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A real triumph

McIntyre sings Wotan at Longborough Festival Opera,
reviewed by RODERIC DUNNETT

 

The UK opera season's one real triumph this summer has been Longborough Festival Opera's luring of a legend -- the great Wotan of our times, Sir Donald McIntyre, star of the Chereau-Boulez Bayreuth Centenary Ring Cycle -- to reassume the role in two Ring stagings at their gloriously sub-fusc barn conversion opera house, located near near Stow-on-the-Wold, on the Gloucestershire-Worcestershire border. Picnickers at Longborough, like those at Nevill Holt, face another fabulous valley view, across the Vale of Evesham (where Simon de Montfort succumbed in 1265) towards the distant Comptons, Wychwood and Charlbury.

A Cotswold wonder - Longborough Festival Opera House
A Cotswold wonder - Longborough Festival Opera House

You might think Martin and Lizzie Graham, who have created this idyllic, astonishing, blissfully laid back, totally unpompous eyrie opera house above Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadwell and the rural, winding River Evenlode, were indeed farming folk like the great knight himself -- who owns and farms a good many acres back in his native New Zealand.

Semi-retirement it may be for this finest of great singers -- still, tenaciously, the Hans Hotter of our day -- but he's performed quite recently in not-so-distant Australia, has rehearsed at Longborough till the cows and chickens come home, and to judge by the three nights of Rheingold, Walküre and Siegfried, seems to have shed none of the leontine magnificence which has thrilled audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and each shore of the North Sea.

Sir Donald McIntyre as Wotan in 'Das Rheingold' at Longborough Festival Opera. Photo © Stephen Wright
Sir Donald McIntyre as Wotan in 'Das Rheingold' at Longborough Festival Opera. Photo © Stephen Wright

Here is a Wotan who can still chaff and caress, howl and growl, in German that's more German than the Germans; whose portamenti (there are lots, and they're all telling) can bring you sudden terrors, or (with Brünnhilde) cause the tears to well; a master of the urgent move, Irvingesque sweeping gesture and surging emotion; a veritable giant (paradoxically, as it's them he's battling).

McIntyre was long the king of Wolfgang (if not Wieland -- who'd died in 1966) Wagner's Bayreuth: here was not just Valhalla's God, but a marriage of echt Meister and göttliches Held, in absolute command of his trade.

Sir Donald McIntyre as Wotan and Nicholas Folwell as Alberich in 'Das Rheingold'. Photo © Stephen Wright
Sir Donald McIntyre as Wotan and Nicholas Folwell as Alberich in 'Das Rheingold'. Photo © Stephen Wright

 

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Copyright © 11 August 2004 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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