Tuesday 30 October 2018

Die Walküre - Royal Opera House Live

Wagner: Die Walküre, The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Wagner: Die Walküre, The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Wagner Die Walküre; Nina Stemme, John Lundgren, Emily Magee, Stuart Skelton, Sarah Connolly, dir: Keith Warner, cond: Antonio Pappano; Royal Opera House live broadcast at Barbican Cinema  
Reviewed by Anthony Evans on 28 October 2018 Star rating: 3.5 (★★★½)
A poetic Walküre with a towering performance from Stuart Skelton.

Wagner: Die Walküre - Stuart Skelton - The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Stuart Skelton - The Royal Opera
©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
On Sunday 28 October 2018, Barbican’s Cinema 2 saw the broadcast of Keith Warner’s Royal Opera production of the first day of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Die Walküre. In this revival the ill-fated twins Siegmund and Sieglinde were sung by Stuart Skelton and Emily Magee. Sieglinde’s Neiding husband, Hunding, was Ain Anger. Mr. and Mrs. God, Wotan and Fricka, were John Lundgren and Sarah Connolly. Brünnhilde, Wotan’s favourite daughter, was Nina Stemme. Her sister Valkyries were Alwyn Mellor, Lise Davidsen, Kai Rüütel, Claudia Huckle, Maida Hundeling, Catherine Carby, Monika-Evelin Liiv and Emma Carrington; and I haven’t heard them better sung. Antonio Pappano conducted.

I am not so down on Keith Warner’s production as some have been. OK, its imagery is at times frustratingly opaque and its symbolic complexity cluttered, naff even; but, the conflicts of love and power are played out with utter conviction. It is, dare I say, Ibsenesque in approach, the dissection of the characters’ relationships line by line was as precise as its visuals were symbolic detritus. It felt as if every musical effect was rendered in the emotional landscape. The action was swept along by rivers of sound from the pit. The music breathlessly ebbed and flowed in Pappano’s fluid and elegant reading. This was immersive stuff.

There were a few hiccups – it is a long evening after all. Emily Magee’s Sieglinde seemed to lapse into histrionics like some femme fatale and at times didn’t sound vocally comfortable. Ain Anger as her husband was more a brooding introvert than a menace.

John Lundgren’s Wotan was stylishly sung but he lacked a certain Godly gravitas. This Wotan seemed nihilistic, already cowed, unable or is that unwilling to change the course of events? The ferocious Act 2 cat and mouse game with Sarah Connolly’s venomously patrician Fricka though was a corker. This vengeful guardian of moral probity led the hapless Wotan a merry dance trapping him in fetters of his own making.

Nine Stemme is an incredibly charismatic performer and I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Whilst, in the cinema at any rate, I was missing some of Brünnhilde’s raw vocal energy hers was an intensely pathetic performance. Tender and vulnerable, the bearing of her soul and renunciation of power was anguishing.

Wagner: Die Walküre - John Lundgren, Sarah Connolly - The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Wagner: Die Walküre - John Lundgren, Sarah Connolly - The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
The highlight of the evening had to be Stuart Skelton’s Siegmund. This was a towering performance and no mistake. There are performances of this role when you can hear the effort it takes to wield an instrument of such heft; not here. Skelton’s performance was exquisitely nuanced and lyrical, deploying his vocal power to stunning effect. At times the poetic grandeur and searing intensity left me gasping; a hero not just as character but as an artist. What an instrument. Electrifying.

Wagner: Die Walküre - Stuart Skelton, Nina Stemme - The Royal Opera ©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper
Stuart Skelton, Nina Stemme
©2018 ROH. Photograph by Bill Cooper

Wagner: Die Walküre
Royal Opera House Live
Barbican Cinema 2
Sunday 28 October 2018

Siegmund : Stuart Skelton
Sieglinde : Emily Magee
Hunding : Ain Anger
Wotan : John Lundgren
Brünnhilde : Nina Stemme
Fricka : Sarah Connolly
Gerhilde : Alwyn Mellor
Ortlinde : Lise Davidsen
Waltraute : Kai Rüütel
Schwertleite : Claudia Huckle
Helmwige : Maida Hundeling
Siegrune : Catherine Carby
Grimgerde : Monika-Evelin Liiv
Rossweisse : Emma Carrington

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Conductor : Antonio Pappano
Director : Keith Warner

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