The next instalment of the Valencia Ring
is also very successful. Like its predecessors Rheingold
it is high on colour, action and vocal strength. My chief complaint about Walküre
, the infuriatingly inconsistent camera work, remains. The director, Tiziano Mancini, insists on chopping between shots with disturbing rapidity. He cannot focus on one thing for more than one musical phrase: every time a character draws breath we get a change of angle. This is entirely unnecessary – we are only getting a different view of the same thing! This approach chops up the continuity disturbingly, even in the orchestral interludes where he simply cannot allow the camera to remain still for any more than a few seconds! In a production like this where the picture quality and recorded sound are so good this eminently avoidable offence is all the more regrettable. Still, it’s worth training yourself to live with it as there is a lot to enjoy here.
’s overall conception remains the same and they come up with some astonishingly beautiful video images to accompany the action - if only the viewer had been given enough time to dwell on them! Fafner is played on stage by a huge puppet and is accompanied on the background screens by a vast, writhing serpent. Wotan and Siegfried’s journeys are against the backdrop of sweeping panoramas of mountain-scapes. Most beautifully, Wotan’s great confrontation with Erda takes place before an enormous globe with Erda’s all-seeing eye blinking silently across it. The colour and resolution are fantastic, and I imagine will be all the more so in Blu-Ray. The performers of La Fura
play a number of different roles, such as the bear and furnace in the first act, the hoard and the forest beasts in the second and the barrier at the foot of the mountain in the third. The spiky construction that accompanied Siegmund’s death in Walküre
also doubles up for the forest in Act 2. If this sounds bizarre then the eye accepts it very quickly, though the rather cumbersome Woodbird that floats overhead is a little more difficult to take. Siegfried’s costume and hair resemble those of his parents while the Nibelungs look like twisted cyborgs. Erda is appropriately unchanged and the world-weary Wanderer is given a haggard, tired cloak with a huge hood which Siegfried impertinently pulls down in Act 3. If you bought into the concept in the previous two instalments then you’ll have no problems here.
Vocally this set is more consistently satisfying as there is no-one as iffy as Petra-Maria Schnitzer’s Sieglinde. Lance Ryan’s Siegfried takes a while to find his centre, especially in the first act where he sounds rather off colour. He is more secure for the second, however, and by the third he is firing satisfyingly on full cylinders I wonder if this is explained by the year-long gap between recording sessions? He is heroic and exciting in his duet with Wilson’s Brünnhilde and she rises magnificently to the occasion too, her razor-sharp soprano thrilling and incisive. She, for me, is the real deal and I can’t wait to hear her in Götterdämmerung
. Uusitalo’s Wanderer continues to set contemporary standards in this role. He is world-weary and tired while remaining thrilling and still young-sounding. He revived my interest when it threatened to flag during the first act. The dramatic and musical temperature rose significantly whenever he was on stage. I think it is worth acquiring this cycle for his hugely authoritative singing alone. Siegel’s Mime reflects years of experience, fawning and obsequious while avoiding slapstick, convincing us that this dwarf is spiteful and cruel, undeserving of any of our pity. Kapellmann’s Alberich embodies malice and spite and his confrontation with Wotan in Act 2 is a highlight of the set, his voice oozing with dark splendour and brittle envy. The Woodbird is bright and sharp while remaining dramatic, and Catherine Wyn-Rogers sings Erda with vigour and excitement, making one regret that the part has so few lines. Fafner booms convincingly.
The orchestra are as fantastic as ever, sounding magnificent from the pit and, again, taking their own bow at the end. Mehta’s control is secure though not exceptional: he paces the Act 3 prelude with mastery and builds a wonderful climax for the awakening, though Heil dir, Sonne!
itself sounds rushed.
So if you can live with Ryan in Act 1 and the infuriating video direction then you can invest in this with confidence. The documentary extra is diverting but says little of lasting use or interest.