snapping his photograph on my iPhone.
– Rich Capparela