Wagner: Die Walküre

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Opus Arte
WORKS: Die Walküre
PERFORMER: Johan Botha, Kwangchul Youn, Albert Dohmen, Edith Haller, Linda Watson, Mihoko Fujimura; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Christian Thielemann; dir. Tankred Dorst (Bayreuth, 2010)

This is from Bayreuth’s recent Ring cycle, acclaimed for Christian Thielmann’s massive but vigorous reading and some appreciable singing. Tankred Dorst’s production, however, attracted less enthusiasm. The sets, reflecting the blue-grey and orange hues of the Festpielhaus foyer, create some striking stage pictures – Hunding’s derelict salon; Wotan surveying a sea of mist, dotted with sinister Soviet-style sculptures; the Valkyries’ Rock a deserted quarry. Unfortunately Dorst’s concept – that the gods play out their epic downfall invisibly, among everyday people – turned out more distracting than convincing. Video director Michael Beyer downplays the mortal intruders; but this throws the emphasis on something else German critics loathe – that Dorst accepts Wagner’s mythical dimension at face value. His gods are superhuman yet fallible, rather than Brecht-style gangsters.
Johan Botha as Siegmund is ungainly, yet gives this dark character unusual innocence and a voice both clarion and lyrical – though occasionally behind the beat, perhaps from Bayreuth’s notorious acoustic delay. Edith Haller’s creamy-voiced Sieglinde is even more heartfelt. Kwangchul Youn is resonant but a dull dog of a Hunding; Mihoko Fujimura’s Fricka unimpressive, and, like Linda Watson’s Brünnhilde, unflatteringly costumed. Watson is more powerful than Anne Evans on Barenboim’s Bayreuth recording, but less passionate, and mature of aspect; her Valkyrie sisters are more spirited. Albert Dohmen’s voice isn’t large, but delivery and acting make him a powerful Wotan. Michael Scott Rohan