United Kingdom Wagner, Siegfried: Soloists, Orchestra of Regents Opera / Ben Woodward (conductor). Freemasons’ Corridor, London, 7.2.2024. (CK)
Director – Caroline Staunton
Assistant director – Keiko Sumida
Designer – Isabella van Braeckel
Lighting design – Patrick Malmstrom
Mime – Holden Madagame
Siegfried – Peter Furlong
The Wanderer – Ralf Lukas
Alberich – Oliver Gibbs
Fafner – Craig Lemont Walters
Woodbird – Corinne Hart
Erda – Mae Heydorn
Brünnhilde – Catharine Woodward
Trigger for celebration: in staging Siegfried, as Regents Opera rightly declare, they’re going the place many makes an attempt at a Ring cycle have foundered. As for me, I used to be not solely experiencing slimmed-down Wagner for the primary time; I used to be additionally seeing this opera for the primary time. It was the Reginald Goodall Ring which made a Wagnerian of me, however I by no means noticed this a part of it.
An orchestra of 20 or so – together with a dozen strings, single winds, no timpani and the organ – and a easy staging, nearly within the spherical. Add within the acoustical properties of the Grand Temple, Freemasons’ Corridor, and there it’s – a Gesamtkunstwerk, diminished in scale however not in energy. The achieve in intimacy fits this opera notably effectively, as Wagner’s drama consists nearly completely of confrontations between two protagonists; they don’t should roam an enormous opera home stage with a purpose to discover one another.
Act I performs out nearly as kitchen sink drama. Mime’s cave is sparsely home: Siegfried makes use of the bathroom as an anvil, splitting it in two with the completed sword. Wotan/Wanderer arrives as an electrician in a boiler go well with to repair a dodgy lamp. As Mime, Holden Madagame is compulsive listening and watching – a advantageous and mercurial singer/actor with a particular timbre to their voice. Siegfried enters not with a bear on a rope however clutching a teddy bear: not a lot a trainee hero as an overgrown boy who wants his dad and mom. Because the programme notice factors out, every character is trapped in his or her personal narrative – besides Siegfried, who’s looking for his. Every character additionally has his personal wants: when Wotan sings grandly of his spear, he falters as he realises that his hand is empty: he takes up the fabric through which the shards of the damaged sword are wrapped, clutching it to him as Siegfried does his teddy bear.
The interaction between Siegfried and Mime is each touching and chilling with Mime’s declare to be all of the dad and mom Siegfried has gaining additional resonance from Madagame’s personal transgender id. Siegfried lastly creates the reply to his personal want: in forging Nothung he’s additionally forging himself. Peter Furlong, a advantageous and tireless Heldentenor, doffs his coat (revealing a ‘Slayer’ tee-shirt) and offers a bravura efficiency of this climactic scene. As flecks of orange mild raced up the partitions of the corridor I used to be reminded of Job’s wry comment: ‘Man is born unto hassle, because the sparks fly upward’.
Act II takes us not into the forest however into the Woodbird’s artwork gallery. She (Corinne Hart) is a gracious host. Within the programme e-book Caroline Staunton, the wonderful director, writes: ‘The central conceit of our Ring cycle – the gallery exhibition house as a spot of infinite potential and transformation – is the house that represents the broader world’. I’ve to admit that I didn’t absolutely perceive how this labored: it might need been clearer if I had seen the productions of Rheingold and Die Walküre. Sitting behind me was a real-life Wotan (retired) – a pupil of Norman Bailey – and he didn’t get it both. Some comfort there. He additionally mentioned that in Wagner he typically most well-liked ‘park and bark’ to an excessive amount of stage enterprise. What a stunning phrase.
One of many reveals within the Woodbird’s gallery is a big field through which Fafner might be dimly seen, coiling mysteriously, via the indignant encounter between Ralf Lukas’s commanding Wanderer and Oliver Gibbs’s tetchy and pugnacious Alberich. The emergence of the dragon (Craig Lemont Walters) – wearing a go well with of gold scales, and with a suitably cavernous voice – is mesmerising, the actions of his head and physique (and tongue) eerily ophidian. When he comes out to battle, he seems as a lady, I’m guessing Sieglinde, in order that the hapless Siegfried has to – in a way – kill her a second time. The spat between Alberich and Mime is transmuted, on this gallery/efficiency house, right into a music-hall routine full with high hats and canes.
In Act III Mae Heydorn makes a really putting Erda – no one’s idiot, and definitely not Wotan’s: he appears in awe of her. When Siegfried has handled Wotan – rejecting his supplied grandfatherly hug – we uncover that Brünnhilde’s mountaintop is one other of the Woodbird’s installations: however a wonderful and dramatically efficient one, well-suited to the advances and retreats of courtship. It consists of a collection of white hanging veils and a white flooring on which the Woodbird scatters swan’s feathers: white not for purity, I feel, however for a clean web page: tabula rasa for each of them.
Catharine Woodward is an impressive Brünnhilde. Her Heil dir, Sonne! is sort of a second; and her instinctive outrage when Siegfried first makes an attempt to embrace her is each terrifying and wonderful, concurrently suggesting her concern of Siegfried, of her personal sexuality, and the existential shock of her new mortality. Peter Furlong’s Siegfried matches her effectively: I may maybe have executed with out the enterprise of the sleeves of his jumper – absurdly too lengthy for him, which he rolls up every time he makes an attempt to graduate from blushing boy to manly lover, solely to have them unroll once more as he retreats. Nonetheless, his is a advantageous efficiency and Furlong and Woodward generate appreciable electrical energy and human tenderness because the scene unfolds. When their inhibitions lastly give manner they break right into a Dance of the A number of Veils, tearing a few of them down earlier than ending up cheerfully horizontal.
Plaudits to the hard-working musicians of the orchestra, shouldering the expressive calls for of a rating supposed for an orchestra 5 occasions the dimensions; to Francesca Moore-Bridger for delivering Siegfried’s fiendishly tough horn name on the entrance of Fafner’s cave: and to Ben Woodward, the arranger and energetic conductor of the music. I remorse not having seen and heard Keel Watson, Regents Opera’s authentic Wotan, and largely the inspiration for this cycle and the inspiration on which it was to be constructed: his latest and premature dying has led to the engagement of the skilled Wagnerian Ralf Lukas.
Regents Opera are planning performances of Götterdämmerung and two full cycles in direction of the top of this 12 months. We will solely want them effectively and that the required funding might be forthcoming: this enterprise deserves nothing much less.
Featured Picture: Holden Madagame (Mime) and Oliver Gibbs (Alberich) © Steve Gregson