Götterdämmerung - Mariinsky Opera - Royal Opera House, 1 August 2009
And so the Mariinsky Opera's Ring Cycle draws to an end with - a mouldy angel? a novelty d1ldo? a foetus doing pressups? After 16 hours I shared the don't know don't care mood of most of the cast. The staging, by now familiar, consisted of adjusting the pewp-thingies into various inexplicable positions beneath random disco lights. At least the Tarnhelm had mutated from the first night's hankie into a proper helmet.
The only scene that worked, theatrically speaking, was the first part of Act 1, and even that was entirely down to a couple of splendid performances.
Mikhail Petrenko was simply the best Hagen I have ever seen. It's debatable whether he has the right voice for the part - firm and commanding, it's nevertheless on the light side, more golden syrup than black molasses. But he brings a devious, manipulative intelligence to the role. It's a fresh interpretation that nests with the sinuous music in a way that makes the traditional low-browed thug approach look not only outdated, but wrong. And he does it all in strapless ballgown and baldy wig. Just brilliant.
Evgeny Nikitin's cretinous, cowardly Gunther was equally compelling. He was far more animated than in his earlier appearances as Wotan, and the part seems to suit him better vocally at the moment too. The Egyptian temple set and costuming worked well, and with these two sparring together, for the first time in four days I felt I was watching a properly-rehearsed professional production. And it doesn't hurt that both sung their parts accurately and musically, without resort to bluster. Elena Nebera's Gutrune was anonymous in comparison, though mostly cleanly sung.
The Siegfried du jour wasn't a patch on the previous evening's. Debatably the better singer of the two, Viktor Lutsyuk's voice has a nasal edge that penetrates any number of orchestral decibels. But his vibrato made it hard to tell what note he was aiming at, and he often resorted to shouting. Without the acting chops or gung-ho charisma of Leonid Zakhozhaev, it was hard to warm to him. In his favour, he did die more credibly than anyone else in the whole cycle.
Olga Savova made a better Waltraute than Walküre Brünnhilde, though I wasn't sure why she sported the same shaggy poncho Wotan had worn the previous night.
Larisa Gogolevskaya seemed at first as if she would prove the best of the three Brünnhildes in the cycle. Her Mrs Tiggywinkle proportions clad in a shapeless black caftan instead of the S&M costume sported by her colleagues, and without much in the way of vocal or physical expressivity, she nevertheless held a firm, steady line in an appealing lyric soprano. Until the end of the first act, that is, when her voice suddenly hoarsened. She struggled through, but it seemed as if she was about to lose it completely. Whatever she took in the interval helped her through to the end of the opera, though she completely missed her third act cue, and limped through the most uneventful immolation imaginable - no horse, no flames, no Rhine, and oddly, no Hagen either.
Gergiev hardly went out in a blaze of glory either. The prologue and first act were promising, but he began the second at a funereal pace that never picked up. There were some nice details here and there, but it was hard to engage with an interpretation so stop-start. I guess economics dictate the touring of operas that sell rather than operas he has a passion and flair for (meaning the Russian repertoire) but I can't help thinking a bit more rehearsal might have rescued this from the realms of the slapdash.
Nikolai Putilin as Alberich reviews the production:
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David Lee Roth after 30 years on the road Viktor Lutsyuk as Siegfried:
Mikhail Petrenko as Hagen:
Elena Nebera as Gutrune:
Evgeny Nikitin as Gunther. Check out the tattooed hands:
Olga Savova as Waltraute:
Larisa Gogolevskaya as Brünnhilde:
A rare smile from Maestro Gergiev:
Partial standing ovation - or are they just rushing for the exits?
All photos by intermezzo.typepad.com - please credit if you use them