Leipzig Opera’s Ring Cycle Begins with a Convincing Das Rheingold

11/05/2018

Wagner, Das Rheingold: Soloists of Leipzig Opera, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra / Ulf Schirmer (conductor), Leipzig Opera House, 10.5.2018. (JMI)

Das Rheingold © T. Schulz

Leipzig Opera’s Das Rheingold © T. Schulz

Cast:
Wotan – Tuomas Pursio
Alberich – Pavlo Hunka
Loge – Thomas Mohr
Fricka – Kathrin Göring
Fasolt – Rúni Brattaberg
Fafner – James Moellenhoff
Erda – Claudia Huckle
Freia – Gal James
Mime – Dan Karlström
Donner – Kay Stiefermann
Froh – Sven Hjörleifsson
Flosshilde – Sandra Fechner
Woglinde – Eun Yee You
Wellgunde – Sandra Maxheimer

Production:
Direction – Rosamund Gilmore
Sets – Carl Friedrich Oberle
Costumes – Nicola Reichert
Lighting – Michael Röger
Choreography – Rosamund Gilmore

For any music lover, a visit to Leipzig, which plays such an important role in the history of music, is a must. There is a long list of great musicians who were born or lived here, from Bach to Schumann to Wagner. I had wanted to pay this visit for some time, and the staging of the Ring Cycle seemed the perfect occasion.

Leipzig is not as well-known for opera as other German cities such as Berlin, Munich, Dresden or Frankfurt; one comes here not to listen to great vocal stars but to attend performances that feature singers who, with rare exceptions, belong to the city’s stable opera company. This first opera in the Tetralogy was clearly a success, with a satisfying production, a brilliant musical performance and a cast that included some remarkable singers.

The staging is by Rosamund Gilmore and premiered here in 2013. Every year since then, the full Ring has been performed at least once in each season. The production works nicely, with a single stage for the whole opera, and dance plays an important role (Rosamund Gilmore was herself a dancer one time). The ballet troupe participates on stage – accompanying Wotan as his ravens, among other roles – and are responsible for moving the props.

The single set holds a neoclassical building with a platform in the centre that serves to represent the Rhine (with a pool of water) and also for the evolutions of the gods and giants. There are two staircases: one ascending, where the gods enter Valhalla, and the other descending, where the giants appear. It is a production that is suited to the opera, and the plot is well narrated; only the scenes of Alberich’s transformations in the Nibelheim were unconvincing.

Ulf Schirmer is the general director or Intendent of the Leipzig Opera, and its musical director. His conducting was solid, and clearly improved after the Nibelheim scene, gaining thereafter in intensity and dramatic strength. The Gewandhaus Orchester, one of the most prestigious in Germany, was admirable.

Wotan was sung by baritone Tuomas Pursio, who was somewhat light vocally for the demands of the character, but his interpretation was perfectly correct. The performance of baritone Pavlo Hunka as Alberich was also very good.

Tenor Thomas Mohr in the part of Loge was excellent: a great actor and singer, with a suitable voice for the character. Mezzo-soprano Kathrin Göring in the part of Fricka was appealing on stage, but I was less persuaded by her voice.

The giants were played by Rúni Brattaberg (Fasolt) and James Moellenhoff (Fafner), both with sonorous voices.

Mezzo-soprano Claudia Huckle as Erda was responsible for one of the best moments of the entire performance. And soprano Gal James as Freia made a great impression: a strong singer with an attractive voice.

Dan Karlström did well as Mime, as did Kay Stiefermann as Donner, while Sven Hjörleifsson was a rather modest Froh. Finally, the Rhine-daughters were perfectly covered by Eun Yee You, Sandra Maxheimer and Sandra Fechner.

José M. Irurzun

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