Monday, 29 July 2013

Ring Cycling

It would be interesting to work out how many miles I cycled during this last week that I've spent in London. I visited Wandsworth, Maida Vale, Camden and Southwark, and much in between: rather satisfying, to be seven days in London without a freedom pass, but still paying nothing to get around. The chief hazard I identified was not from buses or lorries, but those fellow cyclists who zoomed past at twice my speed.

It's hard to imagine that 2013 will bring me a greater musical experience than the Proms Ring Cycle, which reached its conclusion last night in a packed and hushed Albert Hall. Too often in the theatre applause breaks out the second the curtain falls, without any savouring of the drama: Barenboim though held us spellbound, not just throughout the five and half hours of Götterdämmerung, but for a good few seconds following the final bar of music.

"It ain't over till the fat lady sings" goes the saying; which while true enough on Saturday, can't be said of this Götterdämmerung. Nina Stemme's physique gives no inkling of her vocal power - a superb Brünnhilde; and matched by the best Siegfried I've come across: Andreas Schager - a great actor with a heroic voice. How rare is that!

"Don't you get bored with seeing The Ring so often?" I'm asked. Far from it! Each time there's something you haven't noticed before. One of my favourite themes is that describing Freia's essential contribution to the vitality of her fellow Gods. "Golden apples grow in her garden," sings Fafner. But the same theme occurred last night when Hagen described his blood as "obstinate and cold" (in contrast to the "pure and noble" blood of Siegfried). And Brünnhilde's refusing Waltraute's request to give up Siegfried's love (or rather its token) is accompanied by the music first heard in the opening scene of Das Rheingold to illustrate the renunciation of love in very different circumstances.

Nobody goes to Götterdämmerung for the jokes, but those of us standing tightly-packed in a stuffy Proms arena could be forgiven for a snigger at Siegfried's words to an off-stage Hagen: "Come down! It's airy and cool here."

From left, my photograph shows Margarita Nekrasova (1st Norn), Schager, Anna Lapkovskaja (Flosshilde), Stemme, a sombre-looking Barenboim, the great Waltraud Meier (2nd Norn and Waltraute), Mikhail Petrenko (as at Cardiff in 2006, a Hagen to be feared - he received a pantomime "Boo!" at his curtain call), the ROH Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna, Maria Gortsevskaya (Welgunde), Aga Mikolaja (Woglinde) and Gerd Grochowski (Gunther).

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