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OPERA IN BRITAIN 1540 Der Ring des Nibelungen Royal

Opera 1543 The Merry Widow Opera North 1544 Yevgeny Onegin Opera Loki 1545 Rigoletto Northern Ireland Opera 1546 La traviata Welsh National Opera 1546 Dido and Aeneas: a Funeral for the Queen of Carthage Academy of Ancient Music 1547 Radamisto and Jonas/I Will Not

Speak/Dido and Aeneas English Touring Opera 1549 La Cenerentola W elsh National Opera 1550 Opera for All: ENO 50th Anniversary

Gala English National Opera 1551 Passion Music Theatre W ales and

National Dance Company Wales 1553 Porgy and Bess English National

Opera 1555 La traviata Glyndebourne Tour 1556 Salome English National Opera 1558 Cendrillon Glyndebourne Tour

1540

Der Ring des Nibelungen Royal Opera at Covent Garden, September 24, 26, 29, October 1 Hearing Der Ring at the Royal Opera House makes me feel my age. In 1966, a lad of 20 summers, I queued long and late for amphitheatre tickets—£4 10s (£4.50) for the cycle—and heard my first Ring. I went with a friend from university who has since achieved some fame and fortune. He detested every minute and as far as I know never listened to Wagner again. For me, it was the beginning of a lifetime’s—not obsession, I leave that to the zealots, but intense passionate absorption.

That Ring was conducted by Georg Solti and directed by Hans Hotter, and I wish I’d heard Hotter singing Wotan instead of seeing his production, although I’ve seen many worse since. It’s always tempting to think that one has missed a golden age of singers, but the recording of the 1955 Bayreuth Ring under Joseph Keilberth, with Astrid Varnay, Wolfgang Windgassen and Hotter, suggests that the golden age in question wasn’t wholly mythical. We heard instead Ludmila Dvořáková as Brünnhilde and David Ward as Wotan and others I remember with pleasure.

Conducting Der Ring has become a prerogative of the music director of the Royal Opera, and so the next production, by Götz Friedrich in 1974, was under Colin Davis. It was his misfortune that we had by then enjoyed the ear-opening experience of Reginald Goodall’s Ring down the road at the Coliseum, with his profound grasp of architectonic phrasing that few but the very greatest Wagner conductors share. That Covent Ring had a terrific, largely home-grown, cast—in Rheingold alone Valerie Masterson, Eiddwen Harrhy and Gillian Knight as the Rhinemaidens! Josephine Veasey’s Fricka and Ava June’s Freia!

Opera, December 2018

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