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January 7th performance of Das Rheingold

 
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TER1274
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 6:04 pm    Post subject: January 7th performance of Das Rheingold Reply with quote

am going to try to put down my thoughts about the performance of Das Rheingold on the 7th Jan.

First to say is that it was extremely enjoyable - how could it not be with Bryn on stage for most of the work-and the whole thing just flew by, which is to me, usually the best indication of how much you are drawn into a drama.

There are usually some spine tingling moments and for me this happened right at the start. The Opera House was packed full and the usual bustle of voices and people chatting seemed to be louder than ever..and going on longer than ever. With the curtain due to go up at 7.30 a glance at my watch showed it to be nearly 7.40 and still nothing! Small panic at this time from me, but almost immediately the house lights dimmed, followed by the rest of the lights in the House plunging the theatre into complete darkness and quiet. Then it began, that low single E flat in the double basses, starting almost imperceptibly and then gradually building upwards as the next notes of the chord are added and more instruments join the sound. It really worked well, we were at the bottom of the Rhine and as the sound swelled and created the rocking, rippling effect of the deep waters, a single, tiny but bright light appeared in the centre of the stage. Very slowly this rose, again almost imperceptably and brightened to finally reveal the Gold in a spherical bubble, the lighting was dim and blue and a series of wavy lattice shapes projected onto the stage. A huge ladder on the left hand side came from below the stage and disappeared out of sight at the top. Very slowly a shadowy figure in a huge cloak, trimmed with animal skins climbed the ladder from bottom to top.
The Rheinmaidens appeared, naked at first but quickly throwing on cloths at the appearance of Alberich, descending into the depth of the Rhein in his rowing boat.This boat came down a giant slide in the middle of the stage, a bit in fits and starts and with some clunking! Alberich was appropriately horrible and the Rheinmaidens taunted and flirted with him admirably but I lost my way a little in this scene until the moment came for the Gold to be snatched by Alberich. Then the drama of the music and action was really powerful as Alberich smashed his hand through the sphere and wrentched out the Gold from the centre.
At the end of this scene was the moment anticipated by all of Bryns gang in the audience..he emereged onto the stage from the ladder climbing up in his fur draped cloak and then lying sleeping at the front of the stage.
As the first, rich playing of the 'Valhalla theme' sounded from the brass section, we were transported to the dwelling of the gods, a splendid apartment with a well in the centre (containing a red cord that descends into it's depth) a large table and various chairs and cabinets at the edges. Also, there is a large telescope pointing heavenwards. Frea is pacing anxiously on the balcony at the back and Wotan is woken by his wife Fricka. Bryn first sings lying flat on the floor, he is still asleep so this 'sleep singing' is gentle and lovely. Then Fricka wakens him and we get to hear the full power of his voice as he sings about the completion of the building of the gods castle, Valhalla. As soon as he is standing Bryn looks the part of Wotan. He has a presence both physically and vocally that has 'chief god' stamped all over it!
The giants arrived heralded by two giant shadows appearing on the screen at the back of the stage and of course the wonderful heavy stomping theme in the music that accompanies them. Then things start getting difficult for Wotan as his plans begin to backfire. Bryn does this really well. He is every inch the man caught in his own machinations, the politician deperately trying to get himself out of a fix. Loge eventually arrives and Wotan turns to him for a solution. I thought Loge ( Philip Langridge) was one of the best in the cast. He was spritely, slippery and impish.
Throughout the rest of the scene we see Wotan become more and more troubled, Bryn frequently leans on the table as though weighed down by the difficulties of the situation. Progressively, after the giants take Freia as hostage until the gods can deliver the gold, they begin to become weary. They need the golden apples she provides. After a huge effort, Wotan raises himself up and he and Loge disapper down the ladder in to the depths of Niebelheim to search for Freias ransom.
The scene change is dramatic, the whole stage, complete with sleeping gods, rises up and reveals the frankensteinesque laboratory that is Niebelheim where Alberich is exploiting the power of the stolen Gold.
The Niebelheim scene worked much better than I thought it would from reading the press reviews. The setting was appropriately ghoulish and gave Bryn a chance to show the compassionate side of Wotan when he rescued one of the Niebelungs from a trolley, holding her hand as her set her free. The special effects were good with Alberich disappearing when the Tarnhelm (a sort of mirror rubic cube) was put on his head and being transformed into a monster and then a little toad. This was a moving model and it hopped across the stage in a comic fashion until Wotan captured it and shut it in a suitcase! The best bits in this for me were where Wotan finally gets the Ring on his finger- the ring that makes him the most powerful of lords, and here Bryns singing was just monumental and his acting brilliant.
Finally, having tricked Alberich out of the Gold they ascend back to the gods dwelling. The stage descends back down and the scene is transformed again to the apartment complete with the slumped figures of the gods. Freia is set free by bartering gold to fill the hole that she makes when she descends into the 'well' in the stage. The helmet has to be included and the ring too. Wotan is very reluctant to give up the Ring and Brynb acts very domineering and masterful here. Finally, Erda is revealed sitting in a sort of armchair on the left hand side of the stage. The music here is very mysterious as she proclaims that she is 'she who is all that was and that will be' and she tells Wotan to give up the Ring. It's another spine tingling moment, beautiful music, beautifully performed.
The final thunder scene was electric! The rainbow bridge effect a little disappointing but I have been looking forward so much to hear Bryn sing this final part and it was worth the wait. Just magnificent! His cloak was wonderful in this scene again making him every inch the god. As the gods ascend into Valhalla, Wotan lingers behind and finally despite the gesturing of his wife to join them, he descends again and falls into the arms of Erda..thus creatinng the link into Die Walkure...story to be continued as they say!
The critics that say he is a great Wotan for the future are right in my opinion. The music fits his voice like a glove. His voice is less deep than others I have heard sing the part but I like this more, the tone is just so beautiful and he acts the part superbly. I can't wait to see what he does with Wotan in Die Walkure, which I think is probably much more demanding both musically fand dramatically for him.

Helen.
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TER1314
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2005 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen,

Many thanks for that wonderfully detailed review. Bryn's performance and the whole production sounds amazing. It would have been great to have been there myself, but reading your comprehensive review is the next best thing. I can't wait to listen to Das Rheingold on the 17th Jan, when it is being broadcast on Radio 3, or for Easter, when it is being televised on BBC2. According to your review we are all certainly in for a treat and stunning spectacle. Let's face it, we all knew Bryn would be brilliant, didn't we; Wotan is a part he was born to play.

Jools xox
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TER1315
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a great review-I feel like I was there! Roll on Easter (apparently BBC2 are showing both this and Die Walkure).
Thanks Helen,
Beth Very Happy
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TER1280
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 6:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen,

Thanks for your wonderful review of Das Rheingold. As Beth said, it made me feel like I was there!

Phyllis Smile
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TER1286
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 10, 2005 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Helen,
Thanks for reminding me how marvellous it all was. Your insistance that I did my home work really paid off and this Wagner virgin didn't feel out of her depth at all. I'll be starting work on Die Walkure as soon as the disks arrive. It was such a joy to meet up with you, Marilyn and Marcy.
I can't wait for March!
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