Richard Wagner: DIE WALKUERE
Orchestra of the Royal Opera
Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano
The beautiful, chamber-music like leitmotifs characterising the Volsung twins can scarcely every have been performed better than by the ROH orchestra under Sir Antonio Pappano last night - such a subtle, nuanced performance, telling the story in the orchestra as it unfolds in Siegmund's narratiion. Simon O'Neill as Siegmund was a bit feeble - seemed to be struggling throughout, unfortunately, but the Sieglinde - Eva-Maria Westbroek brought intensity and clarity to the role.
John Tomlinson was a suitable dark-toned, threatening Hunding - I loved the way that, on his first entrance, he kissed Sieglinde roughly, but not omitting to pull her hair! (Emphasising the point that 'Dies Haus und dies Weib sind Hundings eigen).
I am not enthusiastic about the actual production, but there is a marvellous moment during 'Winterstuerme' when a shower of rose petals fall round Sieglinde as she is standing on the platform. (Can't find an image of this, unfortunately).
Fricka is sung by Sarah Connolly - one of the best Frickas I have ever seen!! Regal and authoritative in appearance, (beautiful dress, BTW!) and the lovely mezzo voice and intelligent characterisation enabling us to sympathise with Fricka's argument - we realise that an eternity of being married to Wotan cannot have been easy!
The confrontation with Wotan is very well staged and acted, they still touch and embrace, but when Wotan kisses her hand after he growls at her 'Nimm den Eid', it is more a gesture of irony than submission.
Bryn Terfel as Wotan attempts to regain his authority after the confrontation with Fricka, during his Narration, ostensibly to Brunnhilde, but really thinking aloud, trying to reach a conclusion - but ends up, of course, just shouting contradictory orders at Brunnhilde. The Todesverkuendigung was as heartbreaking as ever, rising to a pitch of almost unbearable tension as Siegmund asks 'Begleitet den Bruder die braeutliche Schwester? Umfaengt Siegmund Sieglinde dort?' - and then the tension is broken by Brunnhilde's calm reply - no, Sieglinde has to stay on earth.
The Ride of the Valkyries was performed with great gusto, but in fact I prefer the quieter, more reflective orchestral sounds of Act 1, as I already indicated. I do not like the staging - what is the POINT of the horses' skulls - please!!
Here are three of the Valkyries without the horses' skulls;
The scene between Sieglinde and Brunnhilde was very well done, culminating in Sieglinde's soaring, ecstatic 'O hehrstes Wunder!'
And then - and then - ah, Wotan's Farewell brought tears to my eyes, as he plumbs the depths of misery and despair. My only problem is that, midway through this, he bestows a rather unpaternal kiss upon her - I think their relationship is complicated enough without that, but - since he knows he is NEVER going to see her again, perhaps it is understandable??? (Doubtful!)
The production has a LOT of room for improvement, but cannot fault the performance - Antonio Pappano has assembled a wonderful team. It is also good to see how well and naturally they interact on stage.