Wagner's ideas about Eternal Womanhood irk me deeply. However, I have to give him credit for creating some female characters I love. Sieglinde is one of them: her Act I journey from cowed misery "wo Unheil im Hause wohnt" to the delirious ecstasy of "Sieglinde bin ich!" makes me want to stand up and cheer. Of course, she hardly has an easy time of it in the rest of the opera. But I love her ferocity, even in despair; she may be close to insanity, but she's still powerful. Even her "Fern von Siegmund! Siegmund ferne!" seems to me to have far more of the wounded tigress than the damsel in distress (or, to use more contemporary terminology, the codependent female.) And she's had some great interpreters, wild-eyed Altmeyer and the regal Jessye Norman being among my (strikingly unoriginal) favorites. Having heard and seen my adored Waltraud Meier in the Met's '08-'09 Ring, I was a little depressed thinking about the fact that whoever the Sieglinde for next season's Walkuere would be, it wouldn't be her. Here she is at La Scala in 1994:
And here she is in Act III from the same production. How could anyone else fail to be a disappointment? (I do realize that I'm biased, here... but I love her, and the Sieglinde she gave last season remains in my personal shortlist of the best and most moving performances I've seen.) And how in the world could any Sieglinde who was not Waltraud Meier fail to be overshadowed by her highly-anticipated Siegmund? I was encouraged to find that Eva-Maria Westbroek, a name unfamiliar to me (which probably should count as a Really Shameful Confession), had sung a widely popular Sieglinde. An interview (which I inexplicably can't find again; sorry) left me with the impression that she was smart and feisty. So I took the YouTube plunge.
All right, I'm excited. That is a fierce Sieglinde (the ecstasy escalates here.) And that (even on YouTube, through my laptop speakers) is an amazing sound. And she's beautiful. Dear God, please let her and Herr Kaufmann be in good voice when I go to hear them; please have the production leave these talented actors scope; and please let them both keep their own hair. Amen.