Character Inspiration

Back to Notes From Valhalla

By Francesca Zambello (Director)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Singers and actors prepare for roles in many different ways and our Ring cast is no different. Of course, there are many great sources through the Nordic legends, but sometimes it is helpful to see things that are more connected to contemporary life. I find that it is often helpful for people to watch films, read books or look at artwork to experience more deeply the essence of a character they are playing. Sometimes operatic inspiration can come from unusual places.
 
Here is a list of various sources of inspiration I gave to a number of performers in our Ring cycle.
 
The Rheinmaidens (Woglinde, Wellgunde and Flosshilde), performed by Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese and Renée Tatum: Paintings by Alfred Bierstadt, Thomas Cole and other Hudson River School artists. [Above: Albert Bierstadt, Merced River, Yosemite Valley, 1866]
 
Hunding, performed by Daniel Sumegi: Deliverance, the 1972 American film starring Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty based on the 1970 novel of the same name by American author James Dickey.
 
Hunding, performed by Daniel Sumegi: In Cold Blood, the1966 book by American author Truman Capote detailing the brutal 1959 murders of Kansas farmer Herbert Clutter, his wife and two of their children. Right: The original book cover for In Cold Blood]
 
Wotan and Fricka, performed by Mark Delavan and Larissa Diadkova: Citizen Kane, the 1941 American film, directed by and starring Orson Welles as Charles Foster Kane, a character based on the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.
 
The Wanderer (Wotan), performed by Mark Delavan: Early John Malkovich films such as The Glass Menagerie, Dangerous Liaisons and The Object of Beauty.
 
The Wanderer (Wotan) and Erda, performed by Mark Delavan and Ronnita Miller:
Coming Home, the 1978 film starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight and Bruce Dern; the plot follows a love triangle between a young woman, her Marine husband and the paralyzed Vietnam War veteran she meets while her husband is overseas.
 
The Gods (Wotan, Fricka, Freia, Donner, Froh, Erda, Loge and the Norns), performed by Mark Delavan, Larissa Diadkova, Gerd Grochowski, Brandon Jovanovich, Ronnita Miller, Stefan Margita, Daveda Karanas and Heidi Melton: Ayn Rand novels, specifically The Fountainhead, the philosopher and author’s first major literary success, published in 1943. [Above: The original book cover for The Fountainhead]
 
The Gibichungs (Gunther, Gutrune and Hagen, their half-brother), performed by Gerd Grochowski, Melissa Citro and Andrea Silvestrelli: They Shoot Horses Don't They, the 1969 American film directed by Sydney Pollack based on the 1935 novel of the same name by Horace McCoy. [Right: Michael Sarrazin as Robert Syverton and Jane Fonda as Gloria Beatty in the 1969 film]
 
Gutrune, performed by Melissa Citro: The Handmaid's Tale, the 1985 book by Margaret Atwood which was adapted for a 1990 film starring Natasha Richardson. [Left: The theatrical release poster for the 1990 film]