Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the Copenhagen Opera 2006 – the review
As you already know; we are the Rhinemaidens and we want the ring back. We absolutely loved the staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle at the Copenhagen Opera.
Basically we had already seen all the different parts of the Ring – they have been staged one by one over these past three years – but this was special to us, because we were told the stories in the right order and pace. So intellectually there were no surprises, it was more of an emotional need; like being a little child again and being told one’s favourite story one more time, as if you’d never heard it before. And then it wasn’t just oneself being the enthusiastic little child, the whole audience was the little children, which just added to the enjoyment of it…
…ok, so this prose-thing? Not working. We are sitting here together, trying to express in elegant prose how we feel about the Ring, and it’s just not possible. We have to turn to the power of The List, once again:
Great things – chronologically:
-The doings of the Rhinemaidens; their bubbling babbling (Weia! Wage! Wage, du Welle, walle zur Wiege etc.) and their Charleston outfits.
– The image of untameable Nature illustrated by the empty pool with all the water outside of it.
– The Gold represented by a naked swimming young man (for the artistic value of it – get your minds out of the gutter, people!).
– To jætter? (two giants, Fafner and Fasolt), made out as a profiteer and a construction worker, particularly the depiction of Fasolt’s naïve sensitivity amidst all his coarseness – his humbly offering Freia flowers.
– Endlich Loge! And they made him a journalist… yay! With a 1920-style camera! Snapping pictures! And he is constantly in need of a lighter (the god of fire!).
– Loge getting surprised by Alberich as a monster.
– The screaming little nibelungs acted by little boys. Boys as dwarves. Love it.
– Alberich as toad. Caught in the attaché (!) case by Loge.
– The torture chamber scene with pants-wetting Alberich, Wotan who ruthlessly cuts off Alberich’s arm while a trembling, shocked Loge watches. It’s unbearable, but it’s brilliantly effective.
– Back in Valhalla, Freia, having been reduced to a commodity, breaks down and cries and lets herself be comforted by Fasolt in a very touching and tender scene.
– The crackling recording of the Rhinemaidens’ lament. The image of everything being out dated and too late.
– The beautiful first meeting between Siegmund and Sieglinde – such a display of affection!
– Hunding, portrayed by Stephen Milling who also portrayed Fasolt. This was one of the instances where it was amazing to see the two operas in a row: Stephen Milling as the soft Fasolt in Rheingold and then only one day later as the callous Hunding. In theory it should be problematic having one actor for two so different parts but when this actor is Stephen Milling we think it’s just jolly good.
– Teenage Brünnhilde jumping joyously like a carefree rubber ball greeting her idol father. She is so cute.
– The Ride of the Valkyries – the winged valkyries – black winged, that is. As genies of war they make a splendid sight that just gets better as they multiply. And they are champagne drunken teenagers too.
– The entire finale with Wotan ripping off Brünnhilde’s wings as the marvelous climax.
– The doll’s house where Siegfried and Mime lives. It is so ironic that the great hero Siegfried has to live in Mime’s tiny lodgings.
– Mime’s yellow turtleneck.
– Mime typing on his old typewriter joining the orchestra at the Nibelungen leitmotiv.
– Mime. In general.
(To the left)
– Siegfried playing the recorder (badly) to imitate the wood pigeon.
– The booty call in the boudoir (Wotan waking up Erda).
– Contrasted by the swift change of scene to the no-man’s land where Siegfried and drunken grandpa Wotan meet, prompting Wotan to realize that he has to let things move on.
– The final scene with the fire-ice stage setting moving towards us while turning without making a sound. Pure beauty matching the gorgeous music. And the confused, tentative, insecure, adolescent meeting between Siegfried and Brünnhilde and the final sex scene.
– The Balkan theme in stage setting of Gunther’s home with Gutrune as a cheap blonde. Excellently portrayed by Ylva Kihlberg.
– Siegfried tasting alcohol for the first time, getting wonderfully drunk with Gunther.
– The Waltraute scene
particularly because of the visual resemblance it bears to this drawing from 1799 by N.A. Abildgaard:
– The cruel father/son scene between Alberich/Hagen where Hagen receives the last information he needs from his father and then proceeds to kill him since he no longer has any value to him. We have been chanting “schläfst du, Hagen, mein Sohn?” (“are you sleeping, Hagen, my son?” ) a lot lately.
– The liquidation of innocent civilians – brutal, but effective in the same way as the torture chamber scene from Rheingold. Particularly nasty detail with the captured women getting forced to watch the deed.
– The purposely cheap-looking costumes for the wedding scene. All that polyester just adds to the nightmare that the event must be to Brünnhilde.
– A worried Gutrune waiting for Siegfried to come home, and learning that he is dead and breaking down in her brother’s arms.
– The moment of sympathetic bonding between Gutrune and Brünnhilde – the two women joining hands in comfort and understanding.
– Brünnhilde crying out in despair by Siegfried’s dead body.
– Brünnhilde setting the old world, represented by papers and books and souvenirs, on fire.
– Hagen having his arm set on fire as he tries to get hold of the ring: Burn, motherfucker. Burn.
(no picture of that particular scene so instead a portrait of the motherfucker before he burns)
– Brünnhilde resurrecting below a beautiful white, calm moon, contrasting the wild fire, carrying her newborn baby as a symbol of the new world rising. We cried and cried.
So we loved this Ring. Only once during the about 15 hours of music did we frown: the prologue of Götterdämmerung with the norns was just too subtle, too meta and too stupid. Norns as annoying conservative audience was a disappointing and meaningless use of these marvelous characters. And the references to Patrice Chereau’s 1976 Bayeruth Ring seemed quite stupid as that particular Ring went against the very same type of conservative audience.
A part from that…not much to dislike. The concept of the staging worked throughout the cycle. The performances, both musical and dramatic, were outstanding and the orchestra played well.
The performance was recorded and filmed and we pray fervently that some production company will be interested in putting out this great Ring on dvd. We would certainly buy it. And tie down all our friends to watch it over and over.
/marie and anna
All pictures are taken from the homepage of The Royal Theatre, Copenhagen (photographer Martin Mydtskov Rønne). Except from Abildgaard which belongs to Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.