Barenboim's 'Ring' -
concluding a series of reviews
by ROBERT HUGILL
'The balance ... favours Evans more, which is a good thing.'
There is one final disc in the set; a DVD of highlights of the staging. Whilst it is difficult to trim the entire Ring down to an hour, the disc does help to give a flavour of Harry Kupfer's production. From Das Rheingold we have the Rhinemaidens from the opening scene, and the closing scene with the Gods contemplating newly created Valhalla. For the Rhine scene Kupfer and his team give us the image of the Rhinemaidens bathed in the brilliant green light of the Rhine. This is first of many scenes on the disc with stunning lighting.
'Lugt Schwestern' from Das Rheingold. DVD screenshot © 2005 Warner Classics
For Valhalla we first see the Gods dressed in white and grey, ecstatically dancing on an open stage then the Rainbow Bridge appears as a series of rainbow coloured columns of light. Tomlinson's shaggy Wotan has a very physical presence to go with his voice. Frustratingly, the excerpt ends before the Gods cross the Rainbow Bridge.
'Der Augen leuchtendes paar' from Die Walküre. DVD screenshot © 2005 Warner Classics
The excerpts from Die Walküre consist of a scene from Act 1 between Siegmund and Sieglinde, plus Siegmund's Winterstürme, the Ride of the Valkyries and a substantial part of Wotan's Farewell. The Act 1 excerpts are contiguous, but they are played as separated scenes with a gap between them. Again, the prevailing colour is black and grey; the tree is a giant trunk growing through the attic roof. Siegmund and Sieglinde are dressed in nondescript grey. Secunde's Sieglinde is an intensely physical portrayal, but the relationship between the two singers, though physical, is not overwhelmingly passionate; Kupfer keeps them separated for much of the time. From viewing this CD, I got the feeling that Kupfer might have played down sheer physical passion. When spring enters, the roof descends, leaving us with just the tree trunk on an open stage. Elming's account of Winterstürme is very musical, but again I would have liked more physical passion. The excerpt stops before Sieglinde's Du bist der Lenz.
The Ride of the Valkyries opens with huddles of grey people on an open stage. Again the lighting is stunning. Throughout the proceedings these people stumble slowly across the stage, presumably the heroes on their way to Valhalla. An illuminated gantry descends and the Valkyries enter down this, dressed in black trenchcoats with clear Perspex shields and helmets, they carry spears. I could not help feeling that the physical choreography of the scene, though imaginative, did not really match the visceral excitement of the music. Again, the predominant colours are black and grey and the lighting plot is superb. The excerpt ends with Brünnhilde and Sieglinde's entrance. For Wotan's farewell there is just a black, open stage; an eery landscape with no rock; Brünnhilde seems to go to her transformation willingly and there is rather a lot of moving about ecstatically during the orchestral peroration. But for the important vocal moments, Evans is touchingly lying down with her head in Tomlinson's lap. Once asleep, Tomlinson does cover her with helmet, shield and spear.
Copyright © 10 August 2005
Robert Hugill, London UK