* Notes *
Frank Castorf's new Der Ring des Nibelungen continued with Die Walküre at Bayreuth last night. The production continues to be dramatically vacuous. The set looked to be a large barn situated in Azerbaijan, which did transform into an oil derrick for Acts II and III. The live video captures are distracting, at times blocking the action, only to show mediated versions of what they are covering. Some of the prerecorded parts are rather nonsensical, near the end of Act I, there is a short film depicting a woman messily eating cake. The woman answers the telephone and then sets it down on the cake, then tries on a sleeveless dress, only putting one of her arms through an armhole before returning to her cake and telephone.
The staging is often overwrought, doors are opened, objects brought out, and so forth. There are a lot of unnecessary props, such as the giant pumpjack that extends over the edge of the stage in Act III. The effect is creepy, but has little else to do with anything else happening in the production at that moment, much less in the libretto. Oddly though there is not a lot for the singers to do while they are singing, often they just stand and are ignored by the other characters.
The orchestra continued to float lucidly under the direction of Kirill Petrenko. The brass was not completely translucent at all times, but for the most part sounded lovely. There were no obvious errors as with the previous night. The string soli were radiant. The sound of the singing was not swallowed up by the playing.
The Walküren made a fine effort, some were easier to hear than others. Franz-Josef Selig sounded robust as Hunding. Claudia Mahnke was an effective Fricka. Catherine Foster's Brünnhilde has a wonderful lightness, she did not bear down on her voice or scream her notes. Wolfgang Koch sang Wotan with nuance and color, despite the production. Johan Botha sounded utterly secure as Siegmund, never straining. Anja Kampe (Sieglinde) was the obvious audience favorite, her brilliant, searing voice did not disappoint.
* Tattling *
In short, everyone was better-behaved for this second performance of Der Ring. The woman who thought I was in her seat the night before greeted us in a conciliatory manner on Thursday. She brought her daughter to Walküre, and they were fairly still and quiet. The woman in Orchestra Left Row 20 Seat 26 who talked a lot also brought a different person to the opera, and they whispered but not that much.