Pär Lindskog Recovers From Illness to Sing in WNO's Siegfried, Which Is Bad News

Swedish tenor Pär Lindskog, miming the role May 2, had a disastrous performance Saturday.
Swedish tenor Pär Lindskog, miming the role May 2, had a disastrous performance Saturday. (By Karin Cooper For Wno)
By Anne Midgette
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 11, 2009

The good news is that Pär Lindskog finally got to sing in "Siegfried."

The Swedish tenor, who had been scheduled to make his Washington National Opera debut in the title role of the Wagner opera on May 1, was felled by bronchitis. So for the first two performances he pantomimed the action while Scott MacAllister, a last-minute substitute, sang the part from the side of the stage. But by Saturday night, Lindskog had recovered enough to go it alone.

The bad news, unfortunately, is that Pär Lindskog sang Siegfried.

Perhaps he hadn't recovered as well as he thought. Perhaps it was the bronchitis that kept him from producing any top notes worth mentioning for the first two acts, that muted his lowest register, and that gave his sound a hard, squeezed, even outright ugly quality on most of his sustained notes.

After the disaster of the famous "Forging Song" -- the opening notes of "Nothung! Nothung!" were frighteningly off-pitch and he was almost inaudible for much of it -- it was surprising that he took the stage for the second act. He did keep something in reserve for the fearsome third act, when he produced a few notes in the upper-middle register of his voice that were strong. Too little, too late.

A contrast was Iréne Theorin, the Brünnhilde, who (it later emerged) had chosen to sing on opening night without announcing that she, too, was indisposed. Her adequate performance at the opening was only a shadow of what she offered on Saturday, when she unsheathed a bright, ringing blade of a voice that filled the auditorium.

Francesca Zambello's "American Ring" production is good enough to merit revisiting, not only for the 20th-century, industrial-wasteland setting but for the meticulous details of acting and character (though it has evidently been plagued with minor technical glitches -- the anvil fell apart too early Saturday night, as it nearly did on opening night). The idea of the Woodbird as an 18th-century literary figure, buried in a book until Siegfried is able to understand her speech without an intermediary, took better shape. Micaëla Oeste, who sang the part, was also much improved.

Alan Held (Wotan), Gordon Hawkins (Alberich) and Gidon Saks (Fafner) remained terrific, as did the conducting of Michael Güttler (though the brass were having a terrible night). As for Andreas Conrad's Mime: Singing opposite Lindskog in his current patchy vocal estate, he was often so clarion and strong that he sounded more like Siegfried himself.

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