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Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The Adelaide Götterdämmerung

So we come to the end. ‘Wagner's music has some wonderful moments but awful half hours,' as Rossini once so perceptively pointed out. In the light of that remark, one has to judge Wagner Ring Cycles by the way in which the lovely moments are, indeed, lovely, and the dire half-hours are so dressed up by the production that one is gripped by the drama rather than Wagner’s unremarkable, interminable style – notable perhaps more for its mediocrity than anything else. These Adelaide productions do just that: and Götterdämmerung does it particularly well: the declamations of love are gripping, the subsequent betrayals quite credible, and even Wagner’s crowd scenes among the Gibichungs are brilliantly handled: they have subtle menace. The hints of Nazi rallies are understated, with the underlying threats unmistakable. The corresponding choruses were musically, and dramatically, extremely effective in one of the best crowd scenes ever seen in opera.

Our Mr W. had a high opinion of his own abilities and, if you want to know more – in a not completely serious vein - about the man and his work, you should look at this (recommended) website: Fifty Things you need to know about The Ring. It makes a change being able to recommend sites about Wagner. One or two I’ve come across are too uncritical; others are just plain ‘not recommended’: incomplete, inaccurate, or wrongly spelt and sometimes all three. I had recent cause to download a synopsis of The Ring. At first glance, it looked satisfactory; then I edited it a bit and found more and more problems e.g. ‘a horde of gold’ instead of ‘a hoard…’, ‘Wotan kills Siegmund…’. And this from Wagner devotees; moreover, the synopsis mentioned comes top of Google’s hit list. Should I get Josh to write a ‘proper’ one, Mrs T?

Still, this doesn’t get Götterdämmerung properly reviewed. Was it just me or was Siegfried portrayed as even more of a simpleton than usual? For a hero he comes across as something of a twerp. I am unable to say if this was attributable to the score, the production or the singer (Timothy Mussard). Siegfried’s playing with the Rhinemaidens cleverly evokes the opening scene of Rheingold but the contrast between Alberich and Siegfried brings it home that, were this real life, the Rhinemaidens would have ‘supported’ John Wegner’s giant Alberich, rather than the lacklustre, corpulent, and vocally-challenged Siegfried. Then where would we all be, eh?

The other important supporting parts: Hagen (magisterial), Gunter (gullible) and Gutrune (sad) are beautifully done, although Gutrune is, perhaps, unnecessarily, too pathetic. Once free of Siegfried, Lisa Gasteen gave full vent to Brünnhilde’s passion, soaring effortlessly over the full Wagner orchestra. What an amazing singer!

High praise must also go to Adelaide City Council, and its sponsors, for having arranged the free, live relay. As The Ring progressed, and in Götterdämmerung especially, we became quite unaware that we were watching at one remove (next door), so engrossing were the production, camerawork, and singing. I shall have no hesitation, in future, in claiming ‘I was there.’ It certainly felt like it.

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