American bass-baritone Simon Estes was Seattle Opera’s first black Wagnerian, when he sang Hagen in the company’s third complete “Ring” cycle in 1977. The following year, Estes would make his Bayreuth debut, as the Flying Dutchman; later Wagner roles for Estes include Landgraf Hermann in “Tannhäuser,” King Henry in “Lohengrin,” King Marke in “Tristan und Isolde,” Amfortas in “Parsifal,” and Wotan in “The Ring.” His Met career included such highlights as singing Amonasro at Leontyne Price’s farewell appearance as Aida, and singing Porgy in the belated Met premiere of Gershwin’s masterpiece.
Here, from Estes’ 1977 Seattle appearance, from the English-language performance, Hagen summons the Gibich Vassals:
HAGEN: No one follows them. They're alone.
VASSALS: Then his danger is past? And his fight has been one? Tell us all!
HAGEN: The worm-killer brought him a bride; Siegfried, his friend, saved him from harm!
VASSALS: Then why have you called us together?
HAGEN: Sacred oxen shall be slaughtered; on Wotan's altar pour forth their blood.
VASSALS: Then, Hagen, what would you have us do?
HAGEN: Take a lusty he-goat, kill it for Froh; and a bull in its prime, strike down for Donner; sheep shall then be slaughtered Fricka, that good and gracious lady.
VASSALS(with increasing hilarity): After these offerings, what next should we do?
HAGEN: The drinkhorns take, and ask your women to fill them with wine till they are full!
VASSALS: Our drinkhorns in hand, what ought we then to do?
HAGEN: Seize them, and drink till you can drink no more! All the gods we honor, and they will grant us their blessing!
VASSALS: Glad times have come, come to the Rhine, when Hagen, grim Hagen, with laughter can shine! Our hedge's thorn pricks us no more; our bridal herald calls us to wine!
Translation by Andrew Porter. Henry Holt conducts the chorus and orchestra of Seattle Opera. Photo by Chris Bennion.