nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
[personal profile] nineveh_uk
There is a crucial difference between Brexit and the plot of Götterdämmerung: though both have the leaders involved throwing their hands in the air and sitting doing nothing but wait until the house burns down around them, while elsewhere a bunch of people make some staggeringly stupid decisions despite the consequences surely being obvious from the start, the characters in the latter were actually gods, as opposed to just being bitter about membership of a school club. Also, a great redemption is definitely not spreading throughout this particular world as a result of their downfall. However George Osborne was present at both.*

Despite 6 hours** of Wagner feeling like a dubious decision 24 hours in advance, it turned out to be brilliant on the day. Indeed as the end approached I felt that 6 hours was far too short and it needed at least an additional hour. Nor was I alone in thinking so, judging by the comments from audience members near me at the end, and the general riveted silence.

It was a concert performance, being the only way Opera North can afford to do something like the Ring, but it felt as if nothing was lost thereby. Big screens at the back provided surtitles (good ones, thank goodness, no faux archaism. Whatever is lost in not distinguishing between du and Sie is more than gained in not sounding stupid when read in English in performance) and a degree of setting, of riverbank or water, wooden walls of a Dark Ages hall, fiery rock etc, with the aid of some coloured lighting. It doesn't sound much, but it really worked. No singer actually vaulting onto horseback and riding into the flames*** could have been more dramatic than a woman in evening dress standing in front of the orchestra in yellowing light, voice soaring seemingly effortlessly above it. And what an orchestra! I didn't manage an on-stage count, but as an estimate combined with a conservative reading of the programme**** I'd go for about a hundred (and I've just found confirmation - 101!). The orchestra of Opera North is always one of its strengths and this occasion was no exception, they were in magnificent form.

Wagner has a reputation of being hard-core opera. On the train in I was regretting that I hadn't had time to go carefully over leitmotifs etc in order to educate myself sufficiently to appreciate it. Reader, this is rubbish. Bad Wagner is probably incomprehensible torture on grounds of length alone, but good Wagner isn't hard at all. It's wonderful music that while I'm sure it greatly rewards study is very accessible without it and the leitmotifs leap up waving and shouting notice me! Alternatively, possibly I am simply well-trained in the School of Opera North, which has long interwoven Box Office certainties with more inventive repertoire. After all, Wozzeck is not only challenging and allows you to distinguish yourself as a company, it's pretty cheap to do. Back to Götterdämmerung. The plot is perhaps not one of its strength. Wotan doesn't turn up, and we get the new family to move into Eastenders (as the preliminary talk put it, very accurately). Hagen's***** Evil Plot depends entirely on his victims all being complete idiots. Fortunately for him, this is opera, and indeed mythology. It doesn't have to make sense in order to work. Hagen was sung by Mats Almgren looking like an evil thug in a Scandinavian detective drama - the more things change, the more things stay the same - and my favourite along with Kelly Cae Hogan as Brünnhilde.

A wonderful presentation of a wonderful work. I am converted, as you can tell! I wish I might have seen it all, I'm immensely glad I saw this.

Have some music:



*This would explain why each act started 5 mins late, if he was being ushered to his seat in the dark. Perhaps he might have borrowed the rather lovely guide dog I spotted stretched out on the carpet in the bar in the second interval. It's fair to say that Goldie, alone of all the beings I saw there, did not look wholly appreciative and wore a definite air of 'how long, oh lord, how long?'

**To be precise, 4 hours 40 mins of music, the rest intervals. That makes the first act equal in length to Tosca (2 hours), and the whole thing half as long again as an uncut Figaro.

***Now I need to check if that's every been done with (i) actual soprano, (ii) actual horse, (iii) actual flames. Checked! Though the examples mentioned don't specify flames...

****No need for ten anvil-players in this one, but I've never seen so many French horns (apparently some of them are 'Wagner tubas', which he invented because he needed an extra instrument...)

***** I first came across Hagen in my German GCSE textbook, which had a really good cartoon sequence of the Nibelunglied. We didn't read that bit, which tells you everything you need to know about the approach my high school took to engaging pupils in foreign languages.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-04 08:27 pm (UTC)
dbassassin: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dbassassin
Bad Wagner is probably incomprehensible torture on grounds of length alone, but good Wagner isn't hard at all.

OMG yes, this! I've spent more than 30 years trying to convince my ballet-loving sister that opera isn't a tedious wasteland, to no avail.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-04 09:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] caulkhead
"Hagen's Evil Plot depends entirely on his victims all being complete idiots"

I did the Nibelungenlied as part of my degree, and as far as I can remember, this is pretty much dead on. The notes recommended treating it as a thriller, but Scandi-noir works even better.


My problem with Wagner is that I think the orchestral music sounds amazing, but find the vocal style very off-putting. Perhaps it's better live, but it seems a risky way to find out.
Edited Date: 2016-07-04 09:49 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-04 10:27 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] caulkhead
I think I once read a review of Rheingold set in a public toilet, but I might be imagining it.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-05 07:40 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
No, I think I remember that too, so either it happened, or we're sharing delusions in a particularly random way :)

There was also the infamous Dead Bunny Parsifal, which went down rather badly at Bayreuth...

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-05 02:10 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] caulkhead
It sounds entirely plausible. It was early 2000s Stuttgart where I saw a Fidelio that was apparently set in a large wooden box populated by animated wedding dresses.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-04 10:41 pm (UTC)
clanwilliam: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clanwilliam
A bit of me wants to go "who the fuck does he think he is?" re Osborne, but then I have fond memories of a quiet kerfuffle at the beginning of the Royal Ballet's 100th De Valois celebrations at the Barbican and looking back as the lights came up to discover Princess Margaret had been smuggled in two rows behind me and just behind my friend Bruce.*

Admittedly, more people probably want to kill Georgie Porgie.

* And that didn't beat my previous experience in the same theatre when I'd been sent to review Waiting for Godot and spotted my friend Geoff sidling into the row behind me. He seemed curiously unwilling to say hi, nudged his head sideways and I realised he was accompanying Mary McAleese, Uachtarán na hÉireann! But she came in while the lights were still up - admittedly, just, but nonetheless!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-05 06:54 am (UTC)
legionseagle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] legionseagle
A friend of mine who used to work for the NT fancied seeing The Pillowman just at the end of its run, and knew that the theatre always had tickets on hand "just in case" for diplomats and royalty and so forth. So she wangled a ticket and then noticed that two seats along -- the other side, in fact, of a rather overmuscled man who looked as if he'd have been happier in fatigues than a suit - was someone whom she knew, slightly, as the brother of a friend of hers who'd played the guitar while she sang at the tail end of said friend's party, about ten years earlier. And, indeed, he was looking at her with that desperate air of "I know her from somewhere, but where?" She was only prevented from leaning across and saying, "I'm S's friend I, remember, from that party in Islington?" by the fact that in the intervening ten years or so Tony, the guitarist in question, had become rather better known as the Prime Minister.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-05 07:41 am (UTC)
tree_and_leaf: Isolated tree in leaf, against blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] tree_and_leaf
That's a brilliant story.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-05 11:10 am (UTC)
clanwilliam: (Default)
From: [personal profile] clanwilliam
I'd have been tempted to mutter "did you ever master that chord you had problems with?"

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-06 04:17 am (UTC)
castiron: cartoony sketch of owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] castiron
It sounds like it was lovely!

I have yet to find a guide to the Ring Cycle that tops Anna Russell's.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-07 02:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ethelmay.livejournal.com
"She's his aunt, by the way."

(no subject)

Date: 2016-07-07 02:58 am (UTC)
castiron: cartoony sketch of owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] castiron
"I'm not making this up, you know!"

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