War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
June 15, 2018

Siegfried can sometimes be seen as the Ring’s scherzo, the leaven in a symphonic cycle that will reach its weighty conclusion five hours later in the seething emotional mass of Götterdämmerung. Francesca Zambello’s provocative take on Wagner’s ‘Second Day’ has its share of humour, to be sure, but the atmosphere is frequently bleak, the story telling sharply focussed on the price of unconstrained industrial development, parental dysfunction, love – or more often the lack of it – and humanity’s tendency to embrace violence and revenge.

Daniel Brenna as Siegfried and Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde. Photo © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

It’s the 1960s, and the world has taken another turn for the worse. The virgin forests of America have been decimated – S. Katy Tucker’s involving video shows Californian redwoods – their logs carted across the country to power an unchecked manufacturing boom whose acrid by-products clog rivers and streams. Mime and Siegfried swig beer in a classic 1950s broken down trailer plonked in the middle of a fetid-looking scrap heap. The wily dwarf is presumably siphoning the power for his forge from the oppressive...