Die Walküre, Longborough Festival Opera, July 2010Posted on 1 August 2010
What a marvellous place for performing Wagner — this opera house is built very much in the style of Bayreuth, albeit on a smaller scale, and the acoustics are wonderful. It’s a courageous endeavour to put on Walküre, but nothing compared to the eventual aim of staging the full Ring in 2013, and they have already put on Rheingold in 2007 and 2008, with Siegfried to follow next year. The audacity of staging these operas in a large Gloucestershire barn may seem a step too far, but the barn is turning into an opera house of great stature, and the quality of performance speaks for itself.
The sixty-three-piece orchestra was conducted by Anthony Negus, who produced glorious, and sometimes inspired, sounds from the Longborough orchestra. I gather Wagner was an early musical passion for Negus, as it was for the opera house’s owner Martin Graham, and this is a labour of love for all concerned. It’s an excellent example of what can be achieved with simple sets and props, and Alan Privett, with designer Kjell Torriset, has produced a clear and convincing setting for the story, with a lattice work of conflicting intentions, a rope of destiny, and three actors in black lurking around to help fate achieve its results. The Valkyries sang gloriously and I loved their sexy costumes, and Wotan’s attire. Jason Howard in that role has excellent stage presence, and his argument with Alison Kettlewell as Fricka was beautifully portrayed. She is relatively young, and it is the first time I have seen a young, but nevertheless assertive, wife for this king of the gods. She sang like a goddess.
The orchestra at Longborough is partly submerged under the stage, allowing the singers to rise, almost effortlessly, above the orchestra, and Andrew Rees and Lee Bisset as Siegmund and Sieglinde came over very strongly. I was there at the dress rehearsal when Rees had a throat infection, so I forgive the few times his voice cracked, though I would have preferred a quieter start so that he has somewhere to go later. Both these singers came over with immense power, and Ms. Bisset’s first monologue in scene 2 of Act II had a visceral impact. The lighting was superbly dark, and I loved the presentation of the vision scene when Brünnhilde appeared at rear stage left with Siegmund at front stage right. Alwyn Mellor as Brünnhilde sang with convincing authority and her interactions with Jason Howard’s Wotan were beautifully done. He was outstanding, and indeed the whole cast came over with supercharged energy, giving us a Walküre to treasure in anticipation of its reappearance in a full Ring during Wagner’s bi-centenary year.
For more details on this production click here.