Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Superbly concentrated drama in Opera Australia's Die Walküre: Herald Sun Review

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts/review-die-walkure-is-the-second-instalment-in-richard-wagners-epic-16hour-ring-cycle/news-story/8bc940fe8766c1b5d8f270e9a7ef1588


The mightiest words would crumble in shame in describing the beauty of Wednesday night’s opening of Opera Australia’s Die Walküre, the second instalment of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Almost four hours of Wagner’s absorbing music and libretto became realised in near perfection through director Neil Armfield’s sensitive vision, a cast of superlative reach and conductor Pietari Inkinen’s all-encompassing grasp on extracting its soul with the 135-piece Melbourne Ring Orchestra clearly on the same page. The effect was staggering, more so than the production’s 2013 triumph.

Amber Wagner as Sieglinde and Bradley Daley as Siegmund
Even a technical glitch that delayed Act 2 and sent the night over one hour behind couldn’t harm the resilience of an enthralled audience. Over and over again, time proves an inconsequential concept in The Ring.

After Das Rheingold’s broader landscape of power, greed and love renounced, Die Walküre’s night zooms in on the vicissitudes of love with Armfield’s intelligently sharpened focus on character nuance.

Robert Cousins’s restrained designs — Act 1’s little timber hut in the snow, Act 2’s ramped helical structure to the gods and Act 3’s dark emptiness punctured by a huge ring — all aid to concentrate the drama superbly.

Paired as convincing siblings, charismatic tenor Bradley Daley and formidable soprano Amber Wagner portrayed Siegmund and Sieglinde’s newborn but forbidden love with utter and compelling immediacy. Wagner’s performance was nothing less than breathtaking with effortless carriage of the text, firm technique and resourcefully rich expression that secures her in the company of greats.

James Johnson as Wotan and Lise Lindstrom as Brünnhilde 
In a more seamless performance than Monday night’s Das Rheingold, baritone James Johnson masterfully measured his portrayal of a Wotan clearly lacerated by the dilemma of power, love and sacrifice. Mezzo-soprano Jacqueline Dark, too, fired up a scorching spit-and-grit performance as an incensed Fricka long bearing the infidelity of her husband and Jud. Arthur notched up a gripping, thunderous-voiced and barbaric Hunding.

Of course, all are eager for Brünnhilde and soprano Lise Lindstrom burst from on high as a renegade young paratrooper in that unworldly vocal power and assuredness one hopes for. Notably, the same command characterised her more tender depiction of Brünnhilde’s turmoil and the pathos-filled final farewell to Wotan.

As her sisters in battle, eight other Valkyries supplied muscular support for the famous “Ride of the Valkyries” in a surprisingly vivid scene directed solely on a bare stage as they make their descent in harnesses.

Every moment belonged in a mesmerising continuum of palpable life and if you could convince the most unlikely suspect to see it, they may very well become committed to the The Ring for life.

Opera Australia
State Theatre, Arts Centre until December 12

Photo credits: Jeff Busby

Rating: five stars


1 comment:


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