April 01, 2021

Christine Goerke on singing the Ring

The Dallas Morning News has hailed soprano Christine Goerke as “the Brünnhilde of dreams." Goerke is no stranger to Wagner, having played the role at Lyric in both Die Walküre (2017/18) and Siegfried (2018/19), and in the full Ring cycle at the Metropolitan Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, Houston Grand Opera, and the Edinburgh International Festival. As she steps into Brünnhilde once again for Lyric's Twilight: Gods, here is what she has to say about singing the Ring

Goerke as Brünnhilde in Lyric's Die Walküre (2017/18).

The Walküre Brünnhilde is essentially “a mezzo role with a couple of high notes,” says the American soprano. The middle voice is especially vital in the opening of the final scene with Wotan, “which is so stark and also so plaintive at the same time.” Goerke loves embodying this Brünnhilde’s youthfulness (“she’s a serious tomboy”). In the final scene “Brünnhilde is upset, but she still loves Wotan. I’ve always said this is the great love story of the cycle. Although she loves Siegfried, that was never the same kind of connection—two halves of the same being.” 

Brünnhilde’s music in Siegfried lies higher, which helps to characterize her: “Where I place my voice in that tessitura creates a more silvery color. Wagner gives you something completely different in the lyricism and the joyful exuberance.” The soprano relishes showing Brünnhilde’s apprehension when wooed by Siegfried. “For someone who’s been so brave as a Valkyrie to find this as frightening as she does—that’s a big step, and such a human reaction.”

The Götterdämmerung Brünnhilde is Goerke’s favorite. “I liken it to Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, which sounds crazy, but it’s got the two-and-a-half octaves, it requires agility in places, and the ability to sing a very lyric line high up or down low.” In the characterization, “it’s amazing to see the culmination of everything that her soul drives her towards. In her we see her father’s fury, but also her mother Erda's wisdom.” 

Goerke as Brünnhilde in Lyric's Siegfried (2018/19).

Edited from an interview with Roger Pines, Dramaturg, Lyric Opera of Chicago.

This was written for publication in the Ring cycle program, 2019/20 season.

Header photo: Christine Goerke/Brünnhilde and Brandon Jovanovich/Siegmund in Lyric's 2017/18 production of Die Walküre. Credit: Cory Weaver

All other photos: Todd Rosenberg, Cory Weaver