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Bodo Brinkmann's Gunther is not the usual wimp -- he comes over as more macho than usual, and as his sister Gutrune, Eva-Maria Bundschuh is voluptuous. The dynamic between these two and their half-brother, Hagen, came over well because not only were the siblings portrayed strongly, but Philip Kang's Hagen was not the darkest, grimmest portrayal on record. This helps to remove the element of caricature that can creep in; after all, if Hagen is so obvious then why has no-one noticed [listen -- CD12 track 7, 1:00-2:06].

Waltraud Meier's Waltraute is nearly ideal, giving me regrets that the role is so short. Meier balances well with Evans' Brünnhilde, making their scene an extremely powerful one [listen -- CD12 track 10, 0:00-1:32]. Siegfried Jerusalem successfully modulates his voice, so that he sounds unlike Siegfried when playing Gunther. Barenboim and the orchestra create terrifically vivid drama in this scene, but again Barenboim displays little concern that the orchestra nearly overwhelms Evans.

Opening Act 2, Alberich and Hagen's Schläfst du Hagen mein Sohn was gripping, but this scene is usually a sure fire hit. The ensuing scene with the vassals is pure 19th century grand opera and comes over very well, helped by the superb Bayreuth chorus and Brinkmann's strong Hagen. But with Brünnhilde and Gunther's entrance, the pacing and structure of the act becomes a little less secure. I missed the sense of underlying tension, the feeling that something is fundamentally wrong. Individual moments are dramatically done, but the cumulative feeling is lacking.

This is not helped by Evans' carefully shaped lines; her husbanding of resources means that she lacks the ability to imbue the line with the searing intensity necessary; only occasionally does she sound agitated and hardly ever furiously jealous. This act only really makes sense if we can feel Brünnhilde's overwhelming frustration and anger. Well modulated, finely shaped she might be, but Evans' Brünnhilde is rarely overwhelmed with passion. Again it is in the quieter moments when Evans impresses: Brünnhilde's monologue just before the final trio shows her at her best [listen -- CD13 track 16, 0:15-1:38].

Throughout this act Siegfried Jerusalem retains his admirably straightforward demeanour, though he does show a little tiredness.

Finally, in the trio which closes the Act, Barenboim does rack up the tension, bringing things to a tremendous conclusion [listen -- CD13 track 19, 0:00-1:18].

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Copyright © 9 August 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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