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DETROIT’S GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG PART 1

THE MICHIGAN OPERA THEATRE recently offered a new take on Motown Sound with its recent Twilight: Gods, a pandemic-influenced one-hour operatic condensation of Wagner’s epic (and six-hour!) Götterdämmerung, the final opera in the Ring Cycle tetralogy. Most appropriate for its Detroit setting and the times, this mini-opera was performed iteratively in the multi-level parking garage of the Detroit Opera House, with the audience traveling through in their cars.

Image from “Wagner’s ‘Götterdämmerung,’ in a Detroit Parking Garage,” by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, October 26, 2020.

Yuval Sharon’s Innovative Operas. MOT’s new Artistic Director Yuval Sharon has already appeared here at SimanaitisSays. Back in 2017, he directed Anne Gosfield’s War of the Worlds. Its audience began in Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, then regrouped outside where the operatic action continued to the sounds of sirens at three sites within walking distance from the hall. 

Yuval Sharon, Artistic Director, Michigan Opera Theatre. Image from the Detroit Free Press, September 9, 2020.

In Twilight: Gods, convoys of eight cars drove up the ramps of the Detroit Opera House garage, their occupants witnessing scenes on six levels. Each day of the run, October 17, 18, and 20, 2020, the production was repeated twelve times. The performers were miked, and the audio was piped into audience cars on dedicated FM stations.

Yuval Sharon and other MOT members describe the experience of Twilight: Gods in the embedded video, offered to ticket holders prior to the performance.

Scenes from Götterdämmerung. Valkyrie Waltraute opens the performance by describing the gods in decline (one of those “Here’s how we got into this fix” arias beloved to Wagnerians). 

Mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin as Waltraute describing the gods’ fine fix. This and other images by Brittany Greeson for The New York Times, October 21, 2020.

Then there’s a dialogue between the opera’s two baddies, half-human Hagen and his dwarf father, Alberich; the latter, who started it all by stealing the Rhinegold in the first of the tetralogy. 

In the next scene, hero Siegfried meets with the Rhinemaidens, who plead for the return of the Rhinegold ring. 

From the left, Avery Boettcher, Olivia Johnson, and Kaswanna Kanyuinda as the Rhinemaidens in MOT’s Twilight: Gods.

Then (spoiler alert!) Siegfried dies at the hand of Hagen. 

Bass Morris Robinson as Hagen.

The finale has the banished Valkyrie Brünnhilde riding into Siegfried’s pyre, the ring returned to the Rhinemaidens and thereby redeeming the world.

So, in a sense, the Ring Cycle ends happily, albeit not for the gods. Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll see how the Michigan Opera Theatre presented Twilight: Gods to fortunate Michigan mortals. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020 

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