Die Walküre, Grange Park Opera, GPO, West Horsley Place, July 2017Posted on 6 July 2017
The recent tendency to set operas in the period leading up to the first world war seems to inspire this production by Stephen Medcalf. The Valkyries are in spiked helmets, Wotan is a general, and we are in a grand house furnished with varying collections of such things as butterflies and daggers.
In addition to the usual cast are silent roles for a curator and a maid, and during Wotan’s Act II historical monologue to Brünnhilde the curator re-enters to listen. When Wotan comes to the rumour of the loveless Alberich fathering a child to carry his furious envy forward, the curator rapes the maid, and at the end of the opera the pregnant maid and a pregnant Sieglinde, mothers of Hagen and Siegfried, walk towards one another. Revolution in the air? Who knows … only a continuation to Siegfried and Götterdämmerung — as yet unscheduled — would tell us.
In the meantime this second part of Wagner’s Ring cycle was given a compelling performance by the emotionally committed cast. As Wotan, Thomas Hall showed tireless strength, delivering his Act II monologue in a superbly conversational manner, and as a full-blooded Siegmund, Bryan Register’s extended Wälse! in Act I was a huge cry from the heart. Both Hall and Register were outstanding, and the rest of the cast, including the excellent Valkyries, added to a terrific team effort. Claire Rutter found previously hidden power in her Act I exclamation Doch nein! Ich hörte sie neulich as she recognises Siegmund’s voice as an echo of her own, and again in her final words O hehrstes Wunder!
From a quiet start Jane Dutton’s strong Brünnhilde developed wonderfully sympathetic resilience after being slapped by Siegmund in Act II and thrown across the stage by Wotan in Act III, and I rather liked the production’s use of a bedtime book for Wotan to read as he casts her into lasting slumber. Fine vocal attack, though unclear diction, from Alan Ewing as a suitably dull Hunding, and an imposing stage presence from Sara Fulgoni as Fricka, with Anne-Marie Owens bravely stepping into the vocal role at the side of the stage.
From the orchestra pit, Stephen Barlow and the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra fully brought out the high points of the score, if occasionally losing magic in some quieter passages, but as Grange Park Opera’s first fully staged Wagner opera with Jamie Vartan’s imposing set and excellent lighting by David Plater, this was a resounding success.
Performances continue on various dates until July 15 — for details click here.