Götterdämmerung, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, July 2013Posted on 29 July 2013
At the end, Barenboim held his baton up, and five thousand people held their applause. As he let the baton drop the cheers started, and continued until he came on one last time to make a small speech, thanking the orchestra, singers, and indeed the audience for its wonderful silence and rapt attention. He also smoothed over an apparent contretemps with the orchestra’s Konzertmeister earlier in the week, thanking him most heartily for forty years of service.
It was a fitting end to a magnificent Ring cycle, which Bayreuth will be hard put to beat when I see theirs next month. It will of course have a seriously oddball staging, but that aside I cannot imagine their singers producing the same results we had here in the Albert Hall.
Nina Stemme was a glorious Brünnhilde. After her oath on Hagen’s spear, defying Siegfried’s unwitting deception, her inability to decipher what’s happening in Welches Unholds List (what demon’s art), was sung with wonderful emotion. This was a magnificent contrast with her self-control at the end, starting with an immensely commanding Schweigt eures Jammers going on to her alles weiss ich, delivered from the organ at the back of the orchestra, and an immolation scene of huge power. She had a worthy Siegfried in Andreas Schager, who sang the role in the Berlin Götterdämmerung under Barenboim. His voice rose heroically above the orchestra, and his acting, even in this concert performance, was superb, passionately grabbing Gutrune in Act I, and sweeping her off her feet in Act II after his return from the journey with Gunther.
Anna Samuil, the Freia in Rheingold, sang a fine Gutrune, delivering a lovely solo before the hunt returns home in Act III, and her brother Gunther was strongly sung with excellent diction by Gerd Grochowski. As their half-brother Hagen, Mikhail Petrenko came over with admirable subtlety as he manipulated his half-siblings, and his soliloquy in Act I while he keeps watch, had an air of quiet menace as he sings des Niblungen Sohn at the end. The trio with Brünnhilde and Gunther at the end of Act II was wonderful, and Petrenko showed a subtle quietness as he insinuated himself into other peoples thoughts and feelings. He even got a grateful boo at the end.
The scene with Brünnhilde and Waltraud Meier as Waltraute was beautifully sung by both, Johannes Martin Kränzle repeated his portrayal of Alberich, in the dream scene with Hagen, and once again, Aga Mikolaj was superb in the minor role of Woglinde. Members of the Royal Opera chorus were a strong force in Act III, and congratulations once more to Daniel Barenboim whose conducting provided a quietness that allowed the singers to be fully heard at all times. With the audience’s silent and sustained attention in moments of pianissimo you could have heard a pin drop.
Those who did not go will never really know what they missed, and I regret the BBC did not televise this in preference to yesterday’s Tristan and Isolde.