Das Rheingold

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New Production.

Music & Libretto by Richard Wagner.

Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis.

Stage Director: David Pountney.

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Dazzling prelude to the Ring Cycle is a masterpiece of theatricality.

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In a new production, the Lyric Opera of Chicago has mounted the finest staging that I have ever seen of an opera! Wagner, who wanted his Der Ring des Nibelungen to be know as a music drama, would be proud of David Pountney’s stage of Das Rheingold which was based on Johan Engels and Robert Innes Hopkins designs.  Below you’ll see a vast array of photos in order for readers to get a feel for this magnificent staging that enhances Wagner’s music drama as a compliment to Wagner’s power score and the fantastic voices from the world class singers.

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9/28/16 2:36:02 PM - Lyric Opera Chicago's dress rehearsal of Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner Featuring Eric Owens Wotan Samuel Youn Alberich Stefan Margita Loge Tanja Ariane Baumgartner Fricka © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2016

This work, that opens the Lyric’s 62nd season,  is the first of four  music  dramas in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Richard Wagner’s operas inspired by Norse legends. In the coming seasons Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung  will be produced. They will have the daunting task of trying to equal or surpass this year’s Das Rheingold!  Stage Director David Pountney will stage the remain three opera of the Cycle.

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Das Rheingold, created by Wagner after he penned the other three, is a prelude that is both an introduction to the  Norse myths as well as a worthy opera on its own.  We learn about how the rheingold was created as part of the origins of life on the Rheine  river.  We meet the rheinmaidens, Woglinde ( soprano Diana Newman), Wellgunde (mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen) and Flosshilde (mezzo-soprano Lindsay Ammann0 who guard the gold sunk at the bottom of the river. When the Nibelung dwarf Alberich (bass-baritone Samuel Youn, , who lusts after the three beauties until he realizes that he can’t have them, he opts for the gold. He finds out that the man who renounces love and creates a ring from the gold will control the world!  This quest will intimately destroy others and himself as the ring’s curse is the price for the gold.

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Next, we meet Wotan, King of the Gods (bass-baritone Eric Owens) is reveling in the completion of his magnificent palace. He makes a bargain with the two giants who built the palace  Fasolt (bass Wilhelm Schwinghammer) and Fafner (bass Tobias Kehrer)–the giant set is an eye-popper. In Wotan’s bargain, the giants payment would be Freia ( soprano Laura Wilde). She is the sister of Wotan’s wife, Fricka (mezzo-soprano Tanja Ariane Baumgartner), who thought the palace would keep Wotan from cheating on her.

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Loge (tenor Stefan Margita), who is Wotan’s top helper and the demigod of fire helps Wotan  on a mission to Alberich’s subterranean kingdom with a plan to save Freia and stave off the aging of the gods. They want the gold and the special ring.

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In Alberich’s underground gold factory, he enslaves his brother, Mime (tenor Rodell Rosel), and 18 laborers  are forced to mine  gold.  Eventually,  Alberich is captured, and Wotan gets the gold and the rings-and, of course, the curse. He is pressed by the by Erda (mezzo-soprano Okka Von Der Damerau) to give up his gold ring or suffer the curse ‘s wrath.

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There is more action here but it is easy to follow as the grandeur and dazzling movement, lighting and superb acting and the rich vocals, led by bass-baritone Samuel Youn and Eric Owens capture the Norse legend in striking detail.  The esthetic and the theatrically keep this two hour and thirty minute one act moving and completely engaging music drama. (Be warned, there is no intermission.) On the night I attended (October 5th), I didn’t see anyone leave the opera house before the opera’s ending.) This spectacular opera played much faster than 2 hours and 30 minutes. It hooked  me quickly and kept me engaged as it played swiftly.

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Das Rheingold is a spectacular grand opera that is a wonderful way to introduce opera to teens and young adults. It demonstrates wonderful, often whimsical, live storytelling with fantastic visuals and terrific music sung by world class performers. Das Rheingold is a special work that moves into one of my all-time favorite stage operas. Das Rheingold is an example of the genius of Richard Wagner. Das Rheingold is special.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Date Reviewed: October 5, 2016

For more info checkout the Das Rhiengold page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Lyric Opera of Chicago, 20 Wacker, Chicago. IL, www.lyricopera.org, tickets $20 – $299, Oct 9 at 2pm, Oct. 13 at 7:30pm, Oct. 16 at 2pm, Oct 22 at 7:30pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes Without intermission, through October 22, 2016.

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