Thursday, 4 October 2012

DAS RHEINGOLD at Royal Opera House, 2 Oct 2012

Richard Wagner; DAS RHEINGOLD

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 2 October 2012



WOGLINDE                                                           Nadine Livingston
WELLGUNDE                                                       Kai Rúútel
FLOSSHILDE                                                        Harriet Williams

ALBERICH                                                             Wolfgang Koch

WOTAN                                                                  Bryn Terfel
FRICKA                                                                 Sarah Connolly

FREIA                                                                     Ann Petersen
FROH                                                                     Andrew Rees
DONNER                                                               Peter Coleman-Wright 
LOGE                                                                     Stig Andersen    

MIME                                                                      Gerhard Siegel

ERDA                                                                      Maria Radner

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House


Director:                                  KEITH WARNER
Associate Director:              WALTER SUTCLIFFE
First Assistant Directors:    JUSTIN WAY and MICHAEL CSAR

A very good start to the second Ring Cycle. The house lights dimmed, and the E flat chord sounded from the darkness - I love the fact the opera starts as it were 'from nothing', without the conductor coming on to the poduim - Pappano waits for the applause till the end - and fully deserved the enthusiastic applause that greeted him! He led a wonderful team, the orchestra at the peak of its form, Pappano always managed to 'get under the skin' of Wagner's music and reach into the nuances of the score - I especially loved the transitions from the mysterious depths of the Rhine to the ethearal heights of Valhalla, the music really shimmered! (Valhalla didn't LOOK very ethereal, but I'll get to that!!)
The Wotan of Bryn Terfel was well matched with Wolfganf Koch's Alberich, the two arch-rivals ALMOST equal in stature, although Wotan seems to have won - for the moment.....but an interesting note was added at the end, when he decides NOT to lead the others into Valhalla, but instead.....descends into the bowels of the Earth to consult Erda. (Not sure who on the production team made this decision - it's perhaps a bit premature? ) Here are Wotan and Alberich literally head-to-head!!

At the beginning, before Alberich steals the gold, he seems almost tentative, but grows in power and malevolence in the Nibelheim scene; Mime (Gerhard Siegel) is almost his match in malevolence, but lacks the tragic grandeur that makes Alberich a distant cousin of Milton's Satan.

Stig Andersen as Loge sang well but perhaps didn't quite embody Loge's tricksy, ironic wit as much as one could have wished - he wasn't bad, but there seemed to be something lacking- perhaps he just needs. I found Sarah Connolly a wonderful Fricka - beautiful mezzo sound, and also intelligent characterisation; in Rheingold, she and Wotan are still not completely at odds, although obviously all is not well, ut she still hopes at this stage that she hasn't completely lost him. She and Freia are wearing very elegant Edwardian tea-gowns.

I will say a few words about the staging, starting with Fricka's costume! It lends itself to an interesting piece of stage business - Fasolt at one point goes to sit in a chair - and Fricka realises, with horror, that she has LEFT HER OVERDRESS ON IT - and the dirty PLEB is GOING TO SIT ON IT!!! She retrieves it as hastily as possible....the giants are characterised differently, with Fasolt (Iain Paterson) as the worker, in a cloth cap and working clothes, and Fafner (Eric Halvarson) as the Victorian capitalist in a top hat - when he removes the top hat, we see that his head is huge, building up almost to a point at the top.
Not all the production/staging is wonderful - the theft of the gold in particular seemed a bit perfunctory - indeed, since it is all well-expressed in the music, perhaps this didn't matter so much, but then in that case......why not do a concert performance?!!!

One piece of stagecraft which I absolutely loved was the transformation from the Rhine to Valhalla - as I said, musically this was very well done, and also deftly accomplished on the stage - the projections of a green 'net' that represents the Rhine are transformed into a spinning globe with Mercator projections, and you can see the continents and oceans being formed out of Pangaea - spectacular!!

The Tarnhelm is a giant Rubik's Cub - leads to some quite good visual gags in DAS RHEINGOLD, but leads to a spectacular failure in GOETTERDAMMERUNG - but I won't anticipate!

Musically a triumph - visually it had its good moments, but the overall impression was that the production could have been better!

And now for DIE WALKUERE!!

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