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Garsington Opera           

5.0Reviewer's rating

This production of Götterdämmerung is in every aspect excellent, cogent and intelligently articulated.

Despite somewhat more limited resources than major international opera houses, the Longborough approach consistently creates an experience that musically and intellectually reinforce your understanding and appreciation of the work itself and this Götterdämmerung firmly reflects the house approach. The audience is encouraged to concentrate on the multiple layers of drama, acting, set and music. Add to that: the casting is always first rate both vocally and dramatically, as is the conducting.

I would therefore say that if you are uncertain about Wagner, if you are a little fearful of Götterdämmerung because of its length or some of the more intimidating comments or essays you have read, this is a very good place to start.

Musically Anthony Negus has the orchestra shape the music so that you are aware of every nuance and every sonority. I completely agreed with his tempi and with his overall pacing of the work. For me the hours flew by like minutes.

The setting of the opera worked perfectly to suggest everything from Brunnhilde’s cave to the hall of the Gibichungs to the banks of the Rhine. This was helped enormously by a sensitively integrated video production designed with real imagination by Tim Baxter who enhanced the mis-en-scene at every moment. Director Amy Lane responded fully to every layer of the music in her staging and clearly understands and respects the text and subtexts and what they tell you about the characters and their dilemmas.

The interpretation seemed to me to exist somewhere between a response to the mythic underpinnings of the opera and the Shavian interpretation of Wagner’s approach as an allegory on contemporary greed, betrayal politics and misunderstandings between lovers. It presents clearly the epic aspirations of Wagner’s work as well as a domestic underpinning. Throughout the evening, the dramatic tension was extraordinary and kept the audience’s attention at all times.

Apart from their fine singing, all the performers were also excellent actors. For me the standouts include Julian Close as a sardonic villain with one of the best bass baritone voices. His singing was consistently sonorous and his articulation of words and music clear, full of emotion and menace when necessary, or of wheedling diplomacy. Lee Bisset’s Brünnhilde is the pivot of the evening, as she should be. She was glowingly attractive throughout and had the vocal and dramatic resources to convey every nuance of her character’s love for Siegfried, her outrage when she believed herself betrayed, her vengeful ambitions and everything else. Hers is also the task of concluding this epic evening and, indeed, the entire Ring Cycle, and she is more than capable. I wish there were a bit more control of the wobble in her voice when she first enters, but it pretty much disappears after a few bars and her stage presence and her understanding of the music and of her character make that a very minor quibble.

I enjoyed Bradley Daley’s presentation of Siegfried, one of the most innocent and also immature heroes in all of opera. His voice was in good form and his ability to convey both the epic heroism and slight shallowness and even stupidity at times of Siegfried was both charming and apt. Catherine Carby was moving in Waltraute’s appearance to try to get Brünnhilde to give up the ring and save the gods; her scene was one of the many highlights of the evening. Some of the most gorgeous passages came from the brilliant Rhinemaidens (Mari Wynn Williams, Rebecc Afonwy-Jones, Katie Stevenson) who were simply stunning together. Bradley Daley and Lee Bisset were transcendent in their great final monologues. The standing ovation at the end was totally deserved.

I think this could be a good introduction to Wagner for any Wagner Novice. And fortunately, you will have a chance to see this again and also Das Rheingold, Die Walküre and Siegfried next year when Longborough brings its Ring Project together and presents the entire sequence. The sheer intelligence, both dramatic and musical, of these productions, make them definitely worth a visit. Keep checking the Longborough Festival Opera site for when booking opens and grab whatever tickets you can – there is no bad place to sit.

  • Opera
  • Composer and Librettist  Richard Wagner
  • Conductor  Anthony Negus
  • Director  Amy Lane
  • Produced by Longborough Opera Festival
  • Photo credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
  • Cast includes: Bradley Daley, Lee Bisset, Freddie Tong, Julian Close, Benedict Nelson, Laure Meloy, Catherine Carby, Mari Wyn Williams, Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, Katie Stevenson
  • Garsington Opera           
  • Until 6 June 2023

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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