* Notes *
The second cycle of the Frank Castorf's new Der Ring des Nibelungen at Bayreuth ended with Götterdämmerung on Monday. The proceedings were somewhat less nonsensical than the Siegfried, at least there were no gunshots interrupting the music. The turning set included döner kabob and produce stands, two different sets of stairs, a neon sign for "Plaste und Elaste Werk in Schokpau," and a classical building wrapped up by a very large sheet, which turns out to be the New York Stock Exchange. With so many different venues, one would think it would be possible to knock out the five scenes in the first third of the piece, yet somehow Castorf proves incompetent, and has to bring down the curtain before the Waltraute's appearance. At least Act I Scene 3 has the sisters singing to one another and acting as human sisters would.
Unfortunately, this does not hold for much of the rest of the staging. A pram filled with potatoes is thrown down a flight of stairs, creating a great deal of noise for no real dramatic reason. The long-suffering supernumerary who has played shopkeeper, bear, and waiter throughout the four operas is punched in the nose early in the Götterdämmerung, appears in a bridal veil and heels in the potato pram scene, and is later run over by the Rheintöchter. The various video clips shown are simply distracting, and after enduring so many hours of this production, I gave up trying to make sense of what was being shown on the screens and stopped looking at them.
Thankfully, Kirill Petrenko conducted a vibrant and buoyant orchestra. Again, the harps sound wonderful, as do the low strings. The principal horn did not sound confident, but the trumpets played remarkably well. The clarity of the orchestra supported the singers and did not overwhelm them. The chorus was also brilliant, the members singing with each other as if they were one being.
Of the three Norns, Christiane Kohl (Third Norn) was weakest, her voice is not adequately supported. Okka von der Damerau was strong as both First Norn and Floßhilde. Claudia Mahnke sounded beautifully legato as both Second Norn and Waltraute. Mirella Hagen (Woglinde) and Julia Rutigliano (Wellgunde) were lovely. Allison Oakes made for a pretty Gutrun and Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester was a fine Gunther. Martin Winkler made for a powerful Alberich. Attila Jun was brash as Hagen. Lance Ryan's Siegfried again was inconsistent. Sometimes he sounded perfectly good, and other times it was as if he were yodeling. Catherine Foster has nice high notes as Brünnhilde, but her lower range is less resonant.
* Tattling *
The man to my right rolled up the legs of his tuxedo, as it was a bit warm in the house. He fell asleep a few times during Act I. There was some booing at the very end of the ovation, presumably for the production.