is fascinating to compare this DVD Götterdämmerung with
Bertrand de Billy's starrier version on the same label from the
Gran Teatre del Liceu in 2004, with Deborah Polaski as Brünnhilde,
Falk Struckmann as Gunther and Matti Salminen as Hagen.
OA 0913 D (see review).
Both are superbly lit, the Liceu very modern in its matrices of
light and its occasional dinner-party costumes - de rigueur in
contemporary Wagner productions, it sometimes seems. There, Harry
Kupfer excels where Pierre Audi often seems merely pedestrian,
or out to shock for the sake of it. The present Netherlands production has its modernisms,
too - the occasional magic light bulb, Star Trek-like salutes
from the bald Norns. It even has dry ice and a rather bizarre
wicker-work Tarnhelm. Note that in the Netherlands
the orchestra is in a visible pit in the middle of the stage,
so characters can move in front of as well as behind the band,
an effect I found disconcerting - perhaps if Haenchen had been
a more eloquent conductor in his gestures? ... The rubber-suited
Rhinemaiden's will, I am sure, raise the occasional eye-brow,
but possibly the most bizarre element is Waltraute's wings – she
looks like 'A Valkyrie Called Biggles', a great shame as Anne
Gjevang is every inch the match of Jeannine Altmeyer's Brünnhilde.
Her Narration is simply stunning, both dramatically and vocally.
Gjevang's tenderness and anguish simply have to be experienced.
Dutch performance's secret weapon, though, is Kurt Rydl's Hagen, an assumption of tremendous power. He matches - without being preferable
to - the excellent Matti Salminen on the 'rival' set - rival
in inverted commas as they are both from the same issuing company.
His bizarre bare yellow chest giving him just the right 'supernatural'
slant. Hagen's Watch is magnificent. Haenchen is
very visible during this passage – some may find this more tolerable
than I. The scene with Alberich (Henk Smit) reveals two 'black'
voices at their peak.
the hero, Heinz Kruse is physically rather unconvincing; not
wishing to insult the gentleman, I still have to say that a
rather short and fat Siegfried does not really fit the bill
for me. Vocally Kruse has an appealing baritonal quality at
times but in the higher Heldentenor passages his voice does
not have that essential edge. His stage presence could do with
some work, too – his miming of horn playing in Act 3 is rather
amateurish: he takes the horn away from his lips while the real
player is still evidently blowing away! It is only in Act 3,
when he relates history - a very good Woodbird impression -
that he really gives a hint of what he may be capable of. Wolfgang
Schöne is a slick Gunther, almost a match for his Gutrune, the
excellent Eva-Maria Bandschuh.
orchestra is variable but can provide moments of real beauty
– Dawn being a prime example. Yet sometimes accents are underplayed.
The passage immediately after Brunnhilde's top C 'Heil' in the
Prologue is a prime example, a particular shame as that very
top C is itself a definite 'almost but not quite', almost as
if defining the orchestra's ensuing contribution. Perhaps most
unforgivable is the approach to the Immolation Scene. In almost
every performance this is a moment of magic but here it is almost
unremarkable, almost workaday. Altmeyer cannot match Polaski
in these final moments – does Altmeyer's Brünnhilde really believe
that 'no-one betrayed Siegfried like her'? Her Erda-impression
just sounds strained. And yet there is an astonishing, 'Fliegt
Heim, ihr Raben' that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Red cloth
- symbolising flames - is her personal fire … and where, oh
where is Grane?
recording quality is excellent; try the lovely rounded sound
at the beginning of Act 2. The chorus of Gibichungs is impressively
sung and recorded. They are portrayed as quite literally a faceless
has to be said there is much to enjoy here, sonically and vocally,
despite my misgivings. Perhaps we are getting spoiled by all
this DVD Wagner?
set includes a brief Introduction to the work by the composer
Peter-Jan Wagemans, the presenter Michael Zeeman and Ronald
de Leeuw. The Liceu set only provides a Cast Gallery and Illustrated