Die Walküre and Siegfried

Richard Wagner
Longborough Festival Opera
Longborough Festival Opera

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Die Walküre: Paul Carey Jones (Wotan) and Madeleine Shaw (Fricka) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Die Walküre: Julian Close (Hunding), Emma Bell (Sieglinde) and Mark Le Brocq (Siegmund) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Die Walküre: Lee Bisset (Brunnhilde) and Paul Carey Jones (Wotan) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Siegfried: Bradley Daley (Siegfried) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Siegfried: Adrian Dwyer (Mime) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis
Siegfried: Bradley Daley (Siegfried) and Lee Bisset (Brunnhilde) Credit: Matthew Williams-Ellis

There is a meaningful moment in Amy Lane’s Ring cycle when, his spear of authority cast aside, a doddery Wotan is close to collapse but is borne up by Brunnhilde, his staff of support, and hope of the future.

We had seen the way the wind blows in Das Rheingold, and it accelerates in the following episodes. A silence descends as Paul Carey Jones's Wotan gasps "Das Ende", and before Brunnhilde is condemned to the big sleep, he breaks down and climbs aboard her rock as if it is he, not his daughter, who is being sacrificed.

There has already been trouble at home, wife Fricka—lusciously sung by Madeleine Shaw—does not hesitate to seize the spear in a family argument that leaves the humbled Wotan prostrate at her feet. His ultimate fall seems to be written in a book of fate that passes from hand to hand as the action develops, and in which the rather too cutesy Woodbird (a melodious Fflur Wyn) herself inscribes what is to be. Nature is taking charge as she leads Bradley Daley’s Siegfried by the hand to find his bride, and even gives Wotan his orders with a cursory nod.

If the feminist argument of the works is more keenly appreciated in this production, it is also due to the outstanding performance of the two middle operas by Emma Bell as Sieglinde. Instantly infatuated with Siegfried, she cannot take her eyes off him, and suffers palpitations when eventually she does. Her voice is ravishing, with rich, chesty tones, filling the modest auditorium with thrilling audacity.

Daley has Heldentenor qualities, an almost high baritone sound combined with dramatic intensity and intelligence. Cocky, arrogant, ungrateful—I generally find it hard to like the young Siegried, but Daley has the sensitivity to find the boy in this most insufferable of teenagers, a boy suddenly matured by love.

Lee Bisset, in a leather bodice that reminded me of Superwoman, complements Daley’s character beautifully as she fights conflicted feelings. She is hesitant, losing her godliness and sense of self, and not forgetting the fact that she assisted the birth of this lovable boy who would now be her mate. One could feel the heartthrobs as the two eventually unite in glorious crescendo.

Her wide vibrato rings out in the upper register, and can be a little shrill, but she is an appropriately young Brunnhilde and never less than a commanding presence. The same is true of her Walkyries, looking like Macbeth’s witches, definitely not to be messed with and as formidable as girls on a Saturday night out. Their collective sound was spine-tingling.

As in Rheingold, Mark Stone earned justly enthusiastic applause as a naturally stentorian Alberich, and Paul Carey Jones as Wotan, his smoky baritone modulated by insinuating portamento, and growly accents.

Mark Le Brocq as Siegmund showed off his smooth legato in "Winterstürme"—about the closest we get to an aria in the entire cycle—and Julian Close impressed as a glowering Hunding. Adrian Dwyer drew on his talent for sly comedy as Mime. It was a clever touch too as the opening, clanging notes of the Siegfried prelude seemed to ring in his aching head, not on the anvil.

Götterdämmerung, a reprise of the 2023 production and previously reviewed, will complete the cycle, when it will be possible to take an overview of the tetralogy as a whole.

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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