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Classical Music

Wagnerian Tenor Lance Ryan: 'We're all Siegfried'

To Canadian tenor hero Lance Ryan, Richard Wagner's 'Siegfried' is like an alter ego, which he can once again embody in a new staging of the 'Ring' at the Richard Wagner Festival.

DW: You're running a real Siegfried marathon this year - singing the part at various venues and in different productions. How do you keep them straight?

Lance Ryan: Yes, in this Wagner anniversary year, there are five different "Ring" productions. That's unique. I don't think there have ever been so many at once, and it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Each production, of course, has its own special characteristics. The role always the same, but as a singer, you always try to add a special touch to each staging.

Can you remember the first time you sang Siegfried? Or your first encounter with Wagner?

My first Wagner role was Siegmund, but I sang Siegfried shortly afterwards. And now, it's the eleventh time I'm singing Siegfried here in Bayreuth! But I always integrate new aspects into my interpretation of the figure.

That really must influence your life. Do you end up "becoming" the character at some point?

Yes. To viewers, Siegfried is Lance Ryan and Lance Ryan is Siegfried. I also associate certain moments of my life with certain productions. And just as I develop as a person, so too does "my" Siegfried develop. For me, it's quite clear that one identifies with the role - and experiences the ups and downs - in different productions.

Ryan has performed the 'Siegfried' role many times, such as here at the Frankfurt Opera 
Copyright: Monika Ritershaus/Oper Frankfurt/ dpa/lhe

Ryan has performed the 'Siegfried' role many times, such as here at the Frankfurt Opera

With this being your eleventh time in Bayreuth, what's special to you about this place?

When I think of Bayreuth, I always have Richard Wagner's vision in mind: the art of the future. The people here are trying to turn these ideas into reality. Here you have a lot of time to think things over and completely focus on art. You think about what Richard Wagner actually wanted, what he wrote, what he meant to say and what does it mean to us today? The protagonists in Wagner's operas are so rich and so fundamental. They give you a lot to think about - for people individually and in society. I really appreciate that.

How do you see Siegfried?

I think that, although Siegfried is "a bad guy," one should also see his innocence. He doesn't know any better; he can't behave any other way. He has no roots: he doesn't know where he came from, doesn't know his mother or father. He's never known love, and doesn't know how to deal with Brünnhilde's love. He's just unaware, and unfair things have happened to him. That's why it's important to portray him as a human being. A human being, just like everyone else - and not as the most amazing hero in the world. As a person with flaws. And, I think that is what Wagner wanted to say: "We're all Siegfried."

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