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Grimsley, Mayes shine in Staufenbiel's "Das Rheingold" at Seattle Opera

August 14, 2023 | The Seattle Times

Seattle Opera mines a novel, futuristic ‘Rheingold’

"A main draw of this “Rheingold” is the return of Seattle Opera favorite Greer Grimsley, a veteran interpreter of Wotan whose vocal heft and stage presence continue to impress. In his latest foray, he portrayed an overly self-confident ruler whose bravado far outstripped any understanding or empathy. . .

Wagner himself exploited myth to reflect contemporary concerns about alienation from nature. Director Brian Staufenbiel and his design team follow suit by evoking a futuristic cosmos echoing our own fears of a world out of balance. Nature and technology have hyper-evolved and fused into uncanny hybrids in this production (originally produced by Minnesota Opera in 2016), which combines a bare-bones physical set with an ever-changing, subliminal array of front and rear projections by David Murakami as well as real-time motion capture. Mathew LeFebvre’s time-traveling costumes stitch together motifs ranging from machinery-infatuated steampunk to a sci-fi dystopia populated by replicants. . . This design scheme allowed us to be unusually close-up witnesses to Alberich’s transformation from a merely unpleasant creature into a terrifyingly focused force of malevolent energy.

Michael Mayes played up the character’s brutality with deliberately harsh, rough-edged singing. Martin Bakari’s poignant Mime bore the brunt of his whip-cracking sadism. In a highlight of the evening, Mayes built inevitably to the seething, resentment-saturated climax of his parting curse after Wotan forces him to yield the ring (shown as an imposing, bracelet-sized accessory). . .

Staufenbiel was at his best when it came to illuminating the emotional energies attracting or repulsing these characters. It was fascinating to see the effects on Wotan of briefly possessing the ring until the 11th-hour appearance of Erda. . ."


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