Siegfried: Royal Opera House - Review Roundup

Written By The Wagnerian on Wednesday, 10 October 2012 | 9:21:00 pm

We continue our review round up of the ROH's Ring Cycle today with alas one of our regular reviewers conspicuous by his absence - Barry Millington. Now, we must admit we have not been to London much last week and may thus have simply missed the relevant Evening Standard. Although, if that is the case then they have decided not to include said review in their on-line edition. But, as one noted Wagner scholar leaves the battlefield another joins us, as Mark Berry has finally manged to get some tickets to see the performance. Better late than never perhaps?

Production:

Erica Jeal at the Guardian (EJ - G) seems to have grown weary commenting on the production itself only noting. "More mundane glitches, such as a gliding stag with its antler caught on the set, offered brief distractions, too." A  fact also noted by Michael Church at the Independent (MC-I) "...  technical hitches which should have been sorted out in dress rehearsal - notably the stuffed stag with its antlers caught on the overhanging 'sky', However, he also notes that over all Warner's production has ".. much to enjoy, if also some disappointments." He goes on, "Warner’s direction is very hit-and-miss. He skilfully heads off longueurs in the expository sections, but at other times his touch can desert him totally. In Siegfried’s awakening of Brünnhilde, what should be a climactic blaze of ecstasy is scuppered by the way Stefan Vinke and Susan Bullock are placed miles apart and required to ignore each other;"

Rupert Christiansen summarizes his feelings on the production with four words, "I dislike it intensely.".

As we have not so heard form him so far we will allow Mark Berry a little more space:

"Keith Warner’s production underwent a degree of de-cluttering before the first complete cycles in 2007. My memory is too hazy to be able to say with any degree of certainty how different, if at all, the staging is this time around. What I can say is that I liked it better". And that aeroplane Mark, that hangs in the middle of the stage? "Last time, I wondered about the aeroplane; this time, I ceased to do so and simply thought it an arresting image" He also noted the "de-cluttering" of the stage but gave another possible reason (at least in act 3) rather than Warner's response to critics, "If I cannot help suspecting that the contrasting minimalism of the third act might suggest budget restrictions rather than an æsthetic decision, it is only really the final scene that seems a cop out: no fire, too much happening behind a screen, and, perhaps most surprisingly, less than convincing Personenregie or at least execution thereof."


Conductor and Orchestra

Ericda Jeal noted that while, "Pappano continues to draw out some astonishing instrumental detail, coordination came unstuck as Siegfried strode up to the Valkyries' Rock, taking the magic and fire out of one of the opera's climaxes."

Michael Church notes no such issues simply saying "Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera House orchestra brilliantly demonstrate the scale of his still-underrated symphonic achievement"

Rupert Christiansen also remains enamored  "Highest praise for these latter two episodes of Wagner’s Ring must go to the conductor Antonio Pappano and the orchestra. Both of them seemed to gather momentum as the cycle progressed, the strings producing playing of spine-tingling beauty in the woodland scenes of Siegfried".

It should be noted that Mark Berry has never appeared a "fan" of Pappano's Wagner but in this instance even his steely heart seems to have softened like Rheingold in  Alberich's furnace, "Sir Antonio Pappano has grown as a Wagner conductor." But wait, as quickly as gold melts it hardens. "The dreadful stopping and starting that had so disfigured Pappano’s initial efforts  seems to have been properly sorted out. If the orchestra in this particular drama seemed less a dramatic participant – Wagner’s Greek Chorus – than it had in 2007, at least the first two acts flowed nicely enough. Pappano seemingly remains content, however, to assume the role of ‘accompanist’. Sadly the first scene of the third act – the peripeteia of the Ring as a whole – was underwhelming, with little sense of anything, let alone something truly world-shattering, at stake. Much of the rest of that act dragged too." But overall Dr Berry? "Pappano’s performance was not bad..."

Cast:

Bryn Terfel'

Erica Jeal found that,  "Bryn Terfel's Wanderer – Wotan in disguise – provides another of the production's iconic moments. His performance throughout has been hugely involving, detailed and direct. However she did note, "(H)is baritone is higher and brighter than the classic Wotan voice, and just occasionally the orchestra has seemed as much Wotan's enemy as have the Nibelungs. Michael Church noted, " Bryn Terfel’s psychologically-acute portrayal of Wotan’s conversion" while Rupaert Christensen went further remarking that, "Bryn Terfel peaked for 'Siegfried’: his characterisation of The Wanderer – the lineaments of lost nobility still perceptible beneath his desperate low cunning – was as riveting as his authoritative singing." Mark Berry however, had a very different view, "Alas Bryn Terfel’s Wanderer was disappointing. His intonation was dubious, to say the least, upon his first act entrance, and though that problem cleared itself up after a while, Terfel signally failed to impart due gravitas to the role"


Stefan Vinke

Siegfried is a difficult role to cast, as Erica Jeal notes  and thus, "In the absence of an actual superhero, Stefan Vinke, energetic and bullish, will do, but his tenor doesn't ping off the walls of the dress circle."

Rupert Christensen  alas has decide to examine both Vinke and Bullock in the same sentence  "Alas, I feel less enthusiastic about the Brünnhilde or Siegfried, although both acquitted themselves honourably. Mark Berry on the other-hand was far more impressed. "Vinke was better than merely preferable; his was probably the most impressive Siegfried I have heard in the flesh as opposed to on record. There was no sign of flagging, despite the cruel demands Wagner places upon his tenor. "

Susan Bullock

"Susan Bullock's Brünnhilde, however, has hit her stride, her soprano piercing through the orchestra". EJ-G)

"Susan Bullock is a highly intelligent, musical and determined singer, but that is not enough to make her a Wagnerian dramatic soprano. Here she blatantly lacked the steely top notes of Birgit Nilsson, the organ-stopped middle register of Kirsten Flagstad or the sheer physical presence of Gwyneth Jones" RC-T)

"Susan Bullock gave the impression that her voice was simply not ample enough for Brünnhilde and that she was therefore having to try too hard. The result was too often a mixture of the timid and the tremulant, and the acting was not much better". (MB)

To read the full reviews - and this is greatly suggested - please click the links below.

EJ-G
MC-I
RC-T
MB