Götterdämmerung, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, September 2012Posted on 2 October 2012
Under Antonio Pappano’s direction the orchestra gave us a lyrical and multi-layered interpretation of Wagner’s score, ranging from soft moments to huge power.
After the prologue with the Norns, followed by Brünnhilde and Siegfried, things really opened out in Act I with John Tomlinson as Hagen in the hall of the Gibichungs. He was riveting as he explains to his half brother and sister, Gunther and Gutrune, how they might win fabulous partners. Too fabulous of course, but they are easily fooled by this son of Alberich, who then gave a superb monologue as he sits to keep watch, ending deeply and darkly with des Niebelungen Sohn (the Niebelung’s son). Dimly lit, he remains sitting for the rest of the act as Brünnhilde is first visited by Waltraute and then by Siegfried’s transformation as Gunther.
Mihoko Fujimura as Waltraute showed wonderful stage presence and diction along with huge strength and purity of tone, outshining the uncertain stage presence and excessive vibrato of Susan Bullock’s Brünnhilde. She rose effortlessly over the orchestra, ending with a wonderfully defiant Walhalls Göttern weh! (Woe to the gods of Valhalla).
In Act II, Tomlinson as Hagen steals the show, quietly of course at first when he is addressed by his father Alberich, very assertively sung by Wolfgang Koch in a little boat in the air, like a one-eyed, heavy-set version of the Mekon. As the Gibichung scenes follow, with Stefan Vinke as a boldly ingenuous Siegfried, Peter Coleman-Wright as a grandiosely weak Gunther, and Rachel Willis-Sørensen as a very strongly sung Gutrune, Tomlinson once again became the focus with a powerful call to the vassals. After Brünnhilde arrives his gaze follows her, and when he persuades her and Gunther that the only solution is Siegfried’s death, his voice took on extraordinary colour.
In Act III Stefan Vinke as Siegfried has just the right tone and bolshy attitude when meeting the Rheinmaidens, and when the hunters arrive he gives a fine account of his earlier life, urged on by Hagen. Hagen’s murder of Siegfried and subsequent attempt to grab the ring from him was very effective, and the orchestra then swept us forward with a superb funeral march. Weakness only occurs later at the hall of the Gibichungs where instead of Brünnhilde dominating Gutrune, Rachel Willis-Sørensen had the more powerful stage presence, though after feebly raising an arm just before Starke Scheite, Susan Bullock as Brünnhilde sang strongly at the end.
The final scene of Keith Warner’s production has Hagen taking the ring from Brünnhilde only to be overwhelmed by the Rheinmaidens. Images of the gods are suspended over fires, and young people come onto stage as if representing a new world order, but I would prefer the music without too much imagery. All in all, however, a memorable Ring cycle under Pappano’s musical direction, and a nice touch at the end was the entire orchestra appearing on stage for the curtain calls.
There are three further Ring cycles, the final Götterdämmerung being on November 2 — for details click here. There will also be a live broadcast on Radio 3 on Wednesday, October 24 at 3:45 pm, and Christmas broadcasts of Acts I, II and III on January 2, 3 and 4 at 4:30 pm.