AntonacciWhile D.C. Wagnerians wait for Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde to arrive next week, “Trove Thursday” presents the erstwhile Valkyrie of another compelling diva: Anna Caterina Antonacci as Brunehild, the heroine of Ernest Reyer’s Sigurd, a French grand opera also based on the Nibelungenlied.

The fascinating Antonacci recently collaborated with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the Wesendonck Lieder, but she hasn’t yet ventured any Wagner heroines. However, in 2013 she headlined this rare concert performance in Geneva of Sigurd opposite rising tenor Andrea Carè in the title role.

Although Sigurd had to wait until 1884 for its first performance in Brussels, it was completed well before then and was thus written contemporaneously with some of Wagner’s Ring. The plot of Götterdammerung mirrors that of Reyer’s work, although Hilda (Sigurd’s Gutrune) is a much more active player and Attila (!) hovers off-stage.

The opera quickly reached the United States in 1891, but it has never been performed at the Met although one of Sigurd’s arias was sung by tenor Albert Saléza at an 1899 concert. I’ve been unable to track down the date or location of the most recent US performance of Sigurd, but it might be an ideal work for Leon Botstein to revive at Bard SummerScape.

There was a brief burst of interest in Sigurd in France in the mid-1990s when it was performed in Montpellier with Chris Merritt in the title role and then in Marseille with Françoise Pollet as Brunehild. It was staged just last year in Erfurt, but otherwise Reyer’s ambitious opera remains best known—if at all—via excerpts recorded by singers from Georges Thill and Germaine Lubin to Régine Crespin to Roberto Alagna and Bryan Hymel. A complete French radio performance from the early 1970s conducted by Manuel Rosenthal and featuring Andrea Guiot, Guy Chauvet and Robert Massard has circulated over the years on both tape and CD.

Reyer: Sigurd
8 October 2013

Brunehild: Anna Caterina Antonacci
Hilda: Anne Sophie Duprels
Uta: Marie-Ange Todorovitch
Sigurd: Andrea Carè
Gunther: Boris Pinkhasovich
Hagen: Tijl Faveyts
Un prêtre d’Odin: Khachik Matevosyan
Un barde: Nicolas Courjal
Rudiger: Nicolas Carré

Orchestre de la Suisse Romande

Conductor: Frédéric Chaslin

As befits an epic, Sigurd is over two-and-a-half hours long, so if you want to download it or last week’s Purcell-fest with Scholl and Jaroussky, just go to this link in iTunes or find them via any RSS reader.