Monday, 30 May 2016

An ending: the Ring Cycle in Leeds part four (ON/Ring)

Wagner, Götterdämmerung (Orchestra Opera North cond. Richard Farnes)

The prelude to Götterdämmerung, taught, spare, sets the tone for what is a long evening of long periods of low-key music, but other moments of overwhelming. I don’t know who could sit through this funeral music without a tear at the sheer scale of what is unfolding before them. Wagner wrote this piece to pay testament to the men of 1848 revolutions and he was more than clear. This was music on a heroic scale in heroic testament.  The orchestra became growingly confident – over the whole cycle actually – and by the end of Götterdämmerung seemed at risk of combustion. The Chorus, as Gibichungs, was deeply terrifying.
Yet so much is written on a smaller scale. The Norns (Fiona Kimm, Heather Shipp and Lee Bisset) recount the story so far. Kimm in particular has become a very confident Wagnerian voice over the incremental and complete cycle. By the embers of that big BBQ, could I honestly say we were missing Alwyn Mellor? Not really. Kelly Cae Hogan has been spectacular up to the part and the feat pulled off in the last evening was magnificent.  Mati Turi returned as the happy-go-lucky Siegfried and was better than ever. The star of the show was Mats Almgren (Hagen), for whom the very loudest ovation was reserved. His immaculate, controlled bass was thrilling and terrifying. More than up to the task of being the biggest bad guy in all of opera.  The Rheinmaidens glittered more than the Rhine in sunshine, sounding particularly wonderful. Giselle Allen returned as Gutrune and Andrew Foster-Williams made for a fine pair. Heather Shipp heroically stood in as Waltraute as Susan Bickley was ill. 
As always, I could not believe the speed of the last hour. Surreptitiously glancing at my watch, wondering how it can all still happen. But it does. Without a single dull moment, barely a note wrong and a overwhelming emotional realm, realized to tell a story really well, this has been an immense achievement. What will follow? Farnes is leaving, and he is an obvious replacement for Holten at Covent Garden. Or ENO? He ought to be given more exposure.

I’ll reiterate:it continues, it tours, it will be on the radio, there will be videos. Neglect at your peril.

Cast and creative team
Conductor - Richard Farnes
Concert Staging and Design Concept - Peter Mumford
Lighting and Projection Designer - Peter Mumford
Associate Director - Joe Austin
Brünnhilde - Kelly Cae Hogan
Siegfried - Mati Turi
Hagen - Mats Almgren
Gutrune - Giselle Allen
Gunther - Andrew Foster-Williams
Waltraute - Heather Shipp
Alberich - Jo Pohlheim
First Norn - Fiona Kimm
Second Norn - Heather Shipp
Third Norn - Lee Bisset
Woglinde - Jeni Bern
Wellgunde - Madeleine Shaw
Flosshilde - Sarah Castle
Chorus Opera North

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