Reviews: The Valkyries - Detroit Opera

Reviews: The Valkyries

(l-r) Soprano Christine Goerke (Brünnhilde) and bass-baritone Alan Held (Wotan) on the green screen set of Yuval Sharon’s production of The Valkyries (CREDIT: Mary Jaglowski / Detroit Opera)

 

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Leonard

I thought The Valkyries was a terrific operatic experience. The acting and singing were spellbinding. Bravo Detroit Opera!

John

I didn’t care for it. Nothing more than bad quality green screen projections of singers onto tv screens with computer graphics that made no real sense to the story. It was distracting and unnecessary. The Valkyries riding stationary exercise bikes wear strange, silky goggles was laughable. The are supposed to be proud, elemental warriors not cartoon characters. Then they dressed Wotan like some dark satanic villain from a Batman movie. I don’t know why Sharon thinks these gimmicks are needed to bring people to the theater. With just a few more lead singers he could have just done the entire opera, and what they spent on video effects could have easily paid for tasteful appropriate sets. The singers and orchestra were fine.

Tom

Sunday's show was terrific. Christine Goerke was in great voice. Her interaction with Alan Held was heartbreaking. When a Wotan can bring me to tears at the Farewell, the WALKURE is a success. Bravo, Mr. Held. You made me reach for my handkerchief. The show was well worth the drive from Chicago.

Greg

I was so excited to see this performance and think i smiled most of the way through! This was a fantastic and innovative way to perform the opera. The singing, acting and tron like set made it very enjoyable to watch. I wish I would have come to an earlier performance so that I could have seen it again. The whole cast was awesome and Christine was magnificent as well as the orchestra!! This was a great way to start off the season and can't wait to see Faust next!

Todd

I enthusiastically support Mr Sheron and his vision for Detroit Opera, but this was a stinker. I think incorporating some element of virtual ____ is really interesting but to entirely abandon it seems to be a aiming an essential element of the opera theater experience. I found the “tron verse” aesthetic mundane and exhausting. When the performers were not in the right spaces it was really distracting whereas in a “non virtual” set it would have gone un noticed. The close ups of the faces were horrifying. Had I known what a know now I would not have spent $90 a ticket. This does not diminish my support for the Detroit Opera at all.

Nancy

My son traveled from North Carolina to see the production on Sunday afternoon with me. We were lucky enough to have seen Twilight: Gods in the Detroit Opera parking structure during the pandemic and were anxious to see the latest innovative work of Yuval Sharon and Christine Goerke. The experience was immersive, emotional and simply wonderful. Can't wait to return to the Detroit Opera.

D&D&J

We absolutely loved this production. The performers were all amazing (Goerke - WOW), but the choice to set the stage in front of the green screen while streaming graphic feeds above was fantastic. The Tron inspiration and simplistic graphics were spot on, they merged two art forms which were ahead of their time, but somehow kept it simple enough to focus on the story, exceptional music, and strong performances on stage and in the pit. Highlighting the single act made it even better. When does an opera end with enough time to still enjoy the evening? Kudos to Detroit Opera, Yuval Sharon, and Sir Andrew Davis.

Margaret

The production was outstanding. Unique. One of the most creative techniques we have ever seen. Inspired us to dig into the characters portrayed in the opera.
We are thrilled with the new direction the Detroit Opera is taking.

John

This was proof that our opera company is the leader in bringing modern ideas to the greatest music ever written. Wagner himself would have loved it. Today's audience cannot sit through 17 hours and to perform the best act is brilliant. I can envision a future performance of the best of the ring including the descent into Nibelhein, the Rhine journey, and most act III of Gotterdammerung. I will be there!

Janice

Fantastic performance- saw it on Tuesday evening- had I gone on Saturday I would have seen in again on Tuesday!

David

Valkyries was an extraordinary experience. Though some might have been turned off by the idea of virtual reality technology and advanced digital images, it really worked. The cast was able to convey the deep emotions in the story and the music and the production enhanced the audience experience. I hope Detroit Opera will continue to be unafraid to push the boundaries of how opera is presented and produced. I believe the audience will respond favorably. Last night's 10 minute ovation demonstrated this.

Paul

It was great, reminded us of a Shen W? performance we saw about 5 years ago.
Green screen could have been smaller and the presentation screen larger.

Nancy

The Valkyries was a great cutting edge theatrical experience! It was amazing how Christine Goerke and Alan Held could maintain such intensity throughout. It has us spellbound. Bravo to all involved. I guess you could say we loved it!

HN

This production seems like amateur and an unfinished product. The graphic, the green screen, the performers' movements on stage were so bad that many audiences could not take it seriously and laughed with disbelief. The costume and the makeup are uninspiring and cheaply made. The Valkyries look like tin men marching on the spot rather than walking on screen. I normally have no issues with watching classic opera reimagined, but this is poorly done and low budget. I saw audiences sleeping in their seats and left the theatre mid show. Before I came to this show the advertisement said this is the future of opera, if the future looks like this I have nothing to look forward to. There are many ways to be creative and try to revamp an industry that have not been able to attract many younger generation audience, but this is not the way to do it. The whole last season performaces at Detroit Opera were disappointment, this season Detroit Opera gave us this version of the Valkyries and the lineup continue to be uninteresting. Under the current direction I don't think there are many returning seasonal ticket holders. I cannot think of what Detroit Opera's new target audiences are. There were age 30s to 60s in my group and none of us enjoyed this. We sat in center orchestra and the sound wasn't great, at times the singing just faded into the background and we couldn't hear clearly.

Wagner Fan

I was worried when I saw the speakers/amplifiers. But it appears they were not used. The computerized set looked like Frozen to me. But I enjoyed the performance, including, for the most part, the high tech stuff, and, especially, Ms. Goerke, a true wagnerian.

Richard

Christine Goerke as Brunnhilde was very good and made the performance worthwhile. Unfortunately Held as Wotan was just not up to task vocally or dramatically. That made the bulk of the performance hard to sit through. I therefore found myself focusing more on the production. It was an interesting gimmick, but only really worked at the end during the Magic Fire Music when Brunnhilde becomes enveloped in a digital bubble. I did get some shivers at that moment.

Steve N

Wow!! Loved it!! Brilliantly creative! Christine is awesome as well!

Chris

I was mesmerized from the first not to the last. The singing was so powerful and the production was immensely creative. It was a fantastic experience.

Allan

WOW! Had no idea what to expect. Kudos to all for an amazing performance and interpretation of an otherwise meh opera. Am so looking forward to seeing the upcoming performances in the series. Who knew that opera can Rock!!

GWaterman

The screen projections very well done, performer's skill + tech innovation, bravo.
I wish I could say the same about sound balance, but I can't. The orchestra sound obliterated the sound of the singer's, no matter how powerful, our seats middle row DD trustee circle. Great playing by the orchestra, but I come for the singing, and I could hardly hear them. Alan Head's acting skills are superior.

Kitty

Unfortunately I did not enjoy it. The music and vocals were beautiful. But it felt was if I was watching a rehearsal and not a performance. It seemed incomplete. As if I was watching the “behind the scenes” version of a movie. The green screen was very distracting and the graphics on the big video were extremely mediocre.

Valerie

Innovative, stunning, and surprisingly beautiful. The production was both visually and musically entertaining.

Arthur

Absolutely outstanding! Massively creative! Ms. Goerke's voice resonates and seeing her onscreen shows how hard she's working. Story was easy to follow and the music was beautiful. I went twice and enjoyed it even more the second night.

Thomas

Overall, a great performance and the use of the virtual technology helped tell the story. All singers, but especially Christine and Alan, did a great job. I only have one minor point: Wotan is supposed to only have one eye, and while the makeup was good, I kept seeing both of Alan's eyes. Other than that, great job.

Mike

The music was grand, but the green screen production managed to reduce Grand Opera to the level of a weather forecast - only, the weather forecast has better graphics. Really, at least put some skin on the mountains; stacked triangles just doesn’t make it. Plus, the singers’ “actions” would be appropriate for backup Pop singers back in the early Rock era.
At least it was attempted. Now learn not to try it again for at least another decade or more. Still, I’m looking forward to the hopefully “normal” remainder of the season.

Sylvia

I have thoroughly enjoyed the Tuesday night performance of the Valkyries. I knew nothing about green screen technology and it was fun to experience that part of the performance. But the best part was the music and the beautiful singing especially by Christine Guerke. The rest of the cast sang beautifully too. Such wonderful music such wonderful singers. That was the best part.
I love the humor and the creativity of seeing stationary bikes as part of the green screen instead of horses. And the green ninja actors setting everything up that was all fun. Sometimes it was a little distracting going from live action and then looking up at the video to see the beautiful and moving backgrounds created. But overall it was such a fantastic experience. The length was perfect too.

Harriet

Fascinating and fantastic - a lot better than I expected! Excellent singing and just about as much of Wagner as I could take in one sitting. The mix of technology and great music worked to make you think about what was going on as well as just react to a mythic story that Wagner may have loved but I find weird and find very uncomfortable. Orchestra excellent; singing a little "shrieky" at time- but that's what Wagner wanted.
In some respects the Sunday performance that I enjoyed reflected and was complemented by what was going on outside the Opera House in downtown Detroit. There were "Lions" and "Tigers" and "Valkyries" - all in one city that afternoon! No doubt there were also a few "Rockers" who had been at the Chris Rock performance down the street just the evening before! No green screen outside - but then lots of noise and no great music either.
Thanks Yuval for your experimentation that makes us listen and react differently to some of the great operas of the world.

Chas.

Typically, one goes to opera for the singing, not the plot, nor the costumes, nor the sets. Further, without good music even great singers will disappoint.
I say all this because Detroit Opera’s take on Wagner’s Valkyries was about all you can do with Act 3. The minimal sets and video background were fine; and the singing was more than fine. My problem was Wagner. While the show started out great, with each of the Valkries getting a bit of attention, it was all Brunnhilde and Wotan thereafter. Great voices, but great music?
Unlike most other composers Wagner wrote both the music and lyrics for his operas. Perhaps he should have stuck to writing just the music? This story is a complex fairly tale, and as such I didn’t relate to any of the characters. And German is not the “go to” language for singing.
Still, it was worth seeing. I’m just not ready for Valhalla…

Keith

No review of a Detroit Opera production can fail to include a tribute to the great David DiChiera, who built the institution from nothing, and transformed a derelict movie theater into a magnificent opera house. It’s worth noting that during all his years as founder and director, Dr. DiChiera staged only one of Wagner’s operas, The Flying Dustbin. Was this because the massive music dramas are too expensive to present? (Are the singers paid by the hour?) Or because he didn’t care for Wagner?
If it was the later reason, I am in wholehearted agreement with this opinion, and Die Valkyrie is certainly the worst of all. When the New York Metropolitan Opera touring company staged it at Detroit’s Masonic Temple in the 1980s, I was in the balcony, and a sort of collective migraine could be felt among audience.
The worst half-hour in opera, and all of music in general, is Act II of Die Walküre. Wagner was the worst writer for the stage until Sammy Beckett, and instead of showing something on stage, Wagner has Wotan instead stand and holler, first at Brünnhilde, then Flicka, about something that has happened elsewhere — the basement at Valhalla has flooded or something. There is no music other than that annoying E-minor scale of The Spear motif sounding every six minutes — like the neighbor’s noisy air conditioner coming on. No action, no scenery, no music, just standing there, hollering.
Thus, I was pleased to learn that Detroit Opera was to stage only Act III of the opera. At first, I thought, Why am I being charged full price if I am to see only one-third of the opera? But then I came to my senses, and realized that less Wagner is better.
So what of the new, high-tech production? I support the innovations of schmarty-pantz director Yuval Sharon which breathe new life into the form. Opera must not be allowed to become a musical museum if it is to appeal to audiences of new generations, and electronic innovations are exactly what is needed to revitalize the classics.
Unfortunately, this first experiment is somewhat primitive. It’s about as advanced as the Lumière Brothers’ 1895 movie La Sortie de l'Usine Lumière à Lyon was in cinema. During opera performances, I often look around to see if my fellow audience members are watching the action on stage or wasting their time by staring up at the supertitles. Curiously, despite the persistent lack of action in a Wagner opera, most of my neighbors were watching the stage, not the screen above. The interest in this staging was not in the acting or in the music or the artistic effect, but only in the novelty of the bizarre goings-on on stage. We were not watching an opera so much as an experiment.
Green-screening is a remarkably simple and easy process, and I have it in two home-computer programs — the technical term for it is “chroma keying” — and you simply select the color to be eliminated in the image or video (green is typically chosen because there is not much green in normal human flesh), then paste the remainder over a new background, and voilá! But that does not in itself make for an artistic scene. Throughout the opera the images of the singers were pasted over remarkably crude, dull and primitive backgrounds — inferior to early-1970s manga-anime. I sat there shocked and smug that my own music videos are far superior. (My suite about the Prophet Mohammed uses a lot of green screen — watch it this evening!).
Thus, other than the novelty of watching the stage-hands in green suits, there was not much to recommend this operatic performance. Soprano Christine Goerke has a superstar voice, but the odd staging drained all the emotional substance from her performance, and it was as if she were singing in a carpet factory. There’s not much music in Act III of Die Walküre either. Yes, it begins with the famous Ride of the Walküries, which is so overplayed that I’d rather not hear it again, then there is a half hour of Wotan hollering at Brünnhilde again. But then, the opera closes with a truly inspired scene: Wotan’s Farewell and the Magic Fire Music, certainly one of the greatest moments in all opera and an immortal piece of music. (Must give crazy Richard credit where it is due!)
I don’t believe that there was one person in the audience who felt any emotion during this great scene, and I’ve been moved more when hearing it over my car radio. It might have helped had the stage lights gone out and all we could see was the animation (such as it was) on the screen above, but there was no more drama in the performance than there would be watching a troupe of mimes.
Some of this disappointment might be due to the small orchestra, who were less than overwhelming due to the production-on-the-cheap of this staging. Whatever one’s opinion of Wagner as a composer, it must be admitted that he was one of the greatest orchestrators of all time. But this small orchestra had no Wagner tubas (the incestuous offspring of a marriage between french horns and euphoniums), only two harps where Wagner called for six, no bass trumpet, four horns where eight are called for. It was quite underwhelming.
During the slow exit from the theater, one of the lady ushers asked me what I thought of the production, and I expressed some of the above reservations. “But!” I exclaimed, “In ten years, we’ll be sitting here wearing virtual-reality headsets. That’s going to be really great!”
I can’t wait.

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