New World Symphony presents a rare program of Wagner’s “Ring” music

By Lawrence Budmen

Domingo Hindoyan conducted the New World Symphony in excerpts from Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen Sunday at New World Center.

Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung is a monumental achievement. Over 4 operas and 17 hours, the tale of the rise and fall of the gods of Valhalla unfolds to some of the most dramatic and sumptuous music ever written. 

On Sunday afternoon the New World Symphony presented a multi-media two hour compendium of highlights from the cycle at New World Center.

For the most part, Wagner’s original orchestral writing was well served under the direction of Domingo Hindoyan, principal conductor of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Soprano Heidi Melton, however, proved decidedly mixed in the vocal excerpts. 

Mostly geometrical video projections by Michael Matamoros nicely matched color schemes to the music’s shifting moods and textures. Admirably, the orchestral academy gave credit in the program to Wouter Hutschenruyter, Ludwig Stasny and Engelbert Humperdink (of Hansel and Gretel fame) who arranged and stitched together these concert excerpts.

Hindoyan opened the chronological program with “Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla” from Das Rheingold. Taking a measured pace, the Venezuelan conductor allowed Wagner’s eloquent finale to the cycle’s first opera to unfold in long, spacious paragraphs. The glowing timbre of two oboes and the vibrant underpinning of four harps stood out in an excellent ensemble performance.

Melton sang Sieglinde’s two solo narratives from the first act of Die Walküre. In “Der Männer Sippe,” the tale of the sword lodged in the tree, she seemed to induce more vibrato than voice. She carried the lyrical line of “Der bist der Lenz” but her high notes were harsh and wobbly. Hindoyan effectively contoured the restless orchestral underscoring.

Heidi Melton

Against a backdrop of blazing red, “The Ride of the Valkyries” resounded to electrifying effect under Hindoyan’s taut, fleet tempos. Six horns and four trumpets emblazoned the expanded brass section. While the “Magic Fire Music” benefited from the orchestra’s rich tonal spectrum, Hindoyan’s overly literal approach lacked the magisterial depth for this conclusion of the second Ring opera.

Following intermission, conducting fellow Chad Goodman took the podium for “Forest Murmurs” from Siegfried. Matamoros’ projection of a clearing in the woods perfectly accompanied the musical tints of this atmospheric excerpt. Goodman led a subtly inflected reading. Taking the voice of the offstage coloratura soprano in the opera, the solo flute sparkled. Goodman built the sonic painting to a jubilant climax.

Three excerpts from Die Gotterdämmerung concluded the afternoon in stirring fashion. The layered orchestral strands of “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” culminated in an aural sunburst. In passages both stirring and darkly evocative, the wind section was highly distinguished. The distinctive sonority of four Wagner tubas embellished “Siegfried’s Death and Funeral Music.” Climaxes registered with shattering impact.

Melton returned a seemingly different singer for “Brünnhilde’s Immolation.” She scaled Wagner’s orchestral volleys and clearly delineated the fierce declamatory pages. Her tone turned radiant as Brünnhilde recalls Siegfried’s innocence and betrayal. Suggesting the opera’s drama, Melton removed the ring from her finger as her top tones rang out in firm fashion to summon Loge and the flames that will destroy the gods and Valhalla. Hindoyan astutely controlled the ebb and flow of Wagner’s instrumental invention. As the concluding theme of a new dawn arose from the strings, the conductor brought down the volume for a restrained conclusion.

Considering the scarcity of Wagner performances in South Florida, the New World is to be commended for this ambitiously conceived program. One hopes they will follow up with more highlights from the Wagner canon, perhaps even concert versions of complete acts from some of the operas.

Members of the New World Symphony and the International Contemporary Ensemble play the world premieres of Sofia Rocha’s Chains, Rope and Vertebrae, Fernanda Aoki Navarro’s Unnoticed Spectacles II and George Lewis’ Artificial Life 2007, along with Brahms’ Chorale Preludes and Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, 2 p.m. March 26 at the New World Center in Miami Beach.

Posted in Performances

2 Responses to “New World Symphony presents a rare program of Wagner’s “Ring” music”

  1. Posted Mar 21, 2023 at 4:27 pm by Maurice Laszlo

    Mr. Budman Thank you for a clear,insightful and informative review of the NWS performance of Wagner’s Ring music. It was most illuminating and appreciated!

  2. Posted Mar 21, 2023 at 5:04 pm by Wendy Rothfield

    Spectacular, spectacular performance by the NWS and soloist.

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