Ring continues to raise eyebrows with The Valkyrie. The production includes
some stunning visual moments (the lighting, in particular, is impressive).
Yet there are also real transgressions against the musico-dramatic fabric.
All of these are unified by a single thread - the point-making is superficial,
carrying little or no sense of the eternal (or even long-term) value.
And if there is one thing that the composer Richard Wagner is concerned
with, from Rhinegold (or earlier, given the last act of Lohengrin),
it is the supra-temporal nature of reality. Such reductionism of Wagnerian
philosophy to the pretty, petty and clever (in the worst sense of the
word ‘clever’) point-making is at best deeply troubling. For those of
us who regularly frequent the shrine of Richard Wagner, it represents
little short of sacrilege.
sword in Act 1 emerges from between Sieglinde’s legs, for example. Not
a tree in sight (or even a bush, as it goes). Siegmund and Sieglinde
are shown graphically indulging in manic rumpy-pumpy at the close of
the act. Later, Brünnhilde and Wotan’s farewell is no tearful moment
of noble transcendence. Brünnhilde fights with orderlies as if in a
mental institution. And just what exactly are Village People doing hanging
around the paradescending Valkyries? Very handle-bar moustache - when
I read Marc
Bridle's review of this production, I confess I did not grasp the
reference to ‘gay cartoon iconography’. Going to St Martin’s Lane, all dropped into place.
might rejoice at this Valkyrie (it’s all a bit like dogging, but you
pay for it), with incest, both real (Siegmund and Sieglinde) and implied
(Brünnhilde and Wotan). Be assured, though, that on a day-to-day level
no-one enjoys a bit of base titillation more than myself. But Phyllida
should leave sex to Wagner. He knows how to do it.
confession - I did not read the cast list well enough before I went
in (going on-spec and not officially on MusicWeb business, I couldn’t
afford the programme). So when Act I came across as well-paced, with
salient harmonic shifts and structural arrival points given their due,
I was left wondering just what had happened to Paul Daniel, who in the
Barbican performances of the Ring could ride slip-shod over Wagner’s
pristine musical surfaces. The orchestra, too, sounded in a different
league from the Rhinegold I heard here at St
recently, as the first instalment of this cycle. The intermission gave
me the chance to discover that this was the one performance of the run
under the baton of Alex Ingram.
of Lloyd’s production is that it began not with Wagner’s magnificent
portrayal of hounded flight in a storm, but rather with a loud, hysterical
scream. Even knowing it was coming, the sheer musical value of the scurrying
cellos and basses was demeaned by this crass gesture, one that will
soon be forgotten in the annals of Wagner performance, I hope. Perhaps
even writing about it is proliferating its appeal (there’s no publicity
like bad publicity to ignite the curious, after all).
Linskog’s Siegmund is generally unchanged from the Barbican performances,
except for perhaps a small gain in maturity. But his voice seems uncomfortably
cast and strained (although not as much as Kyhle
with the Budapest Festival Orchestra recently. Orla Boylan was generally
acceptable as Sieglinde, while Clive Bayley as Hunding disappointed
in his under-powered account (or so it seemed, sitting so near the ceiling).
Hunding should be proud, absurdly sexist (to our eyes these days), brutish
and easy to hate. But for all that to happen he needs authority, a facet
largely absent here.
pairing of Robert Hayward’s Wotan and Susan Parry’s Fricka is an interesting
one. Hayward lacks the demeanour of a Head God and his voice does not
have the depth or tonal variety of, say, a Hotter. His ‘Götternot’ narration
went well, however. Ingram’s pacing in the pit helped. In an act which
in the wrong hands can seem interminable, everything here seemed gripping
from first to last.
to Brünnhilde in the form of Kathleen Broderick. Broderick has impressed
so much in the past that it was a shock to see and hear her sounding
tired. The feistiest of Valkyries running low on va-va-voom is a sad
sight indeed. And in Act III, this was to prove crucial. Yet much of
this Act (after the famous ride/swing) is taken up with father-daughter
tension. Hayward proved that he does not have the
exaggerated nature of Wotan in him - a head of the gods, yet fatally
flawed. The dullness of ‘Der Augens leuchtendes Paar’ was elegant testimony
to this. The close, with Brünnhilde, stripped of dignity and ever so
alone, seemed curiously shallow.
then. Valkyrie moves from one of the greatest outpourings of sexual
love to one of the greatest farewells. The marring of Act I before even
a note was played seemed symptomatic of the entire evening. Despite
positive moments, one was left with a curiously insubstantial feeling
- and the distinct impression that Wagner had been under-sold.