Thursday 11 May 2006

Review of Götterdämmerung - Part 3

The 3rd (and final) part of my review of Saturday's performance of Götterdämmerung from Covent Garden.

Act 3 opened with the Rhinemaidens cavorting in front of the Act drop. When they too 'lifted' it up, it revealed a bank of the Rhine complete with a boat and a tree. The Rhine itself just a huge void towards the rear of the stage. The encounter between them and Siegfried was staged simply but effectively with the sole strangeness being that Siegfried did not walk on but revealed himself lying in the boat.

The Gibichung's hunt included the killing of an animal in a rather stylised manner that seemed unnecessary. Siegfried's death was most effective with John Tomlinson's Hagen coming over as threatening and not in the least bumptious. Treleaven sounded tired but his narration was effective and Treleaven is to be commended for his pacing throughout the opera.

With Siegfried's funeral march, things started to turn very odd. There was not funeral procession., Siegfried was left lying in the bank alone and then gradually, slowly made his way across the 'Rhine' over a plank as the lights dimmed.

With Gutrune's entrance, Brunnhilde came too. Gutrune stayed upstage but Brunnhilde stood on the river bank, which slowly, noisily made its way to the rear of the stage, revealing a huge stretch of water bounded by walkways and with 4 large ventilator shafts coming out, for all the world like a suburban swimming pool. All this movement of the scenery rather upstaged Emily Magee's rather fine scene.

When the 'vassals' brough on Siegfried's body, the mumified body was carried not by the vassals from Act 2 but by a motely group of young people who had lurked on the stage to no apparent purpose at various times. Initially Siegfried was put in the boat, now at the back of the stage. Then he was brought to the front.

On Brunnhilde's call for sturdy branches the young people brought on the gilt statues of the gods from Act 2 and layed them on the ground. When Brunnhilde addressed Wotan, she addressed his statue and appeared to put him to sleep or smother him. Siegfried's body was then transferred back to the rear of the stage and disappeared.

Then the conflagration happened, the young people hung the statues by their necks above the aire vents and then Brunnhilde lit fires under them, gradually the tree at the rear of the stage burned with flame, along with much else. The result was undoubtedly spectacular if a little puzzling.

Then a white line made its way up the rear of the stage; this might have had greater significance if you had been lower down in the house. When the Rhine overflowed its banks, the Rhine maidens cavorted naked and then sat at the front of the stage with the Rhine gold. The young people cavorted in the Rhine and the curling metal structure from the first opera was lowered down. and a young person climbed on. This was the final image. Rather confusingly a figure who was, I think Mime from Rhinegold, joined in.

If I have seemed to dwell on the action it is because at the end of the opera, the action rather overshadowere the music. Gasteen's Brunnhilde was frequently lyrical and she knew when to sing softly. perhaps she did not always ride over the orchestra as easily as I would have liked but though tired towards the end she kept her wonderful gleaming tone. She encompasses far more of the role than some sopranos I've heard recently.

Pappano and the orchestra were on superb form. As I have said, Pappano's speeds were on the swifter side buy the performance never seemed rushed or hectic. Additionally, Pappano had good control of Wagner's long breathed paragraphs; the performance described a clearly defined and rather gripping arc.

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