Götterdämmerung, Longborough Festival Opera, LFO, July 2012

After the success of previous years with Rheingold, Walküre and Siegfried, and now with this production of Götterdämmerung, Longborough Opera is ready for a full Wagner Ring next summer. The gold stolen from the Rheinmaidens, which Alberich turned into a ring of great power and Wotan stole from him to pay for Valhalla, is eventually returned to its original home. In Götterdämmerung, Wotan’s schemes, with the world tied into treaties carved on his spear, broken by Siegfried in the previous opera, are now turned to ashes by forces beyond his control, and for a comparison with the Eurozone crisis see my essay Eurodämmerung in History Today.

Norns, all images LFO/ Clive Barda

One of the great advantages of putting on Wagner’s Ring in a relatively small venue such as Longborough, in what is essentially a chamber opera setting, is that the main characters are brought very much down to earth — caught up in someone else’s drama, and impelled by forces they barely understand. Götterdämmerung however starts with the Norns, cleverly portrayed here as immensely tall women, and ends with the Rheinmaidens, shown as desirable ladies in lovely long dresses. These forces of fate, and of nature, frame the opera, along with the demi-goddess Brünnhilde, sung with immense power by Rachel Nicholls, her voice commanding passion, and eventually redemption. It was a super performance, and we are fortunate that she will sing the same role next year for Longborough’s full Ring cycle.

Brünnhilde in Act I

As Siegfried, Mati Turi matched her vocal heft, and as Hagen, Stuart Pendred gave a fine portrayal of careful cunning, while also assuming the role of a gang boss, as when he calls up the vassals in Act II. His diction was brilliantly clear, and at the end of the second scene in Act I his voice swelled with the orchestra as he carried his breath beautifully into the words des Niblungen Sohn. His half-siblings, Gunther and Gutrune were very well performed by Eddie Wade and Lee Bisset. Gunther, despite great vocal strength and physical presence, showed admirable weakness with his body language, before finally standing up to Hagen, who stabs him with a knife; and Gutrune showed a kindly nature, lying down to embrace her brother’s corpse towards the end — a nice touch.

Hagen

The orchestra pit at Longborough extends far beneath the stage, and Anthony Negus marshalled his musical forces with great effect. The orchestra played beautifully, giving life to Alan Privett’s excellent production, whose simple but effective designs by Kjell Torriset were very well lit by Ben Ormerod. Among many fine theatrical moments, the lighting for Hagen’s dream dialogue with his father Alberich was very good, and with Albert Rivers as Alberich this came over well as an otherworldly visitation.

The singing by the chorus and the supporting soloists was extremely good, and I particularly liked Catherine King’s body language as Flosshilde when the Rheinmaidens appear to Siegfried at the start of Act III. By this time, Brünnhilde has rejected her sister Waltraute’s request to give up the ring, and now the Rheinmaidens fail to persuade Siegfried. The Norns’ rope of destiny has already broken and only Brünnhilde can bring final redemption, which she does with great vocal power, while Hagen lurks nearby, awaiting his chance. But the forces of nature sweep him aside and blue light suffuses the stage, bringing this Twilight of the Gods to its final conclusion.

Further performances of Götterdämmerung take place on July 22 and 24 — for more details click here.

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