Finnish National Opera’s intense Götterdämmerung completes its Ring

FinlandFinland Wagner, Götterdämmerung: Soloists, Finnish National Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Hannu Lintu (conductor). Finnish National Opera, Helsinki, 25.5.2024. (AA)

Reetta Haavisto (Gutrune) and Daniel Brenna (Siegfried) © FNO

Director – Anna Kelo
Sets, Lighting, Videos – Mikki Kunttu
Costumes – Erika Turunen
Chorus director – Marge Mehilane
Assistant Chorus director – Tatu Erkkilä

Siegfried – Daniel Brenna
Brünnhilde – Johanna Rusanen
Gunther – Tuomas Pursio
Gutrune – Reetta Haavisto
Hagen – Rúni Brattaberg
Waltraute – Tuija Knihtilä
First Norn – Maiju Vaahtoluoto
Second Norn – Jenny Carlstedt
Third Norn – Sonja Herranen
Woglinde – Marjukka Tepponen
Wellgunde – Mari Palo
Flosshilde – Jeni Packalen

The Finnish National Opera’s Götterdämmerung is an intense exploration into the inner world of gods and humans. After a five-and-a-half-hour excursion, one wonders: is it already over?

FNO’s production of the Ring experienced several challenges as performances were prevented by Covid-19 and eventually key members of the team had to be replaced. Both the director and conductor have been replaced. This is fortunate as Anna Kelo’s direction is a timeless interpretation of eternal questions which pose many questions. The battle for the Nibelung’s ring is fierce, and, in the end, humans may not be that different from the gods.

Chief conductor Hannu Lintu has conducted all three massive sequels since Rheingold between 2022 and 2024. Lintu’s understanding of Wagner’s music is deep and profound. Under his direction, the orchestra’s sound is rich and velvety, and the details of the music are thoughtful and intense. The brass section stands out as mesmerizing and well-balanced.

Right at the start, the atmosphere is enchanting: the daughters of earth-mother Erda, the Norns, rise as pointed figures from the blue twilight to the top of sharp mountains. As the Norns (Maiju Vaahtoluoto, Jenny Carlstedt, Sonja Herranen) weave their webs, their song is melodious and mournful. The scene is magical, even though the outlook is bleak. The thread of fate breaks apart and the future can no longer be predicted.

In the first act, Kelo presents Siegfried and Brünnhilde’s joyful life together. The stage is bathed in sunshine as the couple enthusiastically water their plantations. Johanna Rusanen (Brünnhilde) dazzles with her luminous presence and magnificent dramatic voice. It has been a true pleasure to follow Rusanen’s shine in the earlier parts of this production – and the triumph continues in Götterdämmerung. She is undisputedly one of the stars of FNO’s Ring.

Daniel Brenna continues his strong performance as Siegfried. Director Anna Kelo has made the character of Siegfried childlike and innocent. Brenna unsuspectingly makes contact with his fellow players – friends and foes alike – expressing affection, by laughing and hugging. Watching him in action, one can only conclude that this cannot end well.

Johanna Rusanen (Brünnhilde) and Tuija Knihtilä (Gutrune) © FNO

Mikki Kunttu is responsible for the stage design and lighting, which changes moods and lighting masterfully. The saga is supported by simplistic costumes by Erika Turunen.

As the story evolves, the Hall of the Gibichungs is where the plots are woven, full of greed and cunning. Rúni Brattaberg’s Hagen is a malicious rogue for whom Siegfried is easy prey. There is a power game afoot, and there are no winners. Tuomas Pursio as Gunther sings convincingly with his dark bass-baritone. The veteran Jukka Rasilainen gives a good interpretation of Hagen’s father Alberich. I also enjoyed strong performances from Reetta Haavisto as Gutrune and Tuija Knihtilä as Waltraute and the chorus are excellent as the Vassals.

The final act of the opera is breathtakingly beautiful, both in terms of the music and the events. The stage is dominated by a familiar element, Feuerzauber, with a giant red burning ring. After a heart-breaking farewell, the ring opens into two parts and Rusanen’s Brünnhilde strides into the sea of fire to join Siegfried. The earth swallows them. At the very end, the Rhinemaidens (Marjukka Tepponen, Mari Palo, Jeni Packalen) emerge from the depths of the water. They manage to lure Hagen into the river to catch the ring. When all is over, figures of Wotan and Fricka rise, and they, too, are swallowed by the earth. All that remains is whiteness and clarity.

A complete Ring cycle is tentatively scheduled for 2025.

Anna Aalto

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