Spain Wagner: Die Walküre: Principado de Asturias Orchestra, Guillermo García Calvo (conductor), Teatro Campoamor, Oviedo, 13.9.2015 (JMI)
Direction, Sets and Costumes: Michal Znaniecki
Lighting: Bogumil Palewicz
Brünnhilde: Elisabete Matos
Wotan: Tomas Tomasson
Siegmund: Stuart Skelton
Sieglinde: Nicola Beller Carbone
Fricka: Michelle Breedt
Hunding: Liang Li
Gerhilde: Isabella Gaudí
Ortlinde: Raquel Lojendio
Waltraute: Sandra Ferrández
Schwerleite: María Luisa Corbacho
Helmwige: Maribel Ortega
Siegrune: Marina Pardo
Grimgerde: Anna Alàs i Jovè
Rossweisse: Marina Pinchuk
The Ring cycle that began two years ago in Oviedo continues now with Die Walküre. As in the earlier Das Rheingold, the final result has been influenced by the theatre’s inadequate pit. Putting on Die Walküre with an orchestra of 57 musicians is not the best way to go.
There is no doubt in my mind that of the three aspects of an opera performance ̶ music, voices and staging ̶ in the Ring, music is the most important of all. An orchestra with four contrabass can offer only a semblance of the Wagnerian work. The introductory music, the ride of the Valkyries, the Magic Fire: these become mere approximations of the real thing. The presence of a single harp at the end of the opera makes the Magic Fire seem anything but magic.
With these comments I don’t mean to imply any criticism for the performance of maestro Guillermo Garcia Calvo and the orchestra. In fact, Garcia Calvo’s conducting was better than what he offered in Das Rheingold. His reading was more convincing than I had expected, and the same can be said of the orchestra, which has improved from their performance two years ago.
As with Rheingold, this is a new production by Michal Znaniecki, characterized by the use (and, at times, abuse) of video projections; he also designed the sets and costumes. The former consists of a simple wooden wall with a large hole in the middle, and the action takes place on two levels. This wall is the only set, to which are added the ever-present dominoes that, as Mr. Znaniecki notes in the program, represent the failure of Wotan’s plans. The real star of the production is the video projection, which is continuous, with the disadvantage that the visuals are sometimes in a kind of perpetual motion that eventually gets tiresome. It works best when the images are static. There’s not much to say about the costumes, which are efficient, with the gods in white; the lighting works well in general. The least effective part of the production is the minimal stage direction in relation to the main characters.
The key role in the opera is Brünnhilde, sung by Portuguese soprano Elisabete Matos, whose performance was adequate, although her voice is not the one required by the character. The famous and always expected Hojotohos were mostly shouted. From there on things improved, although her top notes are rather tight and unattractive.
Icelandic baritone Tomas Tomasson again gave life again to Wotan. His performance ̶ correct and somewhat modest ̶ was better than his Wotan of two years ago. He lacks the power and vocal projection needed to succeed in the character.
The best of the cast was Australian tenor Stuart Skelton as Siegmund. His voice is perfectly suited to the character, and he already sings this part in the top opera houses. For my taste, he fell short on expressiveness, but it’s only fair to point out his spectacular and almost endless “Wälse, Wälse.”
Nicola Beller Carbone was a convincing Sieglide and acted with great intensity. Her voice did seem too light at times for the character.
South African mezzo-soprano Michelle Breedt as Fricka had to fight with the memory of Elena Zhidkova in Rheingold. Ms. Breedt wasn’t as bright as her Russian colleague, but she gave a solid performance.
Chinese bass Liang Li was a well-suited Hunding.
The Campoamor was at about 75% of capacity. The audience was warm but not particularly enthusiastic at the final bows.
José M. Irurzun