The Met’s new Das Rheingold

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(c) Susan Brodie

Verfluchter Ring

 

 

I'm a bit late weighing in on Das Rheingold at the Met, but after all the brouhaha over the new $45 million high-tech Ring production, it seems that Robert LePage and company have delivered an utterly traditional First Festival Evening in every way that matters. The saga is presented without heavy subtext, other than the PR for the unit set whose weight required costly reinforcement to the Met stage. The rotating girders and interactive projections (the latter used by Le Page to more dramatic effect in last season's Damnation of Faust) create handsome stage pictures, but except for the Escher-esque stairs configured for the descent into Nibelheim, and the dazzling rainbow bridge, scenic effects are relatively unspectacular. Most of Francois St-Aubin's costumes could have been designed 100 years ago. The machinery seems to have received more attention from the director than the performers, who often seemed to flounder in their characterizations. But the Met Orchestra under James Levine is splendid, and the cast promises (and so far delivers) some top-notch vocal performances.

 

Eric Owens has the makings of a definitive Alberich: the voice is magnificent and the man had enough presence to dominate the the stage in his scenes with Wotan. With time I hope he'll develop a more pointed and complex characterization. Poor Bryn Terfel: as Wotan he was handicapped by a ridiculous Tiny Tim wig covering half his face (instead of an eyepatch) and by direction which cast the cocky young head god as passive, making him stand motionless and near-expressionless much of the time and dimming his usual vocal glamour. The fabulous Stephanie Blythe was a Fricka who dithered in a vague way over her distracted and fickle husband. Wendy Bryn Harmer was a lush-voiced Freia. Other characters were good, particularly Adam Diegel (Froh), a young tenor to watch.

 

Richard Croft's Loge (reportedly booed–oddly–at the HD performance), ever-so-slightly underpowered vocally compared to the rest of the cast (though he was quite audible in Family Circle), was probably the most mesmerizing character onstage, after Alberich. By the next run he should lose that anxious look when he has to walk backwards up the wall in harness, as the staging so often requires him to do.

 

After all the pre-production hype I felt a bit let down by what I saw on stage, but I'll consider this Rheingold a work in progress. I do look forward to a splendid dragon in Siegfried.

 

Next Wagner: an HD screening of Götterdämerung from Valencia, and Die Walkure in Frankfurt (live) in three weeks.