In Which Don is still at Der Ring. Part 2 – Die Walkure (or how Don learned to love semi-staged)

Post 15

Well not love obviously because who wouldn’t prefer the full version but to appreciate the medium through which a version of Wagner is brought to a lot more people. This alone cannot justify it because it must stand up to scrutiny but having settled into it Don absolutely loved last night’s performance of Die Walkure.

First on agenda though – an apology. I did not intend yesterday’s post to be personally insulting and I apologise unreservedly if it was perceived as such. I make two points:

One, as I always stress, I have no musical training. I do have eyes, ears and many years’ concert going experience, so can and will express opinion but try to not comment on technical excellence or otherwise because I am in no position to judge and if I do, people are entitled to treat it with contempt.

Two, on Monday I was shocked largely at my own incompetence for not realising it just had to be semi-staged and my piece so reflected. It is however a semi-staged musik-drama and I maintain that in Das Rheingold the balance was off-kilter. When actors are not singing they are still on stage and should be contributing to the performance, otherwise they may as well be in the audience awaiting their turn at the recital.

Anyway, adjusted to the format, I turned to Die Walkure and must say I loved it.

I can nit-pick and lets get that out of the way briefly. I think evening dress was the wrong choice. Its been done many times before of course but it added to the confusion in a semi-staged context. The orchestra tells us Siegmund has run to the point of exhaustion through a storm ravaged forest, so in full versions when he is dressed smartly the audience must suspend belief. Here there is no staging and no props to help. We only have the huge graphics that emphasise the rough country he’s struggled through. So when he walks on looking like he’s had a slightly dodgy spoon of caviar at The Ritz, it doesn’t help. Its hard enough anyway with semi-staged, why make a rod for your back?

I also thought at times the orchestra subsumed some of the singing and words were lost. Its unfair on the cast to make them compete at such close quarters with a huge wonderful wall of noise.

So lets get positive. I thoroughly enjoyed it and here’s among my highlights:

  1. Lee Bisset’s Sieglinde was sublime. From the first note her voice was wonderfully pure but more important, I believed her! I felt her anguish. I wish she could have made some sort of physical contact with Siegmund and it was odd where she pauses and stares with “eloquent explicitness” at an ash tree that wasn’t there.  Stop it Don. Really, I thought she was great. Brava.

(hopefully neither Opera North or Lee Bisset mind me using this photo but if they do, of course get in touch)

2. Frika. Again, give me someone I can believe in and in Susan Bickley I believed. One of my favourite roles, so many subtleties to convey. She is outraged of course at the incestuous adulatory and for its own sake. But underscoring this (and everything she does) are her insecurities;  insecure in her marriage, worried (the perennial fear of the ruling class) at the fate of the Gods and all this tempers her enforcement. Yet at same time self-centred and shallow. I loved how the orchestra majestically supported her as she assumed the confidence of a winning argument against Wotan.

3. Wotan. I lost just a few of Robert Hayward’s words but he was confidently jocular with “Heut – hast du’s erlebt” and suitably crestfallen as he delivers “das Ende, das Ende” (one of the most important line in the tetralogy?). Wotan’s journey between those two lines is for me, one of the enduring fascinations of Wagner’s genius.

4.  Kelly Cae Hogan was a class act and I enthusiastically await the pleasures to come. So I’ll leave it there.

So, where are we..? A few props wouldn’t hurt and I wish the protagonists could sing to each other rather than Row Z but what choice have they got when a dozen horns are within a few feet? But generally Don is much uplifted and he heads toward Siegfried with renewed vigour.

If you have been, thanks for listening.


© 2016


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *