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, produced a brilliant study of Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, where Siegfried sits alone on the asphalt propping himself up against a lamp-post singing ‘Doch ich bin so allein, hab’ nicht Brüder (But I’m so alone, I have not brothers).
And the star role of Siegfried is admirably sung by Stefan Vinke who 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, beyond belief. In actual fact, there was no bear in sight, only Siegfried’s personal slave, the part superbly acted by Patric Seibert who also acted as assistant director to Castorf.
On top of all this the Woodbird (sung by Mirella Hagen lavishly dressed in Rio Carnival style) comes down on Siegfried in a rash moment of passion and Erda sought fit to perform an indecent act on Wotan in a pasta restaurant with the waiter rudely interrupting proceedings by bringing him the bill while Fafner met his fate by a quick round from a Kalashnikov fired at point-blank range by the eponymous hero in true Tarantino style.
The fun and games continued with Siegfried pinning Gutrune to the wall in a fit of passion, the Norns practising witchcraft while a quartet of crocodiles crawl about Alexanderplatz bringing the jungle to the city routing for their fair share of the spoils during Brünnhilde and Siegfried’s big romantic number: ‘Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht!’
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 a large oil-drum blazing away by her side with Brünnhilde caught on camera (created by video artists Andreas Deinert and Jens Crull) looking somewhat bewildered while most of the audience were somewhat bewildered, too, by her ‘great awakening’. Hero boy didn’t even have to fight through the flames for her – she was there! No fire! Be damned! And Brünnhilde’s rock, constructed from a by-product of oil, turned out to be nothing more than a swathe of recycled plastic-coated sheeting.
Rainer Casper conjured up a flood of stunning lighting capturing the mood of the opera’s ever-changing scenario while Adriana Braga Peretzki’s costumes looked as attractive as ever.
In the pit Kirill Petrenko 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 enjoys and underwriting, at the same time, that this is the place in which to really soak up Wagner.