Das Rheingold revival in Munich: sometimes pleasing but rather an uneven performance

GermanyGermany Wagner, Das Rheingold: Soloists, Bayerische Staatsoper Orchestra / Patrick Lange (conductor), Nationaltheater, Munich, 3.7.2021. (JMI)

Bayerische Staatsoper’s Das Rheingold (c) W. Hösl

Director – Andreas Kriegenburg
Sets – Harald B. Thor
Costumes – Andrea Schraad
Lighting – Stefan Bolliger
Choreography – Zenta Haerter

Wotan – John Lundgren
Alberich – Johannes Martin Kränzle
Loge – Benjamin Bruns
Fricka – Daniela Sindram
Fasolt – Christof Fischesser
Fafner – Ain Anger
Erda – Judit Kutasi
Mime – Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke
Freia – Mirjam Mesak
Donner – Milan Siljanov
Froh – Matthew Newlin
Woglinde – Eliza Boom
Wellgunde – Samantha Hankey
Flosshilde – Nadine Weissmann

The Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich (click here) has finally been able to carry on its traditional July Festival – undoubtedly one of the great operatic events of the season – which did not happen last year due to the pandemic. The announcement of the festival opening sounded attractive: a revival of Das Rheingold with the always outstanding presence of conductor Valery Gergiev, and a new Tristan und Isolde with none other than Kirill Petrenko in the pit and Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Harteros on stage

I returned to Munich to attend the start of the July Festival, although it began with disappointing news: it was reported a few days ago that Valery Gergiev was cancelling, due to limitations on travel to Germany from some countries.

This is the well-known Andreas Kriegenburg – and much revived – production of Das Rheingold, which premiered here in February 2012; I had the opportunity to see it in July of that year. I have not changed my opinion of what wrote then about how the ‘production has the considerable merit of avoiding the temptation to resort to fanciful modern provocations. It focuses on the essentials: narrating the story, and does so very imaginatively, even if not ending up being particularly exceptional.’

Anyone in charge of the musical direction would have to struggle with the memory of Kirill Petrenko’s extraordinary conducting in 2015 and 2018 in this theater, and in particular the latter. On this occasion, Valery Gergiev was replaced by Patrick Lange, the musical director of the Wiesbaden Opera. His conducting was correct, and he showed a great knowledge of the opera, but the result was far from what we were able to enjoy here on previous occasions. As always, the Bayerische Staatsorchester was excellent.

Wotan was played by baritone John Lundgren, and his performance could be considered insufficient. Three years ago, he played Alberich in this production and was very convincing, but I found his voice too light for Wotan and weak in the low notes. He plays the character well on stage, but vocally he fell short.

Baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle as Alberich was, as usual, a solid singer and actor, with a voice well-suited to the character and a compelling stage presence. Loge was Benjamin Bruns, and he had to fight with my memory of Stefan Margia in the part. Bruns’s performance was not as remarkable as that of his colleague, but he was persuasive in terms both of singing and acting.

Mezzo-soprano Daniela Sindram has an attractive voice and did well in the role of Fricka. The giants were also impressive, played by the excellent basses Christof Fischesser (Fasolt) and Ain Anger (Fafner). They both did it perfectly.

Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke is known for being one of the great Mimes of recent years, and he was flawless here. Mezzo soprano Judit Kutasi did well in Erda’s part and brought a good dose of mystery to her appearance when she warns Wotan of the gods’ impending downfall.

Bayerische Staatsoper’s Das Rheingold (c) W. Hösl

Milan Siljanov as Donner, Matthew Newlin as Froh and Mjriam Mesak as Freia were all notable in their roles, as were the Rhinemaidens, Eliza Boom (Woglinde), Samantha Hankey (Wellgunde) and Nadine Weissmann (Flosshilde).

Jose M. Irurzun

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