Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Opera Australia's emotionally throbbing Götterdämmerung you could immerse yourself in over again: Herald Sun Review

Once Wagner’s four-part Der Ring des Nibelungen premiered in 1876, it was entrusted to eternity. Opera Australia notched their mark on it with Monday’s opening night of Götterdämmerung to conclude the first cycle with a Ring of immense power, emotion and beauty.

Lise Lindstrom, Stefan Vinke and Taryn Fiebig
In Götterdämmerung, the cursed ring is returned to the Rhine and a cataclysmic end for the gods comes coupled with the redemption of love. Wagner’s sublime music and easy to follow libretto are its engine but director Neil Armfield gives it heightened lucidity together with his excellent cast and design team. Armfield’s adeptness at detailing his characters and supplying dramatic context is magnified in very real and relevant ways.

Once his three frumpy Norns have sewn the curtain of fate in the prologue, designer Robert Cousins’s large-framed gable structure features on a revolve that plays a major part in complimenting orchestral passages as time and place segue through each of the three acts.

It’s shelter for Brünnhilde and Siegfried’s lovemaking, a glam home gym for Hagen’s cunning plan to obtain the ring and a marquee for a frou-frou double-wedding reception. Its prominence continues as the forest in the hunting-scene where Siegfried is murdered, the subsequent place of ritual for the tear-inducing washing of his body, then portal of fire for the dramatic immolation. Alice Babidge’s identifiable contemporary costumes assist to lock in immediacy, all sharpened by Damien Cooper’s evocative accented lighting.

A spot of stage and pit tussling didn’t take away from the splendid results conductor Pietari Inkinen once again achieved. The music breathed with attentive modulation and the Melbourne Ring Orchestra took the stage for well-deserved standing ovations for their brilliant and committed work.

Stefan Vinke as Siegfreid and Lise Lindstrom as Brünnhilde
It took time but the boy-hero Siegfried makes a hugely welcome transformation from scruffy kid to suited buff man and tenor Stefan Vinke’s performance seemed to turn with it. The huge weight of the voice acquired limberness to become aflame with a rich timbre. It was Vinke at his most convincing. In Siegfried’s final words relating his past and adoration of Brünnhilde, Vinke nailed the death of innocence compellingly.

Soprano Lise Lindstrom lit the stage with an outstanding and intensely nuanced Brünnhilde. Everything in Lindsrom’s persona from the joy of love’s security to the vulnerability of sexual violation, grief in hopelessness and nobility in death was a touching masterpiece of portraiture rendered in untiring vocal radiance.

With torpedo projection, dark rumbling bass Daniel Sumegi was magnificent as the pleased-as-punch, calculating and uniformed Hagen. Gunther, the naval captain half-brother, provided the perfect contrast in the gentlemanly hands of Luke Gabbedy and his impressive burnished baritone.

Luke Gabbedy, Daniel Sumegi and Stefan Vinke
Warwick Fyfe’s shorter stage time was no less full of dramatic vocal deployment and spidery creepiness as Alberich, all the way to greedily spying end. Taryn Fiebig added high gloss as the kept-sister Gurtrune and Sian Pendry, as Waltraute, was riveting in her plea to Brünnhilde to relinquish the ring.

Lost without their gold, the glitzy Rhinemaidens returned after what looked like a week on the town but the alluring trio of Lorina Gore, Jane Ede and Dominica Matthews glowed in melodious voice. As the three Norns. Tania Ferris, Jacqueline Dark and Anna-Louise Cole sewed up an ominous start with nurturing vocal care with Cole’s gleaming soprano projecting superbly in particular and Opera Australia Chorus, in the work’s spare use of their services, massed fervently in voice.

After the seven-hour evening (including intervals), you leave Götterdämmerung pummelled by its emotional force, the artistry by which it is conveyed and more sensitive to the world outside. And you’ll want to do it all over again.

Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre until 16th December

Photo credits: Jeff Busby

Rating: four and a half stars

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