Posts Tagged ‘Alwyn Mellor’

Siegfried, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2011

25 July, 2011

The first act of this opera is long, and can sometimes drag with a middle-aged Siegfried mocking his guardian Mime before finally re-forging the mighty sword. One can yearn for Act II where Alberich and Fafner reappear from earlier in the Ring, but here at Longborough I wouldn’t have wanted Act I to last a minute less, because Daniel Brenna and Colin Judson were riveting as Siegfried and Mime.

Colin Judson as Mime, all photos by Clive Barda

It seemed incredible that a mere twenty-something could be singing Siegfried, though Daniel Brenna is in fact in his early to mid-forties despite his brilliant portrayal of a rambunctious young man. His enunciation of the words was so strikingly good that I needed no surtitles — it was as though he were merely speaking, yet with excellent pitch and an admirable heroic tone. Colin Judson was equally superb in his portrayal of the insecure and dissimulating dwarf Mime. Of course he deserves to die in Act II after inadvertently expressing his true feelings, but from a vocal point of view I was sorry to see him go.

The Act I set with its huge circular furnace door makes a strong impression, and in forging the sword, Siegfried hammered like a percussionist with fine musical effect. Wotan even makes a silent appearance as the Wanderer before coming back to converse with Mime whose inane questioning reminded me of a recent Commons enquiry, though at least Mime forfeits his head when he can’t answer the one question he himself should have asked.

Phillip Joll in Act I

As the Wanderer, Phillip Joll showed power and gravitas, particularly in his Act II dialogue with Nicholas Folwell’s strongly sung Alberich, and when he wakes Fafner, we hear the deep voice of Julian Close who will cover the same role at the Metropolitan Opera next season. I like Fafner’s appearance in this production, in scaffolding with headlights, I like his dying as a mere mortal, and I like the woodbird in her pretty skirt and flighty movements, delightfully sung by Allison Bell. But the main attraction in Act II was Siegfried himself. His soliloquy when he muses about his mother is one I’ve heard beautifully sung before, but Daniel Brenna gave it a real sense of emotion, particularly in his crescendo on the word Mutter when he wishes he could see her.

Daniel Brenna and Alwyn Mellor

In her Act III portrayal of Erda, Evelyn Krahe’s slow movements and almost ghostly appearance, helped give a sense of power to the role, adding to the other well-judged and well-timed stage movements in Alan Privett’s production, with choreography by Suzanne Firth. In the final scene with Siegfried, Alwyn Mellor showed immense power and presence as Brünnhilde, and although Longborough has only 500 seats, she will sing the same role in The Ring at Seattle in 2013, in an auditorium for 2,500. The orchestra of about 65 members played Wagner’s music beautifully under the sensitive direction of Anthony Negus, and I loved the horn calls in Act II. Congratulations to Longborough for following up last year’s Walküre, and I can’t wait for Götterdämmerung next summer, to say nothing of the whole Ring in Wagner’s bicentenary year of 2013.

Performances continue until July 30 — for details click here.

Die Walküre, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2010

1 August, 2010

What a marvellous place for performing Wagner — this opera house is built very much in the style of Bayreuth, albeit on a smaller scale, and the acoustics are wonderful. It’s a courageous endeavour to put on Walküre, but nothing compared to the eventual aim of staging the full Ring in 2013, and they have already put on Rheingold in 2007 and 2008, with Siegfried to follow next year. The audacity of staging these operas in a large Gloucestershire barn may seem a step too far, but the barn is turning into an opera house of great stature, and the quality of performance speaks for itself.

Siegmund and Sieglinde, photo by Clive Barda

The sixty-three-piece orchestra was conducted by Anthony Negus, who produced glorious, and sometimes inspired, sounds from the Longborough orchestra. I gather Wagner was an early musical passion for Negus, as it was for the opera house’s owner Martin Graham, and this is a labour of love for all concerned. It’s an excellent example of what can be achieved with simple sets and props, and Alan Privett, with designer Kjell Torriset, has produced a clear and convincing setting for the story, with a lattice work of conflicting intentions, a rope of destiny, and three actors in black lurking around to help fate achieve its results. The Valkyries sang gloriously and I loved their sexy costumes, and Wotan’s attire. Jason Howard in that role has excellent stage presence, and his argument with Alison Kettlewell as Fricka was beautifully portrayed. She is relatively young, and it is the first time I have seen a young, but nevertheless assertive, wife for this king of the gods. She sang like a goddess.

The Valkyries, photo by Clive Barda

Wotan and Brünnhilde, photo by Clive Barda

The orchestra at Longborough is partly submerged under the stage, allowing the singers to rise, almost effortlessly, above the orchestra, and Andrew Rees and Lee Bisset as Siegmund and Sieglinde came over very strongly. I was there at the dress rehearsal when Rees had a throat infection, so I forgive the few times his voice cracked, though I would have preferred a quieter start so that he has somewhere to go later. Both these singers came over with immense power, and Ms. Bisset’s first monologue in scene 2 of Act II had a visceral impact. The lighting was superbly dark, and I loved the presentation of the vision scene when Brünnhilde appeared at rear stage left with Siegmund at front stage right. Alwyn Mellor as Brünnhilde sang with convincing authority and her interactions with Jason Howard’s Wotan were beautifully done. He was outstanding, and indeed the whole cast came over with supercharged energy, giving us a Walküre to treasure in anticipation of its reappearance in a full Ring during Wagner’s bi-centenary year.

For more details on this production click here.