Siegfried, Royal Opera House, London

Hail a new lord of the Ring

Our first glimpse is of a tiny hand beckoning from his pram. From Mime, the dwarf, he takes his first sword, breaking it wilfully in a heartbeat. In another heartbeat, he's a troublesome teenager and you are wondering if the wrecked fighter-jet that dominates the stage was another of the toys he threw from his pram. Mime is a smith, after all, and might well have been his faulty workmanship that caused it to crash-land on the bottom of the world.

Stefanos Lazaridis' impressive design suggests the ruins of civilisation: the last landfill site, nuclear night. It's the perfect visual complement to Wagner's sepulchral winds, his lowering tuba and the proximity of Fafner, the giant-turned-dragon.

But Siegfried grows up fast. Suddenly he's John Treleaven, and upon his broad shoulders sits one of the most taxing operatic roles ever conceived for a mere mortal. Siegfried, of course, has to be rather more than that. So let it be said straight away that Treleaven is splendid. Physically speaking, his designers might have helped him a little more in the hair and costume departments, and for all his spirit there is still an element of "old school operatics" about the acting - but the singing is exceptionally accomplished and remarkable for its stamina.

The one thing most Siegfrieds don't or can't convey is a sense of effortlessness. Treleaven does. He sings within his voice, often with real beauty, but he can pull out the ringing heroics, and did, in the forging scene. His triumphant cry of "Nothung!" as the finished sword is drawn from the forge and raised aloft was nothing if not rafter-rattling, though actually the sword is twice-named and the absence of a repetition suggested perhaps that he had misjudged the broadening tempo.

Still, an impressive performance and well-complemented by the terrific Mime of Gerhard Siegel. Here is the flip side of the heroic tenor, a powerful voice subjugated to Wag-ner's whining, whingeing text, which Siegel uses to lacerating effect.

His "riddle" scene with the Wanderer (Wotan in disguise) was gripping thanks also to the magnificence of John Tomlinson. I do think it odd that Bryn Terfel should not have finished what he so impressively began, but Tomlinson, white-haired and raging like Lear - especially in Act III, where he rides the spinning airborne platform hurling the last vestiges of his existence as a god, his books and learning, to the four winds - was on elemental form. Here was a man, one felt, going willingly but not quietly into extinction.

His dismissal of Erda, the earth-goddess (the marvellous Jane Henschel), mother of his child Brünnhilde, is another startling Warner moment. Plunging his spear symbolically into her womb, he utters the words: "Do you know Wotan's will?" It is an act of terrible finality, an end to the way things were, a beginning to the way they shall hopefully be now that Siegfried has killed the dragon and taken the Ring.

One of these days we'll get a dragon that actually puts up a bit of a fight. Still, when did we last see Fafner's transformation so neatly achieved? Or, indeed, the beautiful scene before where Siegfried communes with nature and Warner and Lazaridis bring on the flora and fauna to poetic effect? A starry, starry night indeed.

Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera Orchestra provided the most exquisite backdrop. In Act III, the breaking of a new dawn as Siegfried and Brünnhilde take their first tentative steps towards free love and free will brought forth radiant string playing. If Lisa Gasteen's Brünnhilde was ultimately short at the very top, she and Treleaven rode the crest of Pappano's orchestral surge, sound and visuals quite literally overflowing at the close.

To 22 October (020-7304 4000)

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