|Christine Goerke, right, rehearsing with Swedish soprano Elisabet Strid.|
If you are daunted at the prospect of sitting through five hours of Wagner, imagine performing it on stage.
Picture leaping from rock to rock, dressed in armor, crying "Ho-yo-to-ho," then singing, in German, in tune, and loud enough to be heard over a 93-piece orchestra all the way in the back row of the Civic Opera house 212 feet away.
Contemplate doing what soprano Christine Goerke does night after night in "Die Walküre," which opens Nov. 1 at Lyric Opera of Chicago.
"It's very much like running a marathon," said Goerke, relaxing after a recent rehearsal for the second part of Richard Wagner's epic "Ring Cycle" that Lyric began last year. "I will be on stage about three hours. It's very physical."
Described by one top critic as "now arguably the finest Wagnerian soprano in the world," Goerke in person is whatever the opposite of a diva is: warm, easy-going, quick to laugh, a reminder that when she isn't traveling the world singing opera, she is a New Jersey mother of two girls, married to a construction superintendent.
"They are the love of my life," she said.
Goerke sings Brünnhilde, the most recognized character in opera. When Bugs Bunny dons a winged helmet with braids, he is parodying Brünnhilde.
"The huge lady with the braids," as Goerke describes her. "A stereotype we are fighting right and left."
It's a stereotype that, like Bugs, is 75 years old, harkening back to the "park and bark" days when enormous sopranos stood on one spot and belted out arias. While Wagnerian singers can still be large — Goerke is 6 foot and generously proportioned — they also must be fit. Goerke bristled only once in our conversation, when I suggested that her character evokes the adage, "The opera ain't over until the fat lady sings."
"No. Absolutely not," she said. "I am busting my ass to try to be healthy."
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