First seen in 2013 as part of the complete Ring cycle to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, the third opera in the Ring, Siegfried, directed by controversial Berlin-based theatre director, Frank Castorf, dumps the opera’s traditional romantic Rhineland setting for the rough-and-tough world of oil prospecting. ‘Black gold’, therefore, becomes the treasured Nibelung hoard.
Masterfully-designed sets all constructed on a massive revolving stage by Serbian-born artist, Aleksandar Denić, produce a brilliant study of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, where Siegfried sits alone on a ‘sea’ of black asphalt propping himself up against a lamp-post delivering a fine rendering of ‘Doch ich bin so allein, hab’ nicht Brüder (But I’m so alone, I have not brothers) in true Wagnerian style.
The star role of Siegfried is admirably and confidently sung by Stefan Vinke. He’s no stranger to the role and it shows. He portrays this vulnerable and unworldly character in a somewhat grand and proud manner making his entrance with a ‘dancing bear’ in tow taunting and confusing poor old Mime, his suspicious and distrustful guardian, to utter distraction. In actual fact, there was no bear in sight, only Siegfried’s personal slave, the part superbly acted by Patric Seibert, who popped up all over the place throughout the cycle and also acted as assistant director to Castorf.
Macedonian-born soprano, Ana Durlovski – lavishly dressed in a strikingly-colourful Rio Carnival-style costume – eloquently sung The Woodbird. And in another quirky Castorf directorial surprise he saw fit to have her come down on Siegfried in a rash moment of passion while Erda (Nadine Weissmann) sought fit to perform an indecent act on Wotan/The Wanderer (John Lundgren) in a pasta restaurant of all places with the waiter rudely interrupting proceedings by presenting him the bill. A case of coitus interruptus! And when Fafner (Karl-Heinz Lehner) met his fate he met it quick by a quick round from a Kalashnikov fired at point-blank range by the eponymous hero in true Tarantino style.
But Loge could have conjured up a bit more fire for Brünnhilde’s ‘lying-in-state’. It’s a big moment! We had to do with her caught on camera prostrate beside a large oil-drum blazing away (created by video artists Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull) looking somewhat dazed and bewildered while the stage action witnesses her awakening from under a swathe of recycled plastic-coated sheeting made, of course, from a by-product of oil.
Hesitant at first, Brünnhilde – renouncing the world of the Gods – is soon won over by Siegfried’s love and their big romantic number ‘Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht!’ is sung superbly highlighting the richness and beauty of Wagner’s score with both singers at the height of their powers dramatically ‘firing’ the stage in a ravishing and riveting climax to act III which left one breathless!
The overall stage picture was completed by Rainer Casper’s profusion of stunning lighting capturing the mood of the opera’s ever-changing scenario while Adriana Braga Peretzki’s costumes were as attractive as ever.
In the pit Marek Janowski energised the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra – hand-picked from the best crop of musicians to be found in Germany – to some amazing orchestral playing highlighting what marvellous acoustic properties the Festspielhaus harbours underwriting, at the same time, why this is the place to hear, enjoy and soak up the music of Richard Wagner.