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Review: Opera: Gotterdammerung Town Hall, Leeds 4/5

June 16, 2014

Alfred Hickling



With this production, Opera North arrives at the climax of an extraordinary four-year project to present Wagner's epic tetralogy without going out of business. It has been belt-and-braces Wagner, presented in semi-staged concert versions, yet curiously none the worse for that. The absence of a theatre means there's no perverse directorial concept to contend with, though Peter Mumford's atmospheric projections create a sense of the gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork) Wagner might have conceived given access to an animation programme and an iMac.

A triptych of giant screens pick out certain key images: Wotan's ravens, Siegfried's sword, the Norn's broken thread; though Mumford's visuals default for long stretches to a knotted pine texture that suggests that the Gibichungs live in a freshly creosoted shed. Placing the singers in front of the orchestra solves the balance issues, though any acting that occurs appears to be entirely optional.

The outstanding performance comes from Mats Almgren, whose gaunt, hollow-eyed Hagen conveys the sense of being consumed by the character's corrosive malevolence. Mati Turi's avuncular Siegfried, by comparison, approaches the part like a shot-putter lobbing heavy objects further than seems humanly possible. Alwyn Mellor's Brunnhilde was a little squally at first, but settled to deliver the production's most plushly impressive vocal display. Orla Boylan's mesmerising Gutrune was not far behind and Eric Greene's charismatic, caustic-toned Gunther proved revelatory. It was just a pity that the participation of Jo Pohlheim's Alberich - so eye-catching in last year's Siegfried - is limited in this opera to a single ghostly cameo.

Ultimately, however, the sheer sound-pressure levels attained during Siegfried's funeral march exemplified that this project has principally been the orchestra's triumph. The inspirational Richard Farnes is due to stand down after a series of full cycles in 2016 having presented Opera North with the greatest gift a music director can bestow upon a company - he has given it a Ring.

Repeat performance on Wednesday. Box office: 0844 848 2700.



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Source: Guardian (UK)


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