Saturday, 30 August 2014 00:14

Arts Capsule: 'Siegfried' at Union Avenue Opera gets a boost from powerful singing

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L-R: Clay Hilley as Siegfried and Marc Schapman as Mime L-R: Clay Hilley as Siegfried and Marc Schapman as Mime unionavenueopera.org / John Lamb

How much can you downsize Wagner without putting him out of business?  That's the question Union Avenue Opera has been asking every August since 2012 with its reduced version of Richard Wagner's mammoth four-opera cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen” (“The Ring of the Nibelung”).

Using editions of the operas prepared in 1990 by British composer Jonathan Dove and director Graham Vick for companies that lacked the facilities and budgets necessary to produce Wagner's massive "music dramas" in their original form, Union Avenue Opera has been proving that you can still retain the narrative drive and dramatic power of these works while making substantial cuts.  

Their production of the third of the four operas, "Siegfried" (which closes tomorrow night), is an excellent example.  At around two hours and twenty minutes (including intermission) it's almost exactly half as long as Wagner's original, but still packs a real punch—especially when sung with such power and conviction.

A mostly spectacular cast of singers is headed by tenor Clay Hilley as Siegfried, the human hero who slays the dragon and wins the heart of the former Valkyrie Brünnhilde (sung once again by the stunning Alexandra LoBianco), and tenor Marc Schapman as the scheming dwarf Mime.  Baritone Jordan Shanahan, who sang Alberich in "Das Rheingold," reprises the role here, and is just as impressive as he was two years ago.

Conductor Scott Schoonover has beefed Dove's reduced orchestration up a bit with extra strings, and the resulting sound is surprisingly satisfying this time around.  I'm not entirely happy with all of stage director Karen Coe Miller's choices, but on the whole I can't complain.

There has not, to the best of my recollection, been a performance of Wagner’s “Ring” in St. Louis in my lifetime and may not be another one for many years, if ever.  That means that this may be your only chance to see a locally produced “Siegfried.”  If you have any interest in the “Ring” at all, you should grab it.  

The last performance of "Siegfried" is Saturday, August 30, at 8 PM at Union Avenue Opera, 733 Union at Enright in the Central West End.  For more information: unionavenueopera.org.  Note that there is a parking lot but it tends to fill up quickly, so you’ll want to get there not later than 7:30 if you can.

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