The production places the “Ring” in the metaverse, with Valhalla as a digital creation whose back story is recounted by Sigourney Weaver in a video introduction. Having a queen of sci-fi make this cameo is among the show’s campy touches, like Carlos J. Soto’s winking costumes, which suggest “Tron” and its low-budget cousins of the 1970s and ’80s.
On the bifurcated stage, singers (accompanied by Andrew Davis leading a reduced but undiminished orchestration by David Carp, to accommodate the theater’s smaller pit) perform in front of the green screen — on green props, and supported by stage hands in green body suits, who, for example, wave capes during the “Ride of the Valkyries.” At the same time, the film, which reflects changes in scale and placement on a digital landscape, is shown above. The singers, especially the soprano Christine Goerke, still earning her title as a reigning Brünnhilde, rise to the challenge of the close-ups with actorly delivery; she, facing an indefinite slumber atop a mountain as punishment, sobs with audibly shallow breathing.
At quick glance, Sharon’s production has the appearance of window dressing; the action ultimately unfolds in a conventional way. But, as ever, the medium is the message.
“The Valkyries” could be seen as a meditation on opera in the 21st century: the proliferation of video in stagings, as well as pandemic-era livestreams and the genre of studio productions that grew out of them. What, now, is a live performance? Sharon provokes a tension of perception, with the eye and ear unsure of whether to focus on the singers or the screen. What is lost, and gained, in their interplay? He doesn’t offer an answer so much as lay out a balance sheet that the audience is left to settle.
If Sharon does make a case, it’s for the durability of an opera’s essence. No matter the format, “Walküre” is a rending portrait of love, family and regret; Sunday’s performance wasn’t any different. And, as in “Fiddler,” the emotional core of “The Valkyries” was drawn out in a way that was unforced and honest, yet stylistically distinct. New York would be lucky to have either show.