Götterdämmerung - Royal Albert Hall, 28 July 2013
It's not often I reach the end of a concert wishing I could experience it all over again - especially one six hours long. The final episode of Daniel Barenboim's Ring cycle wasn't perfect - when is it ever? - but there were some truly heartstopping moments.
Despite a solid cast, the best bits were undoubtedly the singer-free ones. Siegfried's Rhine journey, the funeral music, the finale were monumental but totally enveloping. If a hundred mobile phones had gone off at once, I wouldn't have noticed.
This was my eighth Götterdämmerung of the year (the third with Barenboim). The La Scala evening may have tipped the balance overall, but none have come close to the final act at the Proms. The Staatskapelle Berlin responded to Barenboim with instinctive unity and generosity, filling out the drama in orchestral technicolor. Yes, there were some untidy moments, but they weren't the sort that yank the focus away, more the sort of accidents that happen when everything is on the line.
Nina Stemme gave a more involved performance than she did in Siegfried, but she still lacked that frisson of risk that makes Irene Theorin such a compelling Brünnhilde. Her rounded tones, even from top to bottom, are seductive, captivating and utterly secure. But this role needs the occasional glint of steel, and a lyric soprano like Stemme, however huge her voice (huuuuuge), doesn't quite hit the spot.
I was surprised to see how far Andreas Schager's Siegfried has progressed in the few months since I first saw him in Berlin. His voice is on the light side, reminiscent of Lars Cleveman, but he's stopped the dangerous practice of pushing it. He wasn't always ideally audible, but he did at least sing the role rather than shouting it. Fanfares for the next great heldentenor are still premature though.
My favourite Hagen, Mikhail Petrenko, is another lightweight who won't be to everyone's taste. But I love the way he works with the flexibility and the colours in his voice to create a sinister manipulator instead of a scary thug.
Like the Berlin and Milan audiences, the Proms had the luxury of Waltraud Meier as Second Norn as well as Waltraute. Magnetic in both, she made the skimpy semi-staging seem like a full show.
After the performance - and after a good fifteen minutes of applause - Daniel Barenboim gave an impromptu farewell speech. Although the evening wasn't filmed, the BBC amazingly just happened to have a camera handy and pointed at him, so you can watch the whole thing online.
Barenboim thanked the audience for their "silence" and attention during the tryingly hot, aircon-less conditions. Indeed it was a marvel when compared to the average coughy, rustley, fidgety concert. But I wonder how many of the self-congratulating Prommers paused to reflect that Barenboim himself had not only stood through the whole thing, but conducted with the physical vigour of an Italian traffic cop - and all in formal concert wear. Mick Jagger isn't the only 70 year old to put the rest of us to shame.