When the North Carolina Opera’s Sunday, Nov. 10th, matinee performance of Richard Wagner’s dramatic Siegfried: Act III in Concert begins, the 80-player North Carolina Opera Orchestra brings the recognizable strains of Wagner’s music to life, under the skillful baton of conductor Timothy Myers. The orchestra performs Wagner’s music beautifully. When the violinists play, they have one voice; and the occasional refrain of the Valkyries’ call is almost an echo, rather than a strongly present theme. Myers’ interpretation of Wagner’s passionate work is both restrained and commanding.
The performance in concert of Act III of the third part of one of the world’s best-known operatic works, Wagner’s The Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen), tells the powerful and mystical love story of the goddess Brünnhilde and her warrior lover, Siegfried. A concert performance of Act III of Siegfried, unlike a fully staged opera, allowed the audience to focus closely on the voices rather than to be distracted by the set and costume changes. Each of the four starring characters/singers appeared onstage before the orchestra without the benefit of accoutrements.
In some respects, one wonders whether a concert is more difficult than an enacted performance, for the voices are center stage; but whether or not that is the case, the voices of the four main characters in this narrative certainly embodied the richness of Wagner’s tale of gods and humans.
The rich voice voice of mezzo soprano Nicole Piccolomini, who plays Erda, the Norse goddess of the earth, embodies the strength of a goddess who believes “my thought is knowledge” as Erda jousts with the king of the gods, Wotan (played by South African bass-baritone Musa Ngqungwana), who has roused her. Their voices blend well, often intertwining or challenging each other, underlining the basic goddess/god/human tropes that Wagner utilized in the four operas that build The Ring Cycle. The characters are loosely based on Norse sagas, which have been the inspiration for many other narratives throughout the history of European literature.
Musa Ngqungwana’s deep and rich baritone often blends in with the orchestra and is swallowed, but Nicole Piccolomini’s colorful soprano rises above the orchestral notes and showcases her truly enthralling abilities. Both Ngqungwana and Piccolomini embody their characters well and are thoroughly believable, connecting with each other intimately across the wide expanse of the Meymandi Concert Hall stage to share the story of the fire that consumes them: a relationship that results in the birth of Brünnhilde.
One half of the second power couple in Act III is Erda’s and Wotan’s daughter Brünnhilde (played by soprano Alexandra LoBianco), who has been sleeping and awaiting the arrival of Siegfried (sung by tenor Richard Cox). LoBianco’s career began at Appalachian State University, and she made her NCO debut last season. She has performed worldwide, spending time in Vienna, as well as throughout the United States. Richard Cox’s expansive career has included lead roles in Moby Dick and Samson and Delila; and he has been the tenor soloist in Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Both singers have wonderful ranges and their voices rose well above the orchestra. The difference between them is that LoBianco has a very emotive presence, whereas Cox rarely moved from a stiff stance, hands straight down at his sides.
In their final duet, they are at their shining best. Alexandra LoBianco’s voice, even when controlled, delivers a powerful punch of emotion; but when she and Richard Cox sing together, Wagner’s commanding music is unleashed and one believes the passion they share. “I am yours forever,” they sing triumphantly.
Wagner is always a crowd-pleaser; thus, it is the perfect way for the North Carolina Opera to excite its audience about its 2019-20 season. If NCO continues to offer stellar performances like this one (the opportunity to buy a raffle ticket to win a Tesla doesn’t hurt), the North Carolina Opera won’t have any problem funding its new season.
SECOND OPINION: Nov. 11th Raleigh, NC CVNC review by Roy C. Dicks: https://cvnc.org/article.cfm?articleId=9627.
Richard Wagner’s SIEGFRIED Act III in Concert, sung in German with English supertitles (North Carolina Opera, Nov. 10 in Meymandi Concert Hall in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, NC).
SHOW: https://www.ncopera.org/performances/1920-1, https://www.facebook.com/events/780767442385815/, and https://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/events/wagner-siegfried-act-iii-concert-north-carolina-opera.
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[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is the award-winning author of The Mourning Parade, as well as other novels, children’s books, nonfiction books, essays, short stories, poems, and articles. She is the creator of The Writer’s Hand Journals and runs workshops on using journals in every walk of life. A Fulbright Scholar, she holds the MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier, VT, and the PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University. She lives in Durham with her dog, Izzy. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click https://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.