Twilight of the Gods, Coliseum, London

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The daughters of the earth-goddess Erda sit where we last left them - in the comfort of their twilight home - knitting, chatting, contemplating (as you do when you reach that age) the end of the world. Almost six hours later, it comes, bang on cue. And with it the sound of the naysayers feasting, perhaps even gagging, on their own words.

The daughters of the earth-goddess Erda sit where we last left them - in the comfort of their twilight home - knitting, chatting, contemplating (as you do when you reach that age) the end of the world. Almost six hours later, it comes, bang on cue. And with it the sound of the naysayers feasting, perhaps even gagging, on their own words.

Because whatever has or hasn't worked in Phyllida Lloyd's provocative staging of Wagner's Ring - and what Ring, let's face it, ever fulfils all its promises? - the fact remains that she and English National Opera have delivered. And the perception, lucidity, and passion of the work cannot be denied. It engages the mind and the spirit and, yes, it thrills. Seeing it as a whole, over four evenings, is all that is now required for it to achieve optimum effect. And that surely must happen.

Continuity of purpose is one of Lloyd's great strengths. The brave new dawn she signals at the close of Siegfried when our superhero awakens his Valkyrie heroine Brünnhilde is cheap and cheerful - a crude, Hollywood illusion. But it only makes sense when our young lovers greet the first day of the rest of their short lives in this final episode of the drama. Because Lloyd and her designer, Richard Hudson, underline the freshness of their youth and innocence with a vision that is pure Hollywood kitsch: the tiny homestead, complete with gingham table cloth and spring flowers, she in a Fifties floral print skirt, he in buckskin and jeans. It's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers all over again. And when this bride sends her thigh-slapping hero off down the Rhine to do what hero's do - pursue glory - he rides, surfs, rows his way there against a sequence of sensationally corny back-projections. Country boy headed for the big smoke.

But there's more. The flip-side of this idyllic, untainted image is Siegfried's return to Brünnhilde, drugged, corrupted, transformed into the Gibichung leader Gunther by the magic tarnhelm. The rosy sunrise collapses and Siegfried/Gunther walks over it to take his would-be bride by force. The dream that was is quite literally trampled upon. This is stunning, Lloyd at her absolute best.

But it only works because of the performances she inspires. Richard Berkeley-Steele further builds his marvellously accomplished Siegfried - quite the most complete performance of the role I have ever seen in the theatre - with courage, stamina, and an electric response to text. You can hear every word. His gauche charm is beautifully conveyed, as in the scene in Gibichung Hall where he first encounters Gunther (the excellent Iain Paterson) and Getrune's hip, hi-tech world and pretends to be coolly unfazed by it. That's where Lloyd's wit comes into play.

And that's where we meet Hagen, the towering, brutish, cavernous-voiced Gidon Saks whose role as a kind of valet cum health guru to the Gibichung royals has him well-placed to mix the fateful potion. His summoning of the vassals to the roar of stierhorns from all over the auditorium has Lloyd mirroring the menace of this completely new kind of music by advancing them downstage in full riot gear backed with lowering missiles pointed ominously in our direction. The same motley crew strip off their combats to become rent-a-mob for Gunther's sham of a Hello magazine-style wedding.

It was a good night, too, for Paul Daniel and the ENO Orchestra especially impressive in Wagner's moodier and broodier soundscapes. The final scene belongs to Brünnhilde and Kathleen Broderick's courage did not desert her - such a big, heartfelt sound from such a tiny frame. And whilst her explosive exit pointedly avoided the pyrotechnics that could have made it more shocking, Lloyd's decision finally to empty the stage to black and focus our senses entirely on Wagner's serenely hopeful final bars was a masterstroke, no question.

To 30 April (020-7632 8300)

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