Twilight Of The Gods, Barbican, London
Tuesday 02 December 2003
In the last of Michael Walling's involving Barbican semi-stagings for ENO, which herald Phyllida Lloyd's new Rhinegold at the restored Coliseum in February - the ugly and the earthlings make the running: Andrew Shore's wonderful succubus of an Alberich hovers like a bad dream over Gidon Saks's domineering Hagen, whose awesome vocal persona makes one want to side with the baddies; Robert Poulton's dithering Gunther, splendidly clear-worded till the orchestra and Hagen's spear do for him; and Richard Berkeley-Steele's bear-chasing Siegfried, secure in high register yet no belting Heldentenor - more of a Jon Vickers, a decent, rather ordinary guy who looks as if he has been cheering on Swindon Town or England's rugby scrum; he has sung Tannhäuser and Lohengrin (plus Siegfried in Seattle), yet one detects a Peter Grimes in the making, and, indeed, he doubles the role in Barcelona in January.
As good as anything in this long evening (four and a half hours of music) were the Prologue, the opera's most god-like bit, in which the contralto Liane Keegan's First Norn set the pace for the whole evening: bracingly and richly delivered, with those touches of solo woodwind so artfully used by Wagner throughout begin to make their impact; and Sara Fulgoni's uplifting intervention as Waltraute.
Paul Daniel's pacings overall served the relentless skein well; despite individual brass glitches and rocky tubas, the massed brass proved admirable, and the woodwind alive; the cellos heralding Brünnhilde's farewell improved on an earlier effort; but the violins need a more lavish, warm, rounded tone if they are to prise the core from this exhausting score upon transfer to the Coliseum pit.
I took a time to like Kathleen Broderick's Brünnhilde. Her favourite stance, even when not bestriding Grane, is like one of those pregnant Van Eyck women, tummy jutting, a mite tricky in tight-fitting shiny black leather, like some escapee from Cabaret; the voice doesn't emulate Rita Hunter, ENO's searing Brünnhilde last time, but she grew in character, especially in the tough exchanges with Siegfried and Hagen, and though her not exactly leisurely adieu acquired more of a Lord of the Rings urgency, she brought her audience largely on-side.
So adequate does Wagner sound in Jeremy Sams's English - witness the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland's fine Ring last summer - one wonders why those "Celtic" opera cycles by Joseph Holbrooke and Rutland Boughton never took off; nowadays, they might have some mileage. If you can't wait till 2005 for ENO's Twilight of the Gods, try Longborough Festival Opera's trimmed-down Ring in the summer; it's worth the journey to the Cotswolds.
TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre