Compelling Das Rheingold Launches Teatro Argentino’s First Ring Cycle

ArgentinaArgentina  Wagner: Das Rheingold: Soloists and Orchestra of Teatro Argentino. Conductor: Alejo Pérez, Teatro Argentino, La Plata. 17.3.2012. (JSJ)

Director: Marcelo Lombardero
Sets: Diego Siliano
Costumes: Luciana Gutman
Lighting: José Luis Fiorruccio

Wotan: Hernán Iturralde / Homero Pérez Miranda
Fricka: Adriana Mastrángelo / Alejandra Malvino
Freia: María Bugallo / Claudia Ricitelli
Donner: Ernesto Bauer / Federico Sanguinetti
Froh: Martín Muehle / Enrique Folger
Loge: Francesco Petrozzi / Carlos Bengolea
Erda: Isabel Vera / Claudia Casasco
Fasolt: Christian Peregrino / Emiliano Bulacios
Fafner: Ariel Cazés / José Antonio García
Alberich: Héctor Guedes / Luis Gaeta
Mime: Sergio Spina / Gonzalo Araya
Woglinde: Victoria Gaeta / María del Rocío Giordano
Wellgunde: Gabriela Cipriani Zec / Cecilia Pastawski
Flosshilde: Florencia Machado / Rocío Arbizu

With the bicentenary of Wagner’s birth approaching in 2013 many theatres will no doubt be paying homage with productions of his operas. Probably amongst the first is the Teatro Argentino, which has launched its 2012 season – and its first Ring cycle in its 122-year history – with Das Rheingold, the prologue of the tetralogy (with the other three parts to follow over the next two years – Die Walküre to close 2012, Siegfried and Götterdämerung in 2013).

From l. Enrique Folger (Froh), Federico Sanguinetti (Donner), Homero Pérez Miranda (Wotan) and Alejandro Malvino (Fricka). Photo Teatro Argentino.

The work is brought by the same team that was responsible for the local milestone Tristan und Isolde last year – director Marcelo Lombardero and musical director Alejo Pérez – and similar concepts, such as the extensive use of visual projection, particularly during the musical interludes, have been carried over. Lombardero’s aim, set out from the start, was this should be very much an Ibero-American production with two complete casts composed of singers from the region, and as we learn from an interview in one of the local music publications after considering several options he decided to set it in “places that appear familiar.”

That said and having come across the interview only after seeing the production the first thought on the borderless expanse of water appearing with the opening notes of the prelude was not the relatively narrow Rhine but rather the broad Río de la Plata, and this was further reinforced with the rubbish strewn river bank in the opening scene. But I get ahead of myself …

As the lights went down on the less than full theatre – this was the second production, with the “first cast” apparently that of choice – the prelude emerged, accompanied by a projection of water, into which one is gradually submerged, passing a sunken fishing vessel, a car and other modern day detritus. This then gives way to the Rhinemaidens disporting on a jetty, against a backdrop of what is presumably the gold mining operation. We then travel over a huge shanty town into a city of high rise buildings to alight in an upper storey of one of more prominent of them, in which is the aseptic white and chrome abode of the Gods. Alberich lives in an old caravan, far down in a lift past building structure and foundations and then ground filled with skulls. And finally Valhalla is revealed behind gates as a rich and opulent space high in the clouds atop a tower.

This ambiguity around modernity – a sense of familiarity with a touch of sci-fi – is also apparent in the dress, with the Rhinemaidens in fish like armour, the Gods in all white, and the giants Fasolt and Fafner looking like building site foremen, complete with hard hats.

As mentioned this was the second cast, although on paper at least it is not inferior to the first cast. And with good reports from colleagues on the first cast, the second is equally worthy of high praise. Particularly notable were the mafia leader like Wotan of Homero Pérez Miranda and Luis Gaeta’s solid Alberich, and Alejandra Malvino’s persuasive Fricka.

The orchestra, semi-enclosed in the pit to accommodate the extended stage, were also outstanding, with only minor points for comment, such as what seemed an abrupt, rather than a rising, opening. Pérez has clearly worked hard, as has Lombardero, and even if one doesn’t agree with all the latter’s ideas – such as Wotan chopping of Alberich’s hand to get the ring – the outcome is undeniably compelling.

So the stage has been set… Though styled as the prologue Das Rheingold is a substantial work in its own right, but the demands of the other parts are more significant, particularly vocally for the local singers, of whom few have much experience with Wagner’s music. Both vocally and visually there are challenges, but they are ones that are looked forward to with much interest and expectation.

Jonathan Spencer Jones