May 15, 2011

Die Walkure


So it was already Wagner, right? Lord of the Eternal Posturing Howl? Tonight’s opera was already going to be five and a half hours long (which was causing a certain amount of prospective howling from yours truly, not being a totally devoted Wagner chick), including the two knitting-with-champagne intervals.

And then it started forty minutes late. We needed that. We really did. And they couldn’t even tell us why? What’s that about, oh mighty Metropolitan?* It is now after midnight and I’m only just home, because when we finally got out at eleven p.m. the gate through the medieval part of town was closed because of course we’re due a Hun invasion any day now and you can’t be too careful. So we had to go waaaaay the hell and gone around . . . and we went the even wayer and goner around because Peter and I had an argument about which way was shorter, he won, and I was right.

And I have to get up tomorrow morning to ring bells. And I haven’t had supper yet.

So, the short form:

Fabulously sung. Fabulously. Since I’m not a Wagnerite I forget the obsessive focus on the principals: there are only four people carrying over four hours of music. Sieglinde’s husband has a few lines, and Wotan’s wife Fricka has one scene—and Brunnhilde’s eight sisters come on for the Ride of the Valkyries** . . . and that’s pretty much it. And while I acknowledge that Fricka’s music is difficult and demanding, it’s such a thankless role—thankless even up against stiff competition from 50% of the big four—that I’m going to pass over her entirely beyond saying that she did a creditable job.***

Of the steel-throated four . . . I think it may be impossible to do a sympathetic Sieglinde. She’s another in the long tedious line of whining, collapse-prone heroines wholly identified by their relationships to men.† And while this kind of female is always a sexual pawn being moved around the chessboard by men, I feel that poor dreadful Sieglinde is even more genital-defined than usual, although that may just be that I always freak out a little that nobody (except Fricka) seems to find it at all odd that brother and sister are getting it on. In Act Two Sieglinde is throwing herself around about her disgrace, and how could she submit to a man she hated, ie her husband . . . um, possibly because she wanted to go on eating? If she refused an arranged marriage, did she have other options? How are her IT skills? Maybe she could get a job as a waitress at the local hostelry?†† Anyway, she says she is not WORTHY of Siegmund’s ‘blameless [sic] love’. Um. Honey, he’s your brother.

And then there’s Wotan. Ewwwww. I have known that I dislike Wotan, and that my (okay, intense) dislike of Wotan is one of the things that keeps me at a little (sort of a large little) distance from the Ring.††† I don’t think I’d realised just how much I frelling loathe Wotan, who is an arrogant, self-obsessed pigsodomiser, and a whiner-pants with it. Frelling frell. And the real shock to the system was that Bryn Terfel, my hero, did nothing to bring me any closer. Except sing his/your socks off, of course: as I say, the singing was all fabulous.‡ But, dear . . . um, gods . . . what a tick.

But now we’re getting into the good stuff. I haven’t seen Jonas Kaufmann on stage before, although I know him from CD. I was all excited about hearing him as Siegmund, and I was right about that. And Deborah Voigt . . . I already knew I loved Deborah Voigt, and she was a glorious Brunnhilde, and sympathetic with it, as her tick of an old man was not. It is interesting to me—and I hope some of the rest of you saw this WALKURE and will post about what you thought of the singers—because the extent the four principals actually persuaded me cuts right down the middle, with Sieglinde and Wotan on one side and Siegmund and Brunnhilde on the other. Sieglinde (Eva-Maria Westbroek) and Wotan are terrific singers doing a hell of a job with some of the hardest vocal music out there: Siegmund and Brunnhilde were characters. I wasn’t watching them do their snappy complex turns, I was watching Siegmund and Brunnhilde as embodied by two particular singers.

And . . . I have to go to bed. I may tackle the staging tomorrow. Glerb.

* * *

* It’s possible of course that they tried and it didn’t get through to the cinema staff for one reason or another. But there was plenty of opportunity for one of the on-the-spot Met introducers to say something like ‘gee, we’re really sorry, but the elephant from AIDA got loose, smashed all the music stands in the pit and then impaled itself on one of those incredibly stupid rotating pistons that cost £1,000,000,000,000 and were the idiot centrepiece of this production, and it took us a little while to clean up and borrow some spare music stands from the City Opera next door.’^

^ I think the City Opera is still next door. I haven’t been there in a while.

** Which was the low point of the incredibly STUPID staging.

*** The problem with thankless roles is that you have to have enough time on stage to make some kind of impression outside the essential awfulness. Fricka is a cow. A prissy cow. She’s married to a rat turd and this has clearly been bad for her character development, but she’s still a cow.

† As these creatures go, I minded the droopy girl in IL TROVATORE less than a lot of you. But I am surprised nobody else thought that the soprano’s top end had a few effortful moments, chiefly, as I blurrily recall now, at the beginning. Quality of voice, A-plus. Smooth and sweet and luscious. But.

†† I have a similar problem with Siegmund’s story of how he came to be being hunted by bloodthirsty foes: he was nobly trying to rescue a girl from a forced marriage. All very well, but what was he planning on doing with her after he killed her brothers?

††† The other big reason is the staggering inanity of the plot. As Peter^ says, it reads like a really bad paperback fantasy.

^ Peter wanted to go!  When I read off the list of this year’s season, it was one of the ones he chose!

‡ Or if it wasn’t, I am so gobsmacked by the sheer force of the Wagnerian voice that I’m incapable of making subtle judgements.


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