■ Stefan Vinke as Siegfried and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde in ‘Götterdämmerung’ at Covent Garden underpowered and underheated from the pit upwards, seeming to affect the singers. John Lundgren’s Wotan came and unfortunately went over the course of the first evening, and even Sarah Connolly, such a marvellous singer, seemed oddly unengaged as Fricka.
In Walküre the production seemed even more of a trial to the singers, partly because things went wrong, with props rolling across the floor and what was meant to be the final blazing coup de théâtre, well, misfiring. Stuart Skelton as Siegmund was in fine voice, and dealt with these mishaps rather better than his Sieglinde, Emily Magee. Ain Anger’s Hunding was somewhat restrained, but Connolly was transformed as she wielded the rolling pin against her errant hubby. Nina Stemme is the reigning Brünnhilde of the moment, even if her voice might make her marginally more an Isolde. She too had her trials with the production and revealed her highest quality only in the last act.
In Siegfried, where things definitely perked up, I can’t say I much enjoyed Stefan Vinke in the title role, with his dodgy intonation and rough edges, but Lundgren improved. Gerhard Siegel as Mime, Johannes Martin Kränzle as Alberich and Brindley Sherratt as Fafner were excellent, and Stemme was radiant. The orchestra played better with every act of every evening, and by Götterdämmerung my Beckmesser-like carping was borne away by the sublime tide of music. Top marks to Stephen Milling’s Hagen, to Kränzle again, and to the Norns (Claudia Huckle, Irmgard Vilsmaier and Lise Davidsen) and the Rhinemaidens (Lauren Fagan, Christina Bock and Angela Simkin). Above and beyond all was Stemme, taking us at the climax near the ineffable heart of this inexhaustible masterwork.
As I say, that first Ring 52 years ago cost me less than a fiver for the whole thing. Well, at the time a pint of bitter at an Oxford pub cost (experto crede) one-and-elevenpence-halfpenny, for those who remember what that was, or fractionally under 10p. But stalls seats for the Ring in 1966 were 12 guineas, or £12.60, for the four evenings, hard as I find to believe that as I write it. This year they are £1,200 for the cycle, an increase
Opera, December 2018