Götterdämmerung at the Royal Opera House
Götterdämmerung, the last of the four operas making up Wagner’s Ring Cycle, held our breath throughout the six and a half hours of operatic intensity. Keith Warner’s production comes to its sizzling end as the ring and the gold is once more returned to its home with the rhinemaidens, beautifully, and finally fleshily, played by Lauren Fagan, Christina Bock and Angela Simkin.
Warner brings his grand Cycle vision to the evening’s proceedings touching us with a number of different ideas, not all of which worked. His show of opulence with the huge long white sofa representing the home of Gunther, Lord of the Gibichungs, his half-brother Hagen and his sister Gutrune. Warner also very visually suspends Alberich in a boat above the stage. He covers Brünehilde in thorns and provides a fiery end for her and the gold having ensured the death of the nasty Hagen, who has killed her lover Siegfried. Warner’s Cycle interpretation has improved in this last outing but is still somewhat of a curate’s egg – good in parts.
Certainly, the highlight of the evening was the musical interpretation controlled by Sir Antonio Pappano, whose pacey account of the score, together with huge generosity of elucidation of the music lines was really heartening despite the odd brass malfunction. The overture at the end of the opera was almost heartbreakingly beautiful.
Pappano was supported by a wonderful cast. The Gunther of Markus Butter and the Gutrune of Emily Magee were good supports for each other. The Waltraute of Karen Cargill with her emotional plea ‘Wonder and fear grip the Gods’, and the evil Alberich of Johannes Martin Kränzel were both musically substantial in their roles. The three norns of Claudia Huckle, Irmgard Vilsmier and Lise Davidsen were probably as good as it gets, and the Hagen of the nasty Stephen Milling was visually and vocally outstanding.
However, the evening probably belonged to the tireless Siegfried of Stefan Vinke, producing copious volumes of heldentenor output throughout the evening, and the Brünehilde of Nina Stemme who gave us a vocally sensational interpretation of her role as she caressed the music with her voice.
As the breath-taking final notes sounded the audience were left musically exhausted, wanting more where none was available. The Cycle had revealed the highest quality of vocal and music output, with a feeling of overall gratification from those lucky enough to experience it.