Götterdämmerung - Hallé Orchestra / Elder - Bridgewater Hall Manchester, 9-10 May 2009
Sir Mark Elder conductor Katarina Dalayman Brünnhilde Attila Jun Hagen Peter Coleman-Wright Gunther Susan Bickley Waltraute Yvonne Howard Second Norn Katherine Broderick Woglinde Leah-Marian Jones Flosshilde Lars Cleveman Siegfried Andrew Shore Alberich Nancy Gustafson Gutrune Ceri Williams First Norn Miranda Keys Third Norn Madeleine Shaw Wellgunde Hallé Choir Gentlemen of the BBC Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Chorus Royal Opera House Chorus and Royal Opera House Extra Chorus
The first half of the Hallé's concert Götterdämmerung was very good, but the second, performed on the following day, was extraordinary. It's tempting to view the weekend as one big show with a twenty hour interval, but in reality there was a different sort of electricity in Sunday night's air.
Though after a dismally dull afternoon's football at Old Trafford (even Sir Alex agreed), just the pre-show harp tuning was a comparative thrill.
I think a change of seat helped. I took in the Saturday performance from the circle on the first level - a great view, and, anecdotally, the best sound. But on Sunday in the front stalls the visceral rush from the massed musical forces was overwhelming, even though the unraked seating offered an over-long opportunity to contemplate the array of baldy heads between myself and the shoes of Mark Elder.
And the singers seemed on even better form. Katarina Dalayman's Brünnhilde (a recent Met success too) displays a rare combination of strength, sensitivity and intelligence. So what if she wasn't quite technically flawless. She could hardly have been more moving, especially in the tragic resignation of her final scene. Her noble and magnificent presence dominated both evenings.
Lars Cleveman projected far more convincingly on his second outing (according to a commenter on my earlier post he had a throat problem on Saturday). He offers a different sort of Siegfried to the usual - expressive, understated, sympathetic. How nice not to be shouted at. I'm not sure how it would work on stage, but the beauty of a concert performance is that it doesn't matter.
Attila Jun, Peter Coleman-Wright and the great Andrew Shore made a terrific trio of villains. And how well Jun's dark, thuggish Hagen was complemented by the massed Gibichung chorus (there must have been at least 150 of them) resonating around the hall. Nothing like strength in numbers, and a peculiarity of the acoustic made it seem as if the sound was coming from every direction, like some epic hi-fi demonstration.
Was this the orchestral highlight? Or was it perhaps the rippling majesty of the Rhine journey interlude? Or the preludes, measured masterpieces each? I think Mark Elder can be excused for lavishing the most attention on the most exposed parts of the work, where splendid detailing was apparent throughout.
More difficult to pardon was his pre-concert dig at "ghastly, modern productions" - enthusiastically received but hardly constructive. Unless of course his next Royal Opera House engagement - a concert performance of Linda di Chamounix - should be basketed with this Götterdämmerung as a statement of intent. Should be popular with the purse-string pullers at least.
But I digress - it takes nothing away from a magnificent performance that was received with an immediate and lengthy standing ovation all round, and rightly so.
To be broadcast on Radio 3 on 8 and 9 June - and not to be missed.
*UPDATE* - check out the Hallé Choir's Facebook wall for audience comments and more.
************ more photos on next page ************