Once every few years, the Royal Opera stages Wagner's Ring Cycle. Nowadays, only the big houses have the budget to mount such mammoth undertakings. So I count myself a lucky one to be able to sit through these four operas at one go.
Das Rheingold. I never liked the messy set, or even the clever vertical stage movement. John Lundgren was a reasonable Wotan, though a little on the tame side. Sarah Connolly's Fricka had depth.
Die Walküre. Hunding (Ain Anger) was pretty angry and good - especially when he first met Siegmund (Stuart Skelton). Nina Stemme - is she the Brünnhilder of the moment? Definitely. The last act was pretty magical as Wotan put her to bed.
Siegfried. Stefan Vinke appears to be the only heldentenor who can sing the part of Siegfried right now (he is to appear at The Met's Ring Cycle in 2019). His voice takes a lot of getting used to - it sounded like he was wearing a orthodontic retainer in his mouth. His diction, for a German, had room for improvement. Yes he sang all the notes without getting the audience distressed, but I'd rather we got more meaning in the singing.
Götterdämmerung. The only part of the ring with chorus - and the chorus did marvelously - with punch and masculinity. Stephen Milling's Hagen had bite, a little evilness and oomph. Nina Stemme's Brünnhilde and Hagen delivered that tense end to Act 2 with vermin. Nina Stemme's immolation scene was pretty good - though I wish she didn't have to sing from the back of the stage as it sounded distant.
The Royal Opera orchestra played wonderfully throughout the ring (journey to Vahalla and opening of Act 3 Siegfried were highlights). Of course, there were the occasional brass mishaps, but given the quantity of notes that they had to play and the concentration required, I thought they did really well. Pappano was superb at delivering the drama spanning such a long time. How does he get the energy to do this FOUR times?
This is likely to be the last outing of this Keith Warner production of Der Ring des Nibelungen. My wish list for the new production in 2025 (or there about):
- A shallower set so the singers can be placed towards the front for better sound delivery.
- Greater and more imaginative use of digital scenery to create wow effects.
- Easier to understand symbolism (still don't get the crashed airplane)