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Still, surprisingly, the supporting star for me wasn't any of those; but rather the gripping Mime of Peter Bronder. Unlike John Graham-Hall, one of the best performances (as Mime) in English National Opera's flawed Rhinegold (cast against type, just like his superb von Aschenbach, standing in for an indisposed Robert Tear at Glyndebourne Touring Opera) -- breaking all stereotypes, Graham Hall, or indeed ENO's Toby Spence, would surely have made a fabulous Longborough Siegfried, at least in the thinner-scored 'reduced' version) -- Bronder has the hobbit-like looks to make a credibly naff Nibelung (indeed, he had another go recently, as Der Narr (The Dwarf) in Frankfurt's hypercolourful, almost comic-strip staging of Schreker's enjoyable Der Schatzgräber a year ago).

Peter Bronder as Mime at Longborough. Photo © Colin Willoughby
Peter Bronder as Mime at Longborough. Photo © Colin Willoughby

Though Mime's appearances get thinned by the cuts affecting Rheingold to just the extended cameo in Siegfried, Bronder's performance is one of those bits you simply don't forget. Just watch him don goggles and tap away, and you're hooked. His canny tuning, even amid yelps and snarls, makes young Siegfried sound like a passing fire engine. His hilarious poison-mixing (surprising he doesn't get out a fullscale pestle and mortar), bizarre little dalliance with McIntyre's Wanderer and eerie presence through the latter stage of Act II added a frisson to this Siegfried that even outmatched Yvonne Barclay's gamely chirping (and unexpectedly present-in-person) Woodbird.

A pity about her leafy skirt and sketchy hotpants, a cross between a National Socialist 'healthy' gymnastics advert, a pre-shot for a porn magazine or the kind of costume they doubtless donned for the 1876 original staging (certainly a dead ringer for photos of Rutland Boughton's costumes in The Immortal Hour and his Street-Glastonbury Arthurian Ring). Miss Barclay made a fine Rhinemaiden, too, amid some marginally amateurish yet effective blue blanket-waving, at the outset, along with Elaine McKrill's Wellgunde (best of the three) and Phillida Bannister's contralto Flosshilde. Bannister reemerged as a splendidly ringing Erda in Rheingold (although some of her marbled edge was lost during her rather less-well-introduced resurgence in Siegfried).

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Copyright © 15 August 2004 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK

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