Even in the best of circles, and Wagner's Ring must at least be that, it is possible to lose one's way.
Jürgen Flimm, whose millenium production is currently receiving its second performance at this summer's Bayreuth Festival, appears to have experienced his disorientation with Siegfried, third of the operas and arguably the least scrutable in its own right.
At the opening of this Siegried it is clear to the packed Festival Theatre that things are not what they were. Gone is the cave-home of Mime and his foster son. Instead Mime and Siegfried appear to have moved into the Hundigs' des-res, now with fitted anvil as well as internal tree!
Graham Clark is an amiable, animated Mime, albeit at times vocally over-penetrating. Christian Franz's Siegfried grows musically with every note but shows a strange awkwardness about the house.
Trivial pickings, perhaps, compared with the seriously distracting aspects of the production.
Directors offten seem to enjoy the sight as well as the sound of the wood bird (Waldvogel) with the result that we encounter the creature in human form and etherweal, diaphonous gown. Here, the excellent off-stage song of Robin Johannsen is matched with a silent, miming female figure clad in athletic costume. At least we do get the bird, so to speak, even if Wagner never intended it quite like this. What is less understandable is Flimm's introduction of an unnamed youth in short trousers, again played by a woman, who seems to want us to infer some special significance to the plot. A Hagen, perhaps - though we are never told.
Still much ado about little - but the picture is one of a stage containing too many folk who needn't be there.
Still nothing detracts from the serious business of the music - the finely emerging Wotan (Alan Titus), a superb dragon from Philip Kang as Fafner and Simone Schröder's tender Erda. Above all is the remarkable Alberich of Hartmut Welker, sturdy of form and in good voice,
It would be nice to say that all the trivial failings of a truly imaginative staging are lost in the glory of Brünhilda's reawakening and duets with Siegfried.
Alas, Evelyn Herlitziv's pure soprano, so encanting in Die Walküre fails the supreme test. Not so Christian Franz whose voice appears made to sing it!
Dare we hope that singing and staging which have promised so much, will deliver it all in the grand finale?
Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole