Der Ring des Nibelungen: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, Royal Opera House, London
Thursday 27 September 2012
Eight years after its unveiling, Keith Warner’s ‘Ring’ is back, and though his ‘Rheingold’ has been streamlined, the balance between symbolism and naturalism remains awkward (we’re not meant to laugh when Alberich turns into a monster, but we do).
And the opening scene still doesn’t work: it has no primeval suggestiveness, and there’s a crude disjunction between the gracefully undulating helix-spiral backdrop and the tiresome St Trinians-type taunting of Alberich by the naked Rhinedaughters.
Wolfgang Koch’s Alberich is a resonant presence, maybe too debonair for the demands of his gnome-like character, but as a counterweight to Bryn Terfel’s Wotan, he’s dominant whenever he is on stage. There’s still some pretty crass sexual sadism in Alberich’s underworld, but its Nazi overtones have been muted, which prevents any jarring with the period in which Wotan’s glass penthouse has been set.
Terfel’s singing rightly governs the pace of events. When he declares "I must have the ring", the whole world seems to pause and take account of this fateful realisation, and a similar effect occurs when he tells Alberich - whom he has stripped of all his possessions - that he must yield up that last treasure too.
These moments are underscored from the pit, where Antonio Pappano and his orchestra are on top form. The other great musical gear-change in ‘Das Rheingold’ - Erda’s prophetic emergence from the earth - is powered by Maria Radner’s compelling sound; Stig Andersen’s Loge and Gerhard Siegel’s Mime are vivid creations.
But if this ‘Rheingold’ is less than the sum of its parts, Warner’s take on ‘Die Walküre’ is (apart from some dodgy pyrotechnics) a superbly assured conception, in which the incest which opens and closes the story - brother with sister, father with daughter - triggers the most exquisite suffering, via the agency of Sarah Connolly’s coldly censorious Fricka.
Simon O’Neill’s Siegmund and Eva-Maria Westbroek’s Sieglinde are ideally matched for their great duet, while Susan Bullock’s Brünnhilde delivers the Annunciation of Death with hypnotic power. But the dark heart of ‘Die Walküre’ is Wotan’s suicidal monologue of despair and self-disgust, and from here on we see what a great performer Terfel has become. Violently sacrificing his son, then tenderly consigning his daughter to her prison of fire while the air fills with music of transcendent beauty, this Wotan seems to command not just the stage, but the world itself.
Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
The C-Word, TV review: Sheridan Smith shines in a warm, honest account of a woman enduring a still too common fate
X-Men Apocalypse: First look at Jubilee and Jean Grey played by Game of Thrones star Sophie Turner
American Horror Story: Hotel Angela Bassett set to make 'lots of trouble' with Lady Gaga in season 5
Adam Sandler's The Ridiculous Six: Make-up 'used to darken skin of actors to make them look Native American'
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils