Monday, 21 December 2015

Richard Wagner, Götterdämmerung - Bayerische Staatsoper, Nationaltheater

Performance 19th December

As first part of this year's christmas opera marathon I attended a performance of Götterdämmerung in Munich. After Walküre, this is the second part I saw from the Munich Ring and I do have to say that the production led by Andreas Kriegenburg is definitely showing some really interesting aspects of the story in a very appropriate way. On the other hand there were also several moments where he showed that he does not take the immanent drama serious enough. Too often his production gave an over the top impression. The staging by Harald B. Thor was definitely one of the most positive aspects of the production. As were the costumes by Andrea Schraad which were not just beautiful to look at but also showed the contrasts between the characters. The staging looked very sober but also classy and showed the dangers of our society nowadays. This actually is the production's best feature, because it proves that Kriegenburg knew how to deal with the social criticism that Wagner put into his opus magnum.
But the really interesting part of this performance was the music anyway. Kirill Petrenko once again proved that he is one of the great conductors of our times. Wagner has never been so differentiated with such a clear and balanced tone. The Bayerisches Staatsorchester also gave a magnificent performance with a brilliant sound and virtousic playing. Also the Chor und Extrachor der Bayerischen Staatsoper sang lovely and sounded impressively throughout the whole evening (especially the male choir).
Interesting enough the best solo performances were done by the supporting roles. The first scene for example was a great success with three really wonderful norns. Okka von der Damerau, Helena Zubanovich and Anna Gabler sang their roles very intensively and showed their great voices. Von der Damerau, who is Munich's universal weapon, sounded strong and convinced with a warm an beautiful timbre. Helena Zubanovich's voice is not very warm or beautiful, but is extremely powerful and intense. She definitely has the voice for bigger roles than just a norn. Anna Gabler gave a nice performance as third norn before she went on performing in role of Gutrune. Unfortunately this role is probably one of the most boring roles Wagner ever wrote. Anyway Gabler gave a good job with a beautiful warm voice and good acting skills.
Von der Damerau also knew to convince as Floßhilde later in the evening. Together with Angela Brower (strong and warm timbre) and Eri Nakamura (such a beautiful clear voice) she was responsible for one of the highlights of the evening (the rhinemaiden scene).
Christopher Purves had a very short appearance as Alberich during the second act. However he knew how to deliver the drama of his role during this short scene. Especially his diction was exemplary and suited his role perfectly.
As Waltraute we heard Michaela Schuster who also did a great job with her acting. Nevertheless I thought her singing sounded a little bit edgy. I have never been a fan of her voice,  but anyway she managed the role without any difficulties and gave a good performance.
Markus Eiche was probably the greatest victim of the overacting principles of the production. Many of his appearances were just over the top and seemed childishly exaggerated. However his singing was all the better. His smooth and warm baritone voice suited the role very well and his phrasing and interpretation made a very good impression.
My personal highlight was Hans-Peter König as Hagen. König, who I already heard as Rocco this summer, has a powerful dark bass voice with a profound but still dignified timbre. His singing was very clear and differentiated, especially during the second act. For me this was probably the best performance of the evening.
The singer of Siegfried, Lance Ryan, poses me a riddle. It would be wrong to say that he is not good because he definitely is able to sing the role appropriately. He has the power, the stamina, the range and also feeling for the phrasing. Still I had the feeling that he might not be the perfect singer for this role. The timbre of his voice sometimes sounds awkwardly parodic and in my opinion not heroic enough. Nevertheless he sang an incredibly long high c during the third act (several seconds long) and also the bird's narrative in the same act was performed really impressively with reduced voice (which fitted the scene perfectly). So Ryan definitely did not do a bad job, but I am also not sure if he was the best choice.
Same is valid for Petra Lang as Brünnhilde. I remember seeing her as Ortrud in Bayreuth some years ago and she did an incredible job there. However, Ortrud is kind of a mezzo role while Brünnhilde is probably the most dramatic role Wagner wrote for a soprano. Not just the range, but also the general demands for the voice call for a dramatic soprano who is not afraid of dramatic singing in every single register. Lang did a good job in the lower register which probably is connected with her mezzo past. Still her upper register sounded unfocused and shaky. Very often her portamenti were extremely strong and she slided into her notes awkwardly. Her voice is very dramatic and powerful but in my opinion she should stick with the mezzo roles for the upper register seems not be comfortable enough for the great dramatic soprano repertoire.
All in all it was a very nice evening with great music, not perfect but still very enjoyable. The Bayerische Staatsoper proves once more that it is one of the best houses (if not the best) in Europe. No other house has such a good ensemble combined with the great names of opera.
The productioin of Götterdämmerung gets 8 stars of me.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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