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'Das Rheingold' -
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'... a joyous experience ...'

Wagner: Das Rheingold. © 2005 Opus Arte

I first encountered Harry Kupfer, producer of this Barcelona Rheingold, somewhere inside Senta's mind at a 1985 Bayreuth Dutchman; next time was at New Street Station, Birmingham in 1989, where he had set Gluck's Orfeo for Covent Garden. I could hardly wait for the location of our third meeting in a version of Wagner's 'Vorabend' transferred from the Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin. It was almost disappointing that we seemed to be at the bottom of the Rhine, in front of the brand-new Valhalla, in the murky depths of Nibelheim, and finally heading again for cloud-capp'd towers on high. Yet gods above and dwarfs below were apparently connected by a World Escalator that had temporarily ceased working in the best traditions of London transport.

Alberich and, above, the Rhinemaidens, in the world ash tree. © 2005 Opus Arte
Alberich and, above, the Rhinemaidens, in the world ash tree. © 2005 Opus Arte

As main stage feature, the World Ash Tree was omnipresent, its roots deep in the bed of the Rhine. The infinite E flat of the prelude, result of Wagner's bilious attack after too much ice cream, was enlivened by Wotan's snapping a branch from it to shape his spear for the recording of treaties soon to be broken. Perhaps it was odd to crown the gods with the sort of wreath Julius Caesar may have used to hide his baldness, and to encircle their necks with floral tributes similar to those I receive in India. Alberich's transformations were not a success: his serpent resembled more a large blackened lobster, and the toad might just as well have been a performing banana.

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Copyright © 30 March 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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