Soft Valkyrie - podcast series

22 July 2021
Soft Valkyrie cover

Electronic version of Wagner's masterpiece

Wagner's Die Walküre with a twist. That's David Kanaga's Soft Valkyrie. The American composer and game designer presents Wagner's monumental opera in its entirety in an electronic version. The leading roles are performed by singers from widely differing disciplines, including a rapper, a death metal singer and a Wagner legend. None other than Stephen Fry narrates Wagner's very own extensive stage directions. Close your eyes, listen and let your imagination do the rest.

Electronic version of Wagner's masterpiece

Captivating radio play

Although Kanaga follows Wagner's notes and storyline meticulously, his background in gaming can be heard through the use of electronic instruments and sound effects full of humor, drama and mysticism. The roles are sung by an atypical cast: from classically trained singers like Claron McFadden and Nadine Secunde to demonic Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar and Ghanaian rapper Bryan the Mensah. The result is intimate and lighter than the original. Soft, in other words. Stephen Fry's reading of Wagner's stage directions renders Die Walküre into a true radio play, so that the entire drama takes place in the listener's imagination. 


Een schouwspel voor de oren

Kanaga uses an English translation of the libretto for Soft Valkyrie. While Wagner approached his operas as a Gesamtkunstwerk, Kanaga has chosen the form of a podcast, a spectacle for the ears.

In his adaptation, based on the piano reduction of Wagner's score, the extremes of volume are reduced to the level of soft speech. The singers, in part deliberately cast from outside the opera world, use no vibrato, and sing with the clearest possible pronunciation. Wagner's very own stage directions are read aloud as narrative. Actions are suggested by sound effects. The orchestra has given way to a broad spectrum of sounds sampled and composed electronically. In this way, Kanaga creates an intimate dream world in which listeners can immerse themselves.

The Story

Die Walküre, the second opera of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen tells the story of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde, who are separated at a young age. Years later, Siegmund seeks shelter with his sister, while her husband Hunding is away. The two do not recognise each other and are strongly attracted to each other. On his return, Hunding challenges Siegmund to a duel.

Brünnhilde is the daughter of the supreme god Wotan, and one of the Walküren - goddesses who accompany fallen warriors to the afterlife. When Wotan orders her to make sure that Siegmund loses the fight because of his incestuous relationship with Sieglinde, she chooses to help Siegmund instead.

Nevertheless, the fight ends in his death. Wotan punishes Brünnhilde for her disobedience by imprisoning her in a mountain, which is surrounded by a ring of fire.

Soft Valkyrie - podcast series

Episode 1: Familiar Strangers

Episode 2: The Master of the House

Episode 3: No Escape

Episode 4: Kisses in the Night

Episode 5: Wotan & Brunhilde

Episode 6: Fricka

Episode 7: Wolf's Lore 1

Episode 8: Wolf's Lore 2

Episode 9: Brother & Sister, the Morning After

Episode 10: The Annunciation of Death

Episode 11: Battle

Episode 12: The other Valkyries

Episode 13: Wotan's Rage, etc

Episode 14: Twilight Part 1

Episode 15: Twilight Part 2

Episode 16: Farewell, Magic Fire

Soft Valkyrie - podcast series and sheet music

Soft Valkyrie thumbnail

Information and credits

Music and libretto  Richard Wagner
Composition, MIDI-arrangements  David Kanaga
English translation  Frederick Jameson
Dramaturgy  Laura Roling

Siegmund  Bryan the Mensah
Sieglinde  Hailey Clark
Hunding  Attila Csihar
Wotan  Mattijs van de Woerd
Fricka  Nadine Secunde
Brünnhilde  Claron McFadden
Mercedes Arcuri (Gerhilde, Helmwige)
Clara Nadesdin (Ortlinde, Siegrune)
Weronika Rabek (Waltraute, Grimgerde)
Monika Walerowicz (Rossweisse, Schwertleite)

MIDI Piano, act 1  Marc Evanstein
MIDI Piano, act 2 and 3 Ernst Munneke 

Casting  David Kanaga, Christian Carlstedt

Commissioned and co-produced by  Holland Festival, Dutch National Opera, Staatsoper Hannover

With the support of  NTR Radio 4

Special thanks to  Sound department Staatstheater Hannover, Soho Square Studios London, Jochem Valkenburg

Credits image: © David Kanaga, Jaap Dankert, Muhammad Desta Laksana, Danika Perkinson