Skip to main content

Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Royal Opera



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)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Otello, The Roya Opera

The buzz was huge just getting into the house, invaded by opera glitterati and pan-European fans of the one star we were here to see: Jonas Kaufmann. He didn't disappoint. Kaufmann gave a nuanced, thoughtful and emphatic performance. His portrayal of Otello was multi-faceted. The duet with Iago (Marco Vratogna) was gripping, so was the murder scene in the last act. Maria Agresta's Desdemona was excellent - particularly the willow song in the last act.



Keith Warner's direction was excellent in the last act - with all that contrasting emotions and dramas. But the first act somehow lacked direction - there were times when even Otello was milling about. Set designer Boris Kudlička's dark and moody motive went along with the drama, rather than contrasting against it. So after a while, I got bored looking at the set. Wish there were more colours.

Pappano took a brisk tempo throughout, at times risking the choral and orchestral ensemble, but the rewards was a full-blood…

Poème symphonique, British Museum

Now how often does one get to hear Ligeti's "joke" Poème symphonique? It came about recently at the British Library. Or rather, it was performed in the old British Library reading room. 100 metronomes arranged neatly on a platform, lit, and poised to commence. After a short introduction, a small team of museum staff flicked the metronomes and the performance started. It was a cacophony of sound echoed by the reading room's unique acoustic. It's strangely mesmerizing and hypnotic. From time to time, some metronomes came together into unison, and then dissipated. It had an organic quality to it. If one ever wondered, it took about 25 minutes until the last remaining metronome on Largo came to a stop. It was fun!

From the House of the Dead, the Royal Opera

Janáček's From the House of the Dead was not going to be an "easy listening" piece. The drama was intense and claustrophobic - perhaps that's intentional. Unlike Káťa Kabanová or Jenůfa where there was a greater story arc, The House was more choppy - including two plays within the opera. All in all a very intense evening.