BBC Music Magazine - - Opera Reviews -

The Ring of the Ni­belung (DVD)

Salzburg Mar­i­onette Theatre Belvedere BVE 10138 109 mins Not­with­stand­ing the cen­turies of tra­di­tion be­hind pup­pet opera, stag­ing the Ring is a tall or­der. This con­dens­ing of the work’s 16 hours into two, shows that even pup­pet opera is not im­mune to the rav­ages of Regieoper. A highly in­ter­pre­ta­tive commentary is de­liv­ered with en­ergy and imag­i­na­tion by a male and a fe­male ac­tor; but un­der­ly­ing the whole pro­duc­tion is an overtly di­dac­tic ap­proach in which, amongst much else, the gods ar­rive at Val­halla in a Cadil­lac and the Ride of the Valkyries is staged as a disco dance.

Oc­ca­sion­ally the com­bi­na­tion of ac­tors and pup­pets works well, par­tic­u­larly when the for­mer ar­rive on stage as the gi­ants Fa­solt and Fafner look­ing all too con­vinc­ing against the size of the pup­pet gods, but far too of­ten the fa­tal dis­junc­tion be­tween the sheer scale of Wag­ner’s score and the minia­ture stag­ing jars. There is also a mod­ernistic gloss that seems to in­di­cate a pro­duc­tion that is fun­da­men­tally un­easy with the work it­self. There is some per­ti­nent up­dat­ing, but so of­ten the ob­ser­va­tions are ba­nal: Alberich’s pur­suit of the Rhine Maidens be­comes for the woman nar­ra­tor ‘sex­ual ha­rass­ment’ and for the man ‘mob­bing’. Else­where the mod­ernising is sim­ply ir­ri­tat­ing: Sieg­mund ar­rives dressed as a cow­boy on a mo­tor­bike and there is a deal of con­cerned ‘tut-tut­ting’ over the chau­vin­is­tic pol­i­tics of Göt­ter­däm­merung. While the re­duc­tion to an evening’s en­ter­tain­ment un­der­stand­ably re­quires con­ci­sion, far too of­ten the nar­ra­tive in­ter­ven­tion is spo­ken over the mu­sic, turn­ing Wag­ner’s score into melo­drama. Per­haps most telling is that, in the end, the big­gest thrills come from the mu­sic dis­tilled from Ge­org Solti’s pi­o­neer­ing Decca record­ing, re­plete with some of the finest Wag­ne­r­ian voices of the day. Too so­phis­ti­cated for chil­dren and rather laboured for adults, who­ever its in­tended au­di­ence there is pre­cious lit­tle magic in this overearnest re­al­i­sa­tion. Jan Smaczny PER­FOR­MANCE ★★ PIC­TURE & SOUND ★★★

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