Götterdämmerung – Hallé/Elder

Wagner
Götterdämmerung – Third Day of the Stage Festival Play, Der Ring des Nibelungen: music-drama in a prologue and three acts to a libretto by the composer

Erda’s Daughters:
First Norn – Ceri Williams
Second Norn – Yvonne Howard
Third Norn – Miranda Keys

Brünnhilde, Wotan’s daughter – Katarina Dalayman
Siegfried – Lars Cleveman
Gunther, ruler of the Gibichungs – Peter Coleman-Wright
Hagen, his half-brother, Alberich’s son – Atilla Jun
Gutrune, Gunther’s sister – Nancy Gustafson
Waltraute, a Valkyrie, Brünnhilde’s sister – Susan Bickley
Alberich, a Nibelung – Andrew Shore

Rhinemaidens:
Woglinde – Katherine Broderick
Wellgunde – Madeleine Shaw
Flosshilde – Leah-Marian Jones

Gibichung Men & Women:
Hallé Choir
BBC Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Chorus
The Royal Opera Chorus & Extra Chorus

Hallé
Sir Mark Elder

Prologue & Act I performed on Saturday 9 May 2009
Acts II & III performed on Sunday 10 May


Reviewed by: Robert Wade

Reviewed: 10 May, 2009
Venue: Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Sir Mark Elder. Photograph: Clive Barda/ArenapalThe first public outing of “Götterdämmerung” was in the concert hall in March 1875 when the composer conducted a performance of selected highlights in Vienna’s Musikverein. The great and the good attended the sell-out concert, as did regular concert-goers as well as a certain Anton Bruckner. It was a huge success. As to being apprehensive about sitting through this work as a concert in Bridgewater Hall, and whether performing the complete opera over two evenings would ruin the dramatic tension, any fears were unfounded.

It became quickly clear that carried by the expertise of Mark Elder and his augmented Hallé, and the line-up of (on the whole) splendid soloists never over-acting (an easy trap to fall into in a concert performance), Wagner’s music-drama would play itself into the mind with no need for visual stimuli. The massed chorus of the Hallé Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Chorus and The Royal Opera Chorus, horse-shoeing the orchestra, gave a power to the Gibichung men and women that could never be achieved in a staged performance and the extraordinary orchestral colour came out as never before, Elder’s attention to detail being exemplary.

Katarina Dalayman’s Brünnhilde, a little subdued in Act One flowered throughout the second and third acts the following evening. Brünnhilde is quite a sing and who can blame her for saving something for the concluding ‘Immolation Scene’, when she portrayed the character’s discovery of ultimate wisdom with glorious dark joy. Siegfried, sung by Lars Cleveman, was the slightly weak link in Act One, seeming not to have quite enough to give, came into his own in Act Two as he recounted the hero’s childhood. His almost-sweet portrayal of Siegfried is only one way to see this easily bullish creature, but it fitted with Elder’s extremely thoughtful conducting, and was a carefully considered performance. Korean bass Atilla Jun had extraordinary power and, though a little sibilant in pronunciation at times, was a delicious Hagen, thuggish and cunning in turns.

My favourite scenes in ‘The Ring’ are the Chekhovian psychological dramas played out by very few characters – two such moments appear in “Götterdämmerung”. Susan Bickley, as well as out-frocking the other women, gave us a perfect Waltraute, begging her sister to give up the ring in Act One. The near-hysteria of desperation that Waltraute must convey in this scene is crucial and Bickley did particularly well. Act Three begins with a similarly powerful two-hander: the resting Hagen awakened by his Nibelung father, an all-too-short appearance from Andrew Shore as a completely compelling Alberich.

Tight, poised performances from Peter Coleman-Wright as Gunther and Nancy Gustafson as Gutrune completed the sense of family drama which is so important to the psychology if the work, with different family members each prioritising their own goals. Two trios of maidens, the Norns at the beginning, and then the Rhinemaidens, teasing Siegfried in Act Two, completed a splendid cast, which along with an expanded Hallé playing its socks off, brought a moving and thrilling Wagner experience.

The Manchester derby was going on at Old Trafford earlier on the Sunday (2-0 to United), but the Hallé gave the audience in Bridgewater Hall a third home team to cheer for, and cheer they did. Terrific stuff!

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