Das Rheingold at the Bayreuther Festpiele
August 21, 2009
* Notes *
The third and last Ring cycle of this year's Bayreuther Festspiele began with Das Rheingold last night. Under Christian Thielemann, the orchestra sounded splendid: the string were brilliant, the harps lovely, and the horns clear. For the most part, the singers could not match this fullness of sound. The voices of Christiane Kohl (Woglinde), Ulrike Helzel (Wellgunde), and Simone Schröder (Floßhilde) blended nicely, though Kohl sounded slightly shrill. Christa Mayer had every note as Erda, and her voice is strong but she lacked a certain visceralness. As Freia, Edith Haller stood out, her voice had about twice as much volume as anyone else on stage and was very bright. Michelle Breedt's Fricka was unsympathetic, she seemed to whine her way through the role, which is reasonable enough, but less than exciting.
Wolfgang Schmidt was a sniveling Mime, cowering under Andrew Shore (Alberich) very convincingly. Shore was perhaps most arresting, his performance was grittily brutal and he practically screamed some of his notes, but he somehow stayed musical throughout. Ain Anger was a tad quiet as Fafner, especially compared to Kwangchul Youn as his brother Fasolt. Youn's voice has a pleasant resonance that Anger's is missing. Arnold Bezuyen was vicious as Loge, his music is often very pretty but there was definite sarcasm that came through. Clemens Bieber (Froh) and Ralf Lukas (Donner) both had slow starts, but improved. Bieber in particular pulled through in the last scene. As Wotan, Albert Dohmen sounded a bit thin and delicate, at times he was difficult to hear.
The production, directed by Tankred Dorst, was inconsistent, though Frank Philipp Schlößmann's sets and Bernd Ernst Skodzig's costumes were fairly attractive. The first scene worked well, the video art depicting the Rhein was almost even chic. It only became slightly overwrought near the end of the scene. Unfortunately, tackiness was in full evidence in the design of Walhall, which looked like something out of a fantasy comic book. Similarly, the huge cobra head used for Alberich's transformation was simply laughable. The random supernumeraries that would walk through in contemporary dress were an interesting idea, at times it was simply confusing. However in Scene 3 it made my breath catch when the upstage was revealed, and the contrast of the modern day person wandering in before that set up that surprise. For the most part the production was very respectful of the music, but at the end Loge writes something about "being only as strong as one is delusional," which was distracting.
* Tattling *
There was no applause during the music whatsoever and only the tiniest bit of whispering. Some ringing was heard during the first half of Scene 2, to the left of the house. There was also one watch alarm that sounded at 7 and 8. The audience was in a great rush to leave, people stood up to go, but there was a round of curtain calls and for the most part they just stayed to clap some more.