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EVERYDAY PEOPLE : In 'Walkure,' Wagner's Music-Drama, the Characters Behave Like Actual Humans

March 03, 1994|CHRIS PASLES | Chris Pasles covers classical music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition.

Some audiences are intimidated by the length and complexity of Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen." But "Die Walkure" is "the most accessible" of the four music-dramas that make up the "Ring" cycle, according to soprano Jane Eaglen, who will sing the title role of "Walkure" for Opera Pacific starting Friday.

"Most of what the characters do is actually quite human, and though the events are not everyday occurrences, the characters behave in the way that humans behave," Eaglen said.

"Plus, it's got one bit that everybody knows. There isn't anybody in the world who doesn't know the 'Ride of the Valkyries.' "

Eaglen sees Brunnhilde--called "Wagner's noblest creation" by Gustave Kobbe in his authoritative opera book--as "about 15 years old. I like to try to portray her as a young girl who has a lot of growing up to do before the end of the 'Ring.'

"You have to think of that, that the character actually progresses much more than just in this opera, though in this opera she really has to be seen to have a long way to go. She has to grow up considerably by the end."

In "Walkure," Brunnhilde is one of nine daughters of the chief god Wotan. The daughters are called Valkyries, who fly through the air bearing the bodies of dead heroes to Valhalla, the paradise of the gods. There, the warriors are revived to guard the place.

Sent by Wotan to inform the brave Siegmund that he is destined to die in battle but be borne up to Valhalla afterward, Brunnhilde is stunned when he refuses the heavenly offer in order to stay with Sieglinde, the woman he loves.

"The whole thing is a real shock to her," Eaglen continued, "because she's never come across this before. She can't believe that he doesn't want to come.

"It's like she says, 'It's great, we have a great time, there are all my sisters and it's wonderful and you'll love it.' And he goes, 'Well, that's not what I want. What I want is this . . . '

"And because of her own innate intelligence she's able to appreciate what he's saying and make a decision based on her own feelings, which is a new thing for her. She goes against the strongest influence in her life--her father."

Touched by pity, she vows to aid Siegmund in the battle. But Wotan himself intervenes, kills Siegmund and then sets off to punish the disobedient Brunnhilde, who has fled with Sieglinde, who is pregnant with Siegmund's child, who will become the peerless hero Siegfried.

Remember, there are still two more music-dramas to complete the story. . . .

In the final great scene of "Walkure," Wotan catches up with Brunnhilde. She pleads with him, and after a profoundly moving farewell to her, he punishes her by putting her into a deep sleep from which she can be awakened--and wed--only by a hero who can penetrate a ring of fire he places around her.

"And there she is fast asleep for however long it is before Siegfried comes along in the next music-drama," Eaglen said.

What: Opera Pacific presents Wagner's "Die Walkure."

When: Friday, March 4, and March 10, 12 and 18 at 7 p.m.; March 20 at 2 p.m.

Where: The Orange County Performing Arts Center, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Whereabouts: Take the San Diego (405) Freeway to Bristol Avenue and head north to Town Center Drive. Take a right.

Wherewithal: $15 to $75 (student and senior rush: $15 for unsold seats one hour prior to curtain).

Where to call: (714) 556-2787.

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