30 August 2013

More Wagner

So my first ring cycle, how'd that cherry popping go? 

This was a semi-staged performance, which as far as I can see, is one of two settings for performing opera. Staged is where there's scenery and stuff. Semi-staged covers everything else. I'm sure someone will try and argue there's a not-staged, but it's impossible for opera singers to just stand there and not emote/move at some point, at which point I'd argue it become semi-staged. This one went a little further with some acting, and singers wandering around and on/off the stage.

I loved it. And it had some very good reviews: Das Rheingold; Die Walkure; Siegfried;  Gotterdammerung
The reviews (times, torygraph, etc) were all exhibiting much the same love fest for the cycle. 

Das Rheingold is the shortest of the four, a mere two and half hours, and in order to maintain the descent into general nastiness, there were no breaks. I thought this seemed reasonable, but I did overhear some complaints from the more elderly prommers around me. Thoroughly enjoyed it, I did feel that Wotan was a bit light in places, and Loge, although good, seemed to be playing more for laughs than I'd prefer. But those are minor quibbles. The orchestra under Barenboim was on superb form, and the singing was (overall) excellent. I felt it rocked along nicely, and actually set the scene for next three very well. I've seen a couple of performances where DR was played as a light weight appertif to the others. That's wrong, it sets out the major themes including how/why Wotan is a prick. The giants were great, and along with Alberich, quite dominating (as they should be).

Die Walkure, the one everyone knows one bit of, was the following night. OMG Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde. I felt this was stronger in the singing, in particular Bryn Terfel added far more authority and depth to Wotan. But Nina Stemme, Brunnhilde is a demanding part, and she nailed it. Mesmerising. The ride of the valkyries was good, but I may, just may, have preferred Opera North's version I saw a couple of years ago. I think that was due to the Leeds opera house being smaller, so the power and sheer fuck off-ness of the valkyries was amplified and became almost claustrophic, which seems right. 
Still, brilliant performance. 

Couple of days break, then back for Siegfried. Fatigue? pah. It's by this point that the storyline has become more convoluted than a Deep Purple family tree. Wotan is, in some way, related to over two thirds of the cast (either directly fathering, or grandfathering them), it may be higher, I'm usually confused by this point. In a typical dramatic offering, the main dude (Wotan) turns up in disguise, which doesn't help things. It's long. But it didn't feel like it, in fact Act 2 and 3 rocked along. The main focus is Brunnhilde, and her ability (stamina!) makes or breaks Siegfried. Nina Stemme was perfect. Power, grace, subtle, nailed everything, clear, emotional. It was stunning. She did show up Siegfried a bit. But his performance was excellent at pulling the audience with him, engaging actor that chap. 

Minor sideshow with Tristan and Isolde to break up the Ring cycle.

And then culmination, Gotterdammerung. Which is just the best name (means twilight of the gods) for an opera. Another 6 hour, two interval festival of Wagner. And still the orchestra didn't put a foot (?finger?) wrong. Storyline: quick summary by the Norns, which seems fair enough after roughly 15 hours of opera. Yet another stunning performance by Nina Stemme. And I enjoyed this Siegfried (Andreas Schnager). It's emotionally draining this opera, the first time I've seen it, and things don't go too well for the gods - as you'd guess from the title.  The rest of the audience seemed very appreciative with a very very long sustained applause for the entire ring cycle.

Truely worth every penny, and probably then some. Such engaging performances, absolutely perfection from Barenboim and the orchestra. Thanks BBC Proms. I'd looked at other cycles for the centenary year, but on hearing the rumours of a Proms cycle, held off for that. Glad I did. 

i would also like to say, you don't need to visit a sauna when you've been at the Royal Albert. Some air con wouldn't go amiss...