Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Les Indes galantes, Bavarian State Opera

Baroque opera has long been an important part of the Bavarian State Opera’s programming. And beyond the company itself, Munich’s tradition stretches back many years indeed: Kubelík’s Handel with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, for instance.

Don Giovanni, Bavarian State Opera

All told, this was probably the best Don Giovanni I have seen and heard. Judging opera performances - perhaps we should not be ‘judging’ at all, but let us leave that on one side - is a difficult task: there are so many variables, at least as many as in a play and a concert combined, but then there is the issue of that ‘combination’ too.

A dance to life in Munich’s Indes galantes

Can one justly “review” a streamed performance? Probably not. But however different or diminished such a performance, one can—and must—bear witness to such an event when it represents a landmark in the evolution of an art form.

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Iréne Theorin a Brünnhilde and Ian Storey as Siegfried [Photo by Monika Rittershaus courtesy of Staatsoper im Schiller Theater]
18 Mar 2013

Götterdämmerung at the Staatsoper Berlin

In the final of scene of Götterdämmerung in a new production at the Staatsoper Berlin, Brünnhilde appears in a flowing pink gown just as the music has modulated and penetrates the hall of the Gibichungs, represented by rows of glowing translucent boxes that preserve the dismembered limbs of their victims.

Götterdämmerung at the Staatsoper Berlin

By Rebecca Schmid

Above: Iréne Theorin a Brünnhilde and Ian Storey as Siegfried

Photos by Monika Rittershaus courtesy of Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

 

She unfastens the ring—here represented as a sequined hand—from the arm of Siegfried’s corpse, and moves regally upstage. When video projections of fire onto a shiny back wall cede to blue swirls of water—the Rhine overflowing after Valhalla has burned to ash—the fading, ghostly image of a woman with her mouth agape hovers like a virtual nightmare. A crowd of Gibichungs, dressed in drab civil suits with touches of barbaric fur, turn toward the back wall and stare at an image of excavated human remains. As their expressions reveal signs of cognizance, a giant replica of the marble relief Human Passions by Jef Lambeaux, a depiction of nude bodies writhing somewhere between heaven and hell, descends and traps the action behind it.

As program notes by the dramaturge Michael Steinberg explain, this image has provided a kind of Leitmotif for the Ring cycle by stage team Guy Cassiers and Enrico Bagnoli, which has unfolded in epic fashion over the past three years in co-production with La Scala. The opening instalment, Das Rheingold, culminated in a video projection of the full image; in Die Walküre, it mutates into a twisting, multi-media pile of bodies. Cassiers, the director, has set out to address globalization in an age of virtual reality and pornographic violence, adopting with Bagnoli a streamlined yet abstract aesthetic. Laser-like red lines that designate warfare in Walküre reappear as the fragile network (or destiny rope) of the Norns in Götterdämmerung, and rows of white spears that serve as a canvas for flickering video projections descend to drive home the notion of human destruction.

While the visual symbolism of Cassiers and Bagnoli is sometimes too conceptual to connect with its intellectual underpinnings—now a black mass which spreads like an expressionist painting when Siegfried makes a blood oath with Günther, now a woman who sticks her computerized tongue out at the audience—the production scores a triumph in the use of light-dark imagery to mirror the archetypal forces at play, underscoring the music rather than overwhelming it with images. The restraint bordered on excessive for the opening scene in the shadowy hall of the Gibichungs, designated by a simple metal wall and a box of glowing limbs, and it took a moment to realize that a group of dancers on their knees behind Siegfried represented Grane, Brünnhilde’s horse. Yet choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui was surprisingly effective when the bodies draped themselves in black cloth and transformed into the Tarnhelm, the magic helmet which allows Siegfried to still the ring from Brünnhilde. Costumes by Tim Van Steenbergen, with a modernist take on Lederhosen for the leading Gibichungs and leather motorcycle get-up for Siegfried, add to the dystopic vision.

Goetterdaemmerung_068.gifIan Storey as Siegfried and Marina Poplavskaya as Gutrune with the State Opera Chorus

If the production leans too heavily on the audience’s powers of imagination, Daniel Barenboim, currently music director in both Berlin and Milan, fills the vacuum with the sharpest insight into dramatic nuance. The Staatskapelle swelled and subsided with organic ease as the score soared from subterranean tunnels to celestial plains, mutating like the ring’s magical forces to accommodate each singer. Irène Theorin, the cycle’s Brünnhilde in all instalments, threatened to burst the walls of the Schiller Theater when her seasoned Wagnerian soprano broke out from its round timbre into a screech, but she inhabited the role of the mortalized goddess with an affecting blend of dignity, hysteria and vengeance. In the role of Siegfried, Ian Storey, a tenor of higher vintage than the previous installment’s Lance Ryan last fall, struggled with a wobble in the opening scenes but warmed up to give an indomitable performance of the hero before he is stabbed in the back by Hagen. As the evil Gibichung, Russian bass Mikhail Petrenko was an increasingly ominous presence, spitting out his words with villainous resolve in the soliloquy “Hier sitz’ ich zur Wacht.”

It was a surprise to hear Marina Poplavskaja, a dramatic soprano who has forged an international career in roles such as Desdemona and Violetta, portray Gutrune—who drugs Siegfried with a magic potion in order to separate him from Brünnhilde—but her voice poured out clearly above Barenboim’s sensitive conducting and captured the Gibichung’s wicked wiles. She also gave a pleasant account of the Second Norn. Marina Prudenskaya gave an affecting performance as the Valykrie, Waltraute, who beseeches Brünnhilde to give back the ring to the Rhinemaidens, and as the Third Norn. The mezzo Margarita Nekrasova, in the role of the First Norn, did not blend easily but evoked impending pathos with a more typically Wagnerian voice. Aga Mikolaj, Maria Gortsevskaya, and Ann Lapkovskaja made for a seductive, youthful trio as the Rhinemaidens. Even at the Twilight of the Gods, Cassiers’ vision ends the cycle with the possibility for atonement. Despite the horrors the human race has wracked upon the environment and itself, it can learn from the past and start anew.

Rebecca Schmid


Click here for cast and production information.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):