Rhinegold Photo credit: Bill Cooper

Francis Muzzu

Blog: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre (Royal Opera House, September 2018)

11:32, 28th September 2018

Das Rheingold and Die Walküre – ROH, September 2018

Der Ring des Nibelungen: the longest I’ve huddled against a complete stranger in the dark since the blackout. And at least my companion was a jolly sort, in keeping with the on-stage antics of Keith Warner’s production of Das Rheingold.

It has a steampunk quality to it, without ever committing to the concept.  Wagner, not particularly known for his sense of humour, gets an almost slapstick outing here. But the real humour is in Warner’s canny directing of his cast’s interrelationships, rather than droll dragons and cute frogs. Especially fine is Sarah Connelly’s Fricka, who could freeze hell with a glance, but also suggests that she is so pent up that her corsets might burst from a combination of fury and lust.

Once we reach Die Walküre, the production becomes less cutesy, the Personenregie more intense. Major debuts abound. John Lundgren makes a fine Wotan, quiet and watchful with eruptions of emotion, and a focussed baritone with blade at the top, though lacking at the bottom of his range. Lise Davidsen is a magnificent Freia, as well as adding an Ortlinde to a remarkably fine group of Valkyries. We really do need to see her return in some major roles. Günther Groissböck makes a relatively belated debut as a curiously huggable Fasolt, belied by a magnificent voice.

Even later in making his first appearance in the house is Stuart Skelton’s Siegmund, wonderfully vocalised but not quite suggesting the passions lurking within. Not a debutant, his Sieglinde, Emily Magee, certainly has physical and vocal abandon, but Act One of Walküre sounds as though everything would suit her better if transposed up a third. And Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde, after a shaky start, is at her considerable best, her final scene with Lundgren reaching great heights.

Antonio Pappano whips the music into a frenzy, there is no slouching around here, and the orchestra responds splendidly. I was bemused to see six harps in the pit, as I don’t recall hearing them rise to the top of the soup at all thus far, and I don’t like to think of them sitting there, plucking away for nothing. Hopefully Siegfried will highlight their talents.


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