Getting Ready For Siegfried: Burkhard Fritz returns as Wagner’s superhero in Lyric’s RING cycle
It’s always exciting at Lyric to present the debut of a major star, and it’s doubly exciting when that company debut is also a role debut. Burkhard Fritz is the latest example: the celebrated German tenor introduced himself to our audience last fall with his triumphant first performances of the title role of Wagner’s Siegfried. In 2019/20 he’ll portray the same character in Götterdämmerung (another role debut), followed by the three complete Ring cycles.
The adolescent hero of Siegfried is a real vocal marathon. “The main thing with such a huge role is pacing,” notes Burkhard — as the opera is about five hours long and he’s onstage for most of it! He’s lucky that he can learn music easily, “but the young Siegfried is musically so complicated. Learning and memorizing took at least three months, and the whole preparation of the role — letting it settle down in the body — took over a year.”
There are some moments in the role where, as Burkhard says, “You just have to go for it.” One of them is the very orchestra-heavy Forging Song in Act One of Siegfried, “which is so loud and so exhausting. But you need to take the voice to its limit, while keeping in mind that you have two more acts to go!”
In Lyric’s production Siegfried is very much the child, sporting shorts, polo shirt, and sneakers. Burkhard relishes playing the youthfulness of the role, “and of course, I also look forward to the dragon scene in Act Two – we have this huge inflatable dragon! And the duet with Brünnhilde is something to look forward to. In every act there’s something you’re really waiting for.”
A priority for any tenor singing Siegfried, Burkhard included, is maintaining the energy needed for this marathon role. It’s important to Burkhard to get as much sleep as possible. When he was here for the Siegfried performances, “I went for some long walks at the lake to get lots of oxygen. And of course, eating well is essential – lots of protein and fresh vegetables and fruits. Food of good quality is crucial, and not talking too much is also important to relax the vocal cords.”
Burkhard can’t wait to return to Lyric for the Ring. He adored being in Chicago, and looks forward especially to being reunited with his colleagues from Siegfried. “We had a cast that became a small family. [Director] David Pountney and the whole production team were so well prepared. David left the space open for us to move inside his great plan. If a director knows what he wants to see but then lets the singer fill the space, that’s what I really enjoy.”