Saturday, 7 May 2016

Richard Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen - Das Rheingold - Oper Leipzig

Performance 5th May

A big spectacle that I waited for quite some time started last thursday: the first full cycle of the new Ring production of the Oper Leipzig. The first one after 40 long years! Since 2013 they added one new production per season and just last week they finished the Ring with Götterdämmerung. Within four days they play a first full cycle now which is a very ambitious project for any house. The production of Rheingold, led by Rosamund Gilmore focuses on the music and basically tells the story quite appropriately. It might not be an incredibly expressive and innovative interpretation, but it surely serves the plot. Sometimes I felt that the lead of the characters was a bit over the top but alltogether I was happy with the way everything was performed. The stage (Carl Friedrich Oberle) and the costumes (Nicola Reichert) looked monumentally and elegantly. Especially Fricka's costumes looked marvelously and suited the role perfectly. The idea to have real water on the stage during the first scene also was quite an interesting idea and worked lovely. Towards the end I was a bit irritated because of the quite cheesy rainbow bridge, which also seemed to be a bit over the top.
However musically Ulf Schirmer led the Gewandhausorchester through an evening full of huge sound walls and dramatic flow. Schirmer is one of the conductors who are not afraid to make use of the full power of a huge orchestra like that. Especially during the great finale the volume was overwhelming. The orchestra did a pretty good job and showed the high level of professionalism of the Gewandhausorchester. The sheer power of the brass section is sometimes almost too much and one would wish for a little bit more balance.
Thanks to the exceptional acoustics of the house noone of the singers had any problems to be heard in the auditorium. The three rhinemaidens were performed by Eun Yee You, Kathrin Göring and Sandra Janke. They did a lovely job and especially Göring convinced with great power and flexibility of the voice. Jürgen Kurth's Donner seemed a bit undermanned and did not really fulfill the vocal demands of this role. Bernhard Berchtold on the other hand performed the role of Froh very well with a light heroic tenor voice.
Dan Karlstöm as Mime was definitely one of the best performances of the evening. There is nothing to wish for in his performance. His voice seems to be perfect for this role and I really look forward to his Siegfried-Mime on saturday. In the role of Alberich we heard Jürgen Linn who gave a solid performance. His portrayal could be a bit more accurate rhythmically and more balanced in terms of his phrasing but as I said it was a solid performance.
In the short role of Erda we heard Nicole Piccolomini who has the perfect instrument for a role like Erda. Her dark low mezzo voice has a very soft and full timbre with a very colorful lower register. Her portrayal was mysterious and very convincing. Marika Schönberg as Freia seemed a bit colorlessly and her acting a bit mannered. Vocally her soprano has a very even timbre and smooth transitions.
The two giants were performed by James Moellenhoff and Stephan Klemm. Both voices have a very dark but also sort of smooth timbre. Klemm's voice seemed a bit brighter while Moellenhoff's timbre was definitely darker and rougher.
Thomas Mohr sang Loge and did a great job. His voice is strong and quite heroic for this role but still somehow light and bright. His diction was exceptional and the whole portrayal very convincing. I am looking forward to his Götterdämmerung-Siegfried on sunday which will be definitely interesting to hear.
Karin Lovelius sang a very elegant and refined Fricka. Her voice is smooth and has a warm timbre with smooth transitions. I thought that her performance was really nice and her portrayal, vocally and acting-wise, appropriately. Lovelius definitely seems to be a very reliable and solid performer.
In the role of her husband, Wotan, we heard Tuomas Pursio who has a very lyrical baritone voice. Surely he has enough power to sing the role but the role of Wotan demands a more heroic and dramatic sort of voice. He managed the role but I was not totally happy with this approach. Wagner-singing demands more that just a strong voice.
Alltogether it was a lovely start for the cycle and a solid performance through and through. Generally I would like to hear more rhythmical accuracy and more balance between the voices. Therefor I give 7 stars for Rheingold.
Reviewed by Daniel Url

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