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The World of Composer Richard Wagner and his operas. www.wagneroperas.com with frequent forays into the world of art, culture, and film.

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Vincent Vargas is a foreign language teacher at a private school in New York City. He runs websites dedicated to Casablanca (www.vincasa.com) and Richard Wagner (www.wagneroperas.com).

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Die Walküre at the Festspielhaus

After subjecting us to his low-down, white trash film noir with music by Richard Wagner which Frank Castorf calls his Das Rheingold, the director takes us to day one of the trilogy with a Die Walküre in Baku, Azerbaijan.  By setting the prologue in Texas, and following it up with a scene in the oil fields of the largest city in the Caspian Sea, Castorf is on to his main idea of turning the Wagnerian epic from 19th century gold to 20th century and beyond oil.  A clever idea, but one which in the past years of this production has not been followed through to the last two works.  Let us see if Castorf has done any revisions this year as the Ring continues this week.

Tonight's performance was very strong for many different reasons.  First the transparent handling of the great Bayreuth orchestra by Marek Janowski really stood out.  He never overpowered the singers, but also knew well when to whip the players into rapturous sound.  The extended orchestra sections in Wotan's farewell being a perfect example of Janowski's vigorous and expert handling of the orchestra and singers.

This season the Ring will have three different Wotans.  John Lundgren played him tonight with much power and nobility, and although at times the tessitura of the role made him strain and shout, he got through the performance with flying colors.  Likewise, tenor Christopher Ventris and bass Georg Zeppenfeld as Sigmund, and Hunding, respectively offered strong characterizations and solid singing.

It was a night for the ladies, though, starting with the beautiful sound of Camila Nylund as Sieglinde, and Catherine Foster as a powerhouse  Brünnhilde.  Both paced themselves well throughout the night, and the results were beautiful singing from start to finish.

The production continues to be puzzling, although tonight was miles ahead of Das Rheingold.  Once again, Castorf chose a unit revolving set, and although used less, he continued his obtrusive, unnecessary use of video cameras capturing selected moments from the drama, and projected on white sheets There was also  a fake Soviet silent film a la Eisenstein or Dovshenko which only proved to be cryptic and distracting.  ithout the vido element this production would be much stronger.

Of course, pretty soon this whole production will be eliminated, and probably remembered as one of the weakest Rings in recent years.

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