Lars Cleveman debuts at Met as Siegfried

AP News
Posted: May 09, 2013 12:26 PM
Lars Cleveman debuts at Met as Siegfried

NEW YORK (AP) — The list of tenors who can sing the title role of Wagner's "Siegfried" is such a short one that any newcomer tackling the part at the Metropolitan Opera is worthy of note — and there's always the hope a star will emerge.

That's just what happened last season when Jay Hunter Morris made his debut in this third opera of the "Ring" cycle. On Wednesday, Swedish tenor Lars Cleveman took over the role and proved a solid if unspectacular successor.

Cleveman, who is in his mid-50s, has already sung the role in several European cities and has appeared at the Bayreuth festival in Wagner's "Tannhaeuser." He has the kind of sturdy, reliable voice that's essential for anyone undertaking the part of Siegfried, who is onstage for most of the opera's three long acts. Cleveman's voice tends to get swallowed up below about middle C, but it gains in power as it climbs the scale. That meant he was at his best in moments like the sword-forging scene that closes Act 1, when he could let forth impressive high notes. His acting was tentative, but that may be attributable to a lack of rehearsal time on a stage dominated by the moving metal planks of the Robert Lepage production.

There was one other newcomer in this final "Ring" of the season. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley has sung other roles at the Met, but this was the first time he'd been heard here as Wotan — or The Wanderer as he is known in this opera. Grimsley has a big, dark, penetrating voice that's lacking in variety but well-suited to his character's fierce pronouncements in Act 3, when Wagner's orchestrations take on a richer, heavier texture.

As Mime, the dwarf who has raised the young superhero for his own nefarious purposes, tenor Robert Brubaker sang with spirit and precision. He played the character as less twitchy and more subdued than usual, but he gave full vent to Mime's maniacal side in his final scene. That's when he professes his love for Siegfried only to realize that the young man can now read his thoughts and knows he's plotting to murder him.

The other main character in the opera is Bruennhilde, who doesn't appear until halfway through the final act, when Siegfried awakens her from a long slumber with a kiss. With little chance to warm up, soprano Deborah Voigt was not at her best, singing with a quavering tone and emitting some high C's that sounded more like shrieks.