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Die Walküre performed at Salzburg Festival 2017

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

Die Walküre
Peter Seiffert, Georg Zeppenfeld, Vitalij Kowaljow, Anja Harteros, Anja Kampe, Christa Mayer, Johanna Winkel, Alexandra Petersamer, Brit-Tone Müllertz, Christina Bock, Stepánka Pucálková, Katrin Wundsam, Simone Schröder, Katharina Magiera; Staatskapelle Dresden/Christian Thielemann; dir. Vera Nemirova (Salzburg, 2017)
C Major Entertainment 742808

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This Salzburg production was billed as a recreation of Herbert von Karajan’s classic 1967 staging, but on this DVD ‘recreation’ acquires inverted commas – advisedly, because it’s nothing of the sort.

Günther Schneider-Siemssen’s monumental sets are reproduced, yes, by another hand. However, their atmospheric, integrated lighting and projections used in his Ring cycles at Covent Garden, the Met and Warsaw are replaced by flatly lit, pallidly revamped images, the costumes with charity-shop and campy winged-helmetry. And Karajan’s straightforward but dramatic staging is replaced by Vera Nemirova’s even less imaginative attempt. Character direction is conventional, static, and larded with meaningless gestures. There’s no tension, sexual or otherwise, between Sieglinde, Siegmund and Hunding; Wotan, in an overtight suit and improbable Legolas wig, hands Brünnhilde a toy rocking horse; Fricka is heaved on in an armchair by ram-headed musclemen; the Valkyries simply line up downstage while zombiefied warriors stagger behind them; the magic fire is a puff of flame and a few torch-bearers. And so on, offering neither the consistency of tradition nor the vitality of reinterpretation.

Nor is this as distinguished musically as it suggests. Peter Seiffert’s lumbering Siegmund, at 63, is a shadow of his younger voice, Anja Harteros’s Sieglinde bright- voiced but uncharacteristically uninspiring, Georg Zeppenfeld a light-voiced, unimpressive Hunding. Vitalij Kowaljow’s Wotan is robust but unsubtle, often with choppy, short-breathed phrasing. Alongside acceptable Valkyries and Christa Mayer’s Fricka, Anja Kampe’s Brünnhilde provides the finest singing, but despite some whole-hearted vigour she too seems somewhat directionless. And while Karajan isn’t my ideal Wagner conductor, playing his recordings highlighted the drama and passion I missed in Christian Thielemann’s weighty, slow-flowing reading, especially a turgid Act I; even the Dresden orchestra sounded muted.

Next to many, even most DVD performances, for example Daniel Barenboim’s and Simon Rattle’s, this seems pointless and uncompelling.

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Michael Scott Rohan