Composer: Richard Wagner
English text: Simon Rees
Associate Director: Joe Austin
Conductor: Richard Farnes
Reviewer: Charlotte Broadbent
And thus commences twenty and half hours of opera as Opera North embark on presenting Wagner’s Ring Cycle in its entirety. A colossal undertaking and the epitome of an operatic experience. At a running time of two hours and forty minutes Das Rheingold is by far the shortest of the operas and is considered to only exist as a prologue or “preliminary evening” to The Ring Cycle. Das Rheingold still has and epic story to tell and sets the tone for the entire Wagnerian journey. With vengeful giants, wicked dwarves and the glory of Valhalla Opera North have an almost overwhelming picture to paint.
The opening music is said to evoke the dawn of time. With such a specific task the orchestra led by Richard Farnes must transport the listener to, not just anther world but another reality and a land of fantasy. Opera North boast one of the finest orchestras in the country and this evening they played tirelessly the create vivid colour and depth. Though tentative to start it didn’t take long until they were comfortably in their stride. The choice to have the orchestra on stage is to “visually showcase the orchestra – the central ‘character’ of The Ring ”. While this decision may have initially raised eyebrows their presence on stage adds to the full force and splendour of the opera, though undeniably hindered the singers movement options. They provide a feast for the eyes and, as this is Richard Farnes final year with Opera North it is special to have him at the helm as well as on the stage.
The use of digital screens replaces a set and is used not only to display subtitles (the opera in sung in German) but are also used to show images that suggest place and tone. They do, on occasions produce a slight wave of motion sickness but they do change throughout, providing differing focal points. Some narrative text is taken from The Story of the Ring by Michael Birkett which enhances the mythical and ancient spirit of the story by bringing the audience through the text.
Wolfgang Ablinger – Sperrhacke had shades of wit and wisdom as Loge, the tricksters God. Vocally both bright and precise he is aurally providing us with a perfect mischief maker and with some humours choices in his performance his embodies the role throughout in spite of the concert setting. A more sinister Fafner won’t be found than in Mats Almgren whose rumbling bass and rolling r’s seemed to make the theatre tremble with minimal effort. Jo Pohlheim is vicious and loathsome as Alberich the dwarf, but is able to produce some shades of humility that round that character well.
Das Rheingold is the opening chapter that sets this epic adventure in motion. What the company have sacrificed in set and staging they have invested in quality and this Das Rheingold has set the bar high for the coming week.
Reviewed on: 13th June 2016 | Photo: Clive Barder