Fortified by some of the top opera singers in the world, Houston Grand Opera has finally arrived at Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), the crescendo ending of composer Richard Wagner’s four-part epic about the gods and their ultimate downfall.
Siegfried (Simon O’Neill) and Brünnhilde (Christine Goerke) have spent the night together, and he gives her the ring crafted from the gold stolen by Alberich. They part company, both facing many challenges ahead of them.
UK baritone Christopher Purves is back as the greedy Alberich and although his part is not as extensive as it was in Das Rheingold here three years ago, he has a pivotal scene with his son Hagen in which he urges him to get the ring back and protect his father’s legacy. In accepting this assignment, Hagen initiates proceedings involving a lot of magic potions and disguised identities, which finally result in death and the end of Valhalla.
Usually when you ask performers about the characters they are playing, they find some good in even the most wicked people. Alberich, the dwarf chief, is an anti-hero, someone who steals gold in an attempt to consolidate great power, which diminishes through the Ring Cycle. "By the time you get to Götterdämmerung, all his acid and bile has been slightly watered down," Purves says.
But in that scene with his son Hagen, Alberich becomes most human when he calls his son his hero and trusts him to restore the ring to the gods, Purves says. "I think for Alberich that is a complete voltfast from Rheingold when he was just out for anything he could get."
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Purves, who will also be taking on the speaking role of Pasha Selim in The Abduction From the Seraglio, which starts April 28 at the Wortham, says he's never done a straight acting role before and is busy going back and forth from one production to the other.
“I think people will come to see [Götterdämmerung] because we still have a fascination with things that are larger than life,” Purves says. “It’s stories of the gods, mythology that still excites us. We want something bigger than our lives.”
Speaking of bigger, running time is an estimated 5-1/2 hours with two intermissions, so the evening performances will start at 6 p.m., much earlier than usual. Sung in German with projected English translations.
Performances are scheduled for April 22 through May 7 at 6 p.m. Saturdays, Tuesday, Thursday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Wortham Center, 501 Texas. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit houstongrandopera.org. $20-$385.75.