Magazine article Opera Canada

Cologne Opera

Magazine article Opera Canada

Cologne Opera

Article excerpt

Having seen both the Cologne revival of Robert Carsen's 2004 Ring and the first two works of the Bastille's new Der Ring des Nibelungen back to back this summer, I understand why Carsen's version remains for many unsurpassed. Carsen created a Gesamtkunstwerk, Wagner's idea of a total art experience, and, with a few exceptions in the Cologne Opera casting, this revival seemed to do justice to his initial project.

During the prelude of Das Rheingold, everyday people walked quickly in an endless human flow along the Rhein, throwing scraps into the current, a metaphor for the lost traces of existence. The Rheinmaidens were homeless young women, subsisting on the muddy borders of the river. They formed a spellbinding trio, particularly the beautiful contralto of Katrin Wundsam (Flosshilde).

Valhalla was in the first stages of being built, with great blocks of cement waiting to be used and all the future furnishings wrapped and crated. Greer Grimsley (Wotan), in the majestic "Vollente das ewige Werke," achieved a magnificent vocal curve, revealing stunning notes while communicating his character's profound human qualities.

Carsen depicted the giants through sheer numbers rather than size, as a hoard of men in orange overalls entered, looking like striking dockyard workers. Young Croatian Ante Jerkunica (Fafner) has a bass voice of such amplitude that he seemed to shake the earth with "Hor Wotan." Fasolt (Kurt Rydl), clearly a favorite of the Cologne audience, was touchingly smitten by Freia (Cassandra McConnell), an American soprano with a gleaming voice. …

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