Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hojotoho! Heiahaha! - Wonderfully sung Walkure

It is hard to live by your own highest standard.

After their magnificent production of Das Rheingold, Carlos Padrissa and  La Fura dels Baus do not convince in Die Walkure [also released on DVD at the end of 2009].

Hadn't I seen Das Rheingold I guess I'd have liked this DVD far more than I actually do. In any case, this still remains a very good production; certainly worth your 4 hours (actually 4h30 if you count  "Making of" in).  This DVD will not be remembered for what La Fura did, but rather for a smashing performance of all the singers  [Peter Seiffert and Juha Uusitalo, in particular].

I doubt one could line up a better cast for this opera. You can speculate that Nina Stemme or Eva Maria Westbroek would sing currently better Sieglinde, but I bet no one could sing Siegmund better than Peter Seiffert. He delivers here like he never did before: undoubtedly one of the best Siegmunds I've ever heard. RESPECT!

The freshness and power of Juha Uusitalo, his stamina and astonishing endurance - that makes a more than impressive Wotan.  RESPECT!

I love Brunnhilde by Jennifer Wilson: she's got a powererful, sane and youngish voice,  which in addition to her looks -to me at least- makes a perfect fit for Brunnhilde.  RESPECT!

I very much enjoyed Petra Maria Schnitzer's singing  Sieglinde. Anna Larsson sings here better than she did in Rheingold, and it is refreshing to see a production in which Fricka's feminity is particularly emphasized. Finally, Matti Salminen is absolutely unbeatable as Hunding, again both scenically and vocally!

What about the staging? While the Gods belong to the alien [master] race, the terrestrial creatures live in the Stone Age. Hunding is here a Cro-Magnon who completely submitted Sieglinde (here fully human) and keeps her on the leash. Naturally, since they are not the same species, they cannot have  children... That sets a clever framework and Carlos Padrissa nicely builds on that a contact between Sieglinde and Siegmund: e.g. they sniff one another when they met for the first time; Sieglinde never stands up straight before she fled with Siegmund and felt liberated... The idea works well indeed.  My problem is not so much the fact that the scenical solutions of these first two acts are very disconnected from Rheingold, but more in the way it all has been brought to life. It is too static and relies solely on video imagery, which to me always looks like cheating in terms of true theatrical work [i.e. When you don't know what to do with actors run some images on the screen to make the audience awake!]

On the other hand the ride of the Valkyries, which opens the 3rd Act, is sensational - both scenically and vocally. The 4th act instead is veeery classic and again static. A novelty is that the circular podium on which Brunnhilde falls asleep [to 'hibernate'] is placed on the backs of the crawling crew of La Fura dels Baus. Here the video imagery gets annoying actually. The last Wotan's monologue must be one of the most brilliant operatic moments ever. La Fura decides to ridiculously change every 15 seconds a video image in the overwhelming background. All in all, there are some nice ideas and it is to a large extent well done, but it is very far from the standards we could see in Rheingold.  

On the scale 1-5 :

SIEGMUND Peter Seiffert 5
HUNDING Matti Salminen 5
WOTAN Juha Uusitalo 5
SIEGLINDE Petra Maria Schnitzer 5
BRUNNHILDE Jennifer Wilson 5
FRICKA Anna Larsson 5

Carlos Padrissa's production (for La Fura dels Baus) 3-4

Zubin Mehta 4

  Overal impression:  4-5  

Peter Seiffert ROCKS!

Final Scene

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