An Enthusiastic Reception in Berlin for the Final Performance of Wagner’s Ring

19/04/2017

Wagner, Götterdämmerung: Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper / Donald Runnicles (conductor), Deutsche Oper, Berlin, 17.4.2017. (JMI)

Gotterdammerung

Deutsche Oper’s Götterdämmerung © B Stöss

Cast:
Brünnhilde – Evelyn Herlitzius
Siegfried – Stefan Vinke
Hagen – Albert Pesendorfer
Günther – Seth Carico
Gutrune – Ricarda Merbeth
Waltraute – Daniela Sindram
Alberich – Werner Van Mechelen
First Norn – Ronnita Miller
Second Norn – Daniela Sindram
Third Norn – Seyoung Park
Woglinde – Martina Welschenbach
Wellgunde – Christina Sidak
Flosshilde – Annika Schlicht

Production:
Direction – Götz Friedrich
Sets and Costumes – Peter Sykora

Wagner’s Ring has now come to an end at the Deutsche Oper, and this fourth opera was well received. The Götz Friedrich production was, once again, satisfying and the voices were strong, but the musical direction did not meet my expectations.

This was the last performance of Friedrich’s popular staging, which makes one somewhat nostalgic: it’s an attractive traditional production that always pleases and never irritates. One might miss some originality, but it does seem a very suitable way to introduce anyone to Der Ring des Nibelungen.

This time the Friedrich tunnel was present in three scenes: the two of Brünnhilde’s rock and the final scene with the theme of redemption, where Friedrich uses the same picture with which he started Das Rheingold. The Hall of the Gibichungs with its columns and mirrors is attractive; the scenes of the Norns and the Rhine daughters are well achieved; and there is effective special illumination for the fall of the gods and the destruction of Valhalla. The sets and costumes are again by Peter Sykora; appropriately, he came on stage for the bows.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I found Donald Runnicles’ musical direction here the least convincing of the four days. His tempos were rather slow, which in itself should not be a problem, but the work requires a great dramatic depth from the conductor and that is where Mr. Runnicles fell short. The culminating moment of the opera, Siegfried’s Funeral Music, was excessively noisy and short on emotion. Overall it has been a solid but not exceptional Ring. The Deutsche Oper Orchestra was warmly greeted by the audience; the chorus also shone.

Evelyn Herlitzius reappeared in the role of Brünnhilde. Her intensity as an interpreter means that her performances are always appealing, and the fact that the timbre of her voice changes at the top is not a big problem. What does become a problem are the shouted notes during Brünnhilde’s Immolation.

Stefan Vinke returned to demonstrate his exceptional power in the part of Siegfried. Beyond his voice, one surrenders to the power of this singer. I have seen more than one Siegfried have problems in the narration that precedes his death, but that was not the case here.

Albert Pesendorfer was a correct though not exceptional Hagen. He dominates the character and has a strong voice, but it gets tight at the top.

Seth Carico did well in the part of Gunther, and the same can be said of Ricarda Merbeth in the part of Gutrune, although the role did not offer her many opportunities to shine.

Daniela Sindram was excellent as Waltraute in the scene of the encounter with her sister, Brünnhilde, and sang with emotion and conviction. She also sang the part of the Second Norn due to Irene Roberts’ cancellation; as Ms Sindram sang from the side of the stage, Anna Klosh mimed the part.

Werner Van Mechelen was a correct Alberich in the scene with Hagen which opens the second act.

The other two Norns were Ronnita Miller, who is luxury casting in the character, and Seyoung Park. There was a change in the Rhine daughters: Martina Welschenbach played Woglinde this time while Christina Sidak repeated her Wellgunde and Annika Schlicht again was Flosshilde.

The Deutsche Oper was completely sold out, and the audience was very enthusiastic. Evelyn Herlitzius and Stefan Vinke got the biggest ovations, but all the cast received strong bravos, and Donald Runnicles and the orchestra were cheerfully acknowledged.

José M. Irurzun

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