Melbourne Opera: Die Walküre – Traditional Melbourne

As I wrote final 12 months in my assessment of Melbourne Opera’s Das Rheingold, I hoped my subsequent attendance at a efficiency of Wagner’s Ring Cycle can be in Brisbane in late 2021. That season has been postponed once more till late 2023, so the continuation of Melbourne Opera’s cycle with a manufacturing of Die Walküre is especially welcome.

If staging Das Rheingold was a serious problem for a small firm, transferring on to Die Walküre is a far higher one. Whereas it isn’t a giant opera bodily – there isn’t any refrain, there are hardly ever various individuals on stage without delay, no triumphal marches or auto-da-fé – the dramatic, emotional and musical challenges over its nearly 4 hours of operating time are immense.

The present manufacturing at Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre continued with what director Suzanne Chaundy calls the “modernist/brutalist scenic design” we got in Das Rheingold, so successfully executed once more by Andrew Bailey. That stated, it had a fairly conventional really feel to it, way over was the case in different Australian productions of the Ring. It was mercifully freed from extraneous stage enterprise, and if this resulted in some comparatively static stretches, it additionally offered the chance for the music and textual content to be explored with out distraction.

Staging this opera at Her Majesty’s was an attention-grabbing transfer. It’s not a very huge theatre, and whereas the calls for of the stage itself will not be nice, it’s often seen in a way more spaced-out setting. The restricted sight-lines within the stalls meant that a number of subtitle screens had been deployed to the edges which at instances was a bit distracting. How the pit and related areas coped with the massive orchestra, with its prolonged wind and brass sections, is sort of past me. Given the constraints of a pickup orchestra with restricted rehearsal time, the orchestral assist and sound was typically excellent. Conductor Anthony Negus’s route was agency, sympathetic and extremely efficient.

The primary act, set within the loveless home of Sieglinde and Hunding, relies upon totally the three soloists to determine the musical and emotional basis of the opera. On this manufacturing we had been lucky to have three glorious artists to carry out these roles. Steven Gallop, final 12 months’s Fafner, was a stable and sinister Hunding; Bradley Daley most passable because the conflicted and doomed Siegmund, and Lee Abrahmsen fairly excellent as Sieglinde. She is the one character who seems in all three acts, rising in stature because the drama develops, and this side was very nicely dealt with,

The second act was in a mountain setting reprising the surroundings of Das Rheingold, full with the ring-like opening within the stage, which this time encompassed an echo of the ash tree from the primary act. Right here we meet the 2 central characters of the opera: Wotan, sung brilliantly by Warwick Fyfe, and his favorite daughter and eponymous valkyrie Brünnhilde, sung by Zara Barrett. Right here too is the unravelling of Wotan’s plans for his incestuous youngsters to result in the restoration of the Ring itself, underneath the assault of his spouse Fricka, the Goddess of marriage. The prolonged scene between Fricka and Wotan has the potential to be flat and boring, and it’s a tribute to Sarah Sweeting that she was in a position to carry it off so successfully. From then on the tragedy of the story is inevitable, with Brünnhilde’s defiance of Wotan and the deaths of Siegmund and Hunding setting the trail to the ultimate act.

The third act, bookended by the Experience of the Valkyries, and Wotan’s Farewell and the Magic Hearth Music, was additionally staged in a direct and unadorned method which allowed the music and textual content to hold the drama. The opening scene with the Valkyries in full flight was best, because it ought to have been because it was carried out by a number of the most well-known opera singers in Australia: Rosamund Illing, Sally-Anne Russell, Dimity Shepherd, to call a couple of. It was freed from gimmicks such because the actually terrible “Wunderbar” of the 2004 Adelaide Ring, however I actually questioned why the slain heroes being delivered to Valhalla by the Valkyries had been being forged unceremoniously into pits. The central scene, with Brünnhilde arriving with Sieglinde and the latter’s discovery that she is pregnant was notably efficient.

The ultimate scene, with Wotan’s condemnation of Brünnhilde to mortality, and his partial relenting to limit her future possession to a hero, is inevitably the excessive level of the opera. And so it was on this manufacturing, however I couldn’t assist feeling it was just a bit bit flat, regardless of the excellence of the setting and the effectiveness of the ring of fireside. Trying again at it I could also be evaluating it an excessive amount of with memorable previous performances similar to Lisa Gasteen and John Brocheler in Adelaide in 2004. All through each the latter acts I felt that Zara Barrett’s portrayal of Brünnhilde was considerably restrained and this maybe led to my total impression.

As soon as once more Melbourne Opera has proven us that it’s able to scaling the heights which few small and native firms would try, and that it may well accomplish that with memorable success. Whereas I had a couple of doubts after final 12 months’s Rheingold, this manufacturing of Die Walküre has demonstrated that the entire cycle is inside its capabilities. Not that the subsequent two operas are plain crusing: Siegfried has important challenges and Götterdämmerung is sort of a horror to carry collectively. I’m very a lot wanting ahead to the entire cycle. Maybe 2023 would be the 12 months of two Australian Rings.

Photograph credit score: Robin Corridor


Jim Breen reviewed Melbourne Opera’s manufacturing of “Die Walküre”, offered at Her Majesty’s Theatre on February 9, 2022.


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