Review: Opera Gotterdammerung Royal Opera House, London
Seckerson, Edward, The Independent (London, England)
Twilight for the gods, high-noon for the Richard Jones Ring. And maybe, just maybe, a few of those who heartily jeered Das Reingold were now cheering Gotterdammerung. Maybe, just maybe, a few closed minds have now been prised open to see the method in the madness, the truth in the childishness, the irony in the capriciousness, the weight in the utterance. No one production of the Ring asks and answers all the questions. But Jones's asks more than most. It asks why, how, what if. . .? It challenges, teases, and tantalises our perceptions of the piece. And it comes back with answers based on some of the dearest, most logical, most penetrating character motivation I've encountered since Patrice Chereau's celebrated Bayreuth staging. And we all know how that was first received.
And so this Gotterdammerung begins with the stage and auditorium bathed in a golden light. The houselights remain lit in direct contradiction of Wagner's crepuscular prelude. Until the First Norn asks "What is that light? Daybreak or firelight?" But why are these Norns, these mystic watchers, done out in cardigans and day-frocks? Think. They are the nosy neighbours of the Ring, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-gossiping. The rope of destiny they spin is attached to the front-cloth, an enormous window-blind (their window on the world, if you like) bearing the carved symbols of Wotan's broken spear and set to spin upwards out of their hands when the cord finally snaps.
It's so simple, it's breathtaking. But it pulls you up short, it makes you think and think again about who these characters really are, their function, their place in the broader scheme of things. And so Gunther and Getrune of the Gibichungs are minor royalty, so minor, so inadequate, that brother Gunther (the excellent Alan Held) deems it necessary to keep up appearances, to sprint off for their crowns at the arrival of the heroic stranger, Siegfried (a dry, tired sounding Siegfried Jerusalem). Hagen, their half-brother (a bluff, bellowing, black-voiced Kurt Rydl), is in every sense duplicitous: a druggy janitor-cum-security chief with an eye on any crown. We don't see him at first. …