Chéreau Ring – Götterdämmerung

And so, at last to Götterdämmerung.  The scene with the Norns is dark, very dark.  There’s a rope and not much goes on (at least that is visible) but the singing is good.  The “dawn” scene comes off more effectively here than the final scene of Siegfried but it’s still not great.  I think the problem is a combination of Manfred Jung’s dry, rather nasal tone and Boulez rather fast tempu.  It seems rushed rather than ecstatic and the Rhine Journey doesn’t thrill.  I was concerned at this point that I was being unfair to a renowned production so I put on the same scene from Kupfer/Barenboim.  It’s much better.  Siegfried Jerusalem sounds truly heroic, Anne Evans richer tone blends better than Gwyneth Jones’ (though this could be an artefact of the recording) and, crucially, Barenboim gives the singers room to sing before markedly speeding up for the orchestral music.  At least there is no naff attempt to depict a literal Grane in Chéreau’s version.  At the conclusion of this scene Brian Large pulls off the first of his artsy effects.  During the Rhine music he holds a close up of Brünnhilde for a rather long time before pulling out to a full stage shot which he then shrinks until there is just a tiny square of picture  in the middle of a black screen which, when he slowly expands it, has transformed to the Gibichung hall.  He does the same thing a couple more times.  It seems odd to introduce that kind of thing at such a late stage in the cycle.

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Chéreau Ring – Die Walküre

The second instalment of Patrice Chéreau’s 1980 Bayreuth Ring cycle is set, like Das Rheingold, in a sort of industrial bourgeois late 19th century.  One would almost say steampunk if that were not an anachronism.  Actually the “industrial” side is much less evident than in the earlier work.  There’s a sort of astrolabe/pendulum thing in Valhalla but that’s about it.  Setting aside, the story telling is very straightforward; so much so that it takes a real effort of the imagination to get into a mindset where this production could ever have been considered controversial.  It’s quite literal; Brünnhilde has a helmet and breast and back plates (worn over a rather severe grey dress), Wotan has a spear, Siegmund has a sword.  There’s not an assault rifle or light sabre to be seen.  It is though dramatically effective.

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