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2/6/2012 9:03:00 AM
Wagner's Götterdämmerung screens in Sedona
Texas tenor Jay Hunter Morris reflects on his role
Deborah Voigt reteams with Jay Hunter Morris in Wagner's opera Götterdämmerung.
Deborah Voigt reteams with Jay Hunter Morris in Wagner's opera Götterdämmerung.

The Met: Live in HD continues at the Sedona Performing Arts Center 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, with Richard Wagner's epic opera Götterdämmerung starring the most important names in opera today. The Sedona performance of The Met: Live in HD is made possible by support from Dr. Ronald Krug.

Wrapping up Wagner's 15-hour, four-part Ring des Nibelungen, the Twilight of the Gods presents the betrayal and death of the lovers Siegfried and Brünnhilde, the latter dying in the famous Immolation Scene which depicts the destruction of Valhalla, the fall of the gods, and the return of the ring to the Rhinemaidens, ending this immense musical work. Deborah Voigt and Jay Hunter Morris again sing the roles of the lovers Brünnhilde and Siegfired. Eric Owens is Alberich, Hans-Peter König is Hagen and noted soprano Waltraud Meier appears as Waltraute. The Met's Principal Guest Conductor Fabio Luisi is on the podium.

In a recent interview with Texas Tenor Jay Hunter Morris and The Met's Charles Sheek, Morris reflects on his role as Siegfried.

Siegfried is notorious as one of the hardest roles for a tenor. What are the musical challenges?

"You know, all that talk about the toughest tenor part in the world-I don't really think that way. Once the curtain goes up and the lights come on, it's about telling a story. But in all honesty, on a scale from 1 to 10 Siegfried is a 10 and Götterdämmerung is a 9. They're both very long evenings with a big orchestra and a lot of big moments. For me the challenge is to sing with my most beautiful sound and to not get knocked off balance by the intensity of the drama."

How have you been preparing for this final step on your Ring journey?

"I've been working on the Ring a lot for the past three years, beginning in 2009 in Seattle as a cover and then in LA and San Francisco, where I sang Siegfried for the first time. So I feel confident about Götterdämmerung. I've spent a lot of time thinking about what is important and what part of the story you want to focus on."

How do you see the character developing from one opera to the next?

"A significant amount of time passes between the end of Siegfried and the beginning of Götterdämmerung. Brünnhilde finally says, Okay, I've taught you everything and I understand that you have to go out and see the rest of the world. He is eager to go and see what's out there. After he leaves Brünnhilde, everyone always talks about his betrayal and how he has forgotten her and their love, but the truth is that he was drugged! I feel like Siegfried's innocence is still intact because he is not a willing participant in that betrayal. That's why his death scene is so poignant for me. Those few minutes are my favorite part of the Ring. It was the first thing that I learned when it came time to get serious about studying the role. It is so beautiful and so heartbreaking. He suddenly realizes what has happened, how Brünnhilde has been hurt, and how wonderful their relationship had once been. I want to try and keep some part of his innocence throughout Götterdämmerung."

You'll be reuniting with Deborah Voigt. Tell me about working with her.

"I think Debbie and I are from the same tribe. She's so easy to work with and there is an ease of communication. When we did Siegfried, she looked me in the face and we both knew. It was very easy to sing those scenes with her. And she is so beautiful and her singing is so expressive-I feel so fortunate to sing with Debbie Voigt and share the stage with her. She makes me better, she makes me more relaxed. Believe me, that's not always the case!"

In the spring you'll be singing Siegfried and Götterdämmerung back to back. Does that change the way you approach a performance or look at the character?

"I've been thinking about this a lot. But when that downbeat comes, I will be into it. From the first note to the last, I sing every note as best I can. That's what happened with Siegfried-I felt strong at the end because I was cognizant of what I was doing from the start. A lot of people are saying I'm just beginning to burst onto the scene, but let me tell you, I've been working toward this moment for 20 years! You can't just burst onto the scene as Siegfried. There are no shortcuts. Four years ago I wouldn't have been ready to take the steps I've taken this past year. It's as if everything came together and I am so very grateful. I feel prepared. When the call came and Peter Gelb asked me if I could do this, I could honestly look him in the face and say, 'Yes, I am ready.'"

Chamber Music Sedona is northern Arizona's exclusive licensee of The Met: Live in H and its series includes two unique components: the Sedona Performing Arts Center has a state of the art surround-sound system. Additionally, the popular "Curtain Raiser" pre-opera lectures continue to grow in attendance and popularity. Feb. 11's talk, 8:45-9:30 a.m., is presented by Russell Fox, President of the Northern League of Arizona, who with his wife Virginia relocated to Sedona in April 2010.

"We're not actually newcomers at all." Fox explains, "In 1969, right after finishing my graduate work at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, I was hired to be the Music Teacher at Verde Valley School. With my wife, an operatic soprano, the school actually got two music teachers for the price of one. Although we were completely in love with both Sedona and VVS, after two years we sadly realized we needed the musical opportunities that only a larger city could offer, so we moved to Los Angeles. We also knew even then that one day, when the time was right, we would return to our heart's home, here in Sedona."Fox recalls, "My love of opera crystallized at a Met Opera performance of Puccini's Tosca in the late '60s in Cleveland, Ohio. Back in those days, the Metropolitan Opera actually went out on tour every year. During that one electrifying evening I was completely transfixed by a veritable 'dream cast' that included tenor Franco Corelli, baritone Robert Merrill, and the legendary soprano Renata Tebaldi in the title role. I haven't yet recovered from that performance, and I hope I never do."

"My wife and I were so delighted with the Curtain Raiser talk," said Ben DeYoung whose wife Georgia is Chairman of Programs at the Guggenheim Estate at the Sands Point Preserve. The depth of understanding by the lecturer was spellbinding. We had no idea that on our visit to Sedona would be blessed with The Met: Live in HD. To have this kind of program in a small rural town is a real coup. We'll be back as we plan our next Sedona stay to coincide with The Met."

Tickets for the opera and series may be purchased on line at www.ChamberMusicSedona.org. Reserved tickets are $22 and general admission $20. Students are $10 and available the day of the opera. Opera Lunches must be purchased in advance also on line. Patrons may also order tickets and lunch by call (928) 204-2415.


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