Magazine article The Spectator

Opera: Die Walküre; the Magic Flute

Magazine article The Spectator

Opera: Die Walküre; the Magic Flute

Article excerpt

The new Grange Park Opera at Horsley is amazing, as everyone who visits it must agree. In less than a year a pretty large, comfortable theatre, with excellent acoustics and a large stage, has been erected from nothing, and among the first productions is one of Die Walküre, a demanding work in all respects, and one which, when it is largely successful, as the performance I went to was, provides an exalting and moving experience such as few works can. You probably need to be as difficult and abrasive a personality as Wasfi Kani to bring it off, but there is no doubting that she has.

The 'creative team' has as its most important members Stephen Barlow conducting, despite his concurrent work at Buxton; Stephen Medcalf directing, and Jamie Vartan designing the sets. Since the curtain rises as the Prelude begins, one instantly sees that the drama is set in the late 19th century, sharply contradicting the brilliant evocation of the primeval in Wagner's score -- odd too, that the uninvited guest Siegmund should stagger in wearing a vast wolfskin, while a maid who looks as if she has emerged from a 1920s comedy needlessly fusses. The setting is heavy, vaguely similar to the sitting room in Wahnfried, Wagner's Bayreuth home, with a balcony running round three sides, on which unwanted characters wander, one of them interestingly Hagen's mother, a figure whose appearance Wagner didn't envisage.

So much, so bad, though no worse than one expects from a contemporary production. Look, register irritation, then try to forget -- though that is made more difficult if these mythological characters are mainly dressed as upper class Wilhelmians, living among cases of stuffed creatures and advanced weaponry. However, as soon as Siegmund opened his mouth it was clear that he would be the evening's hero. Bryan Register, who I haven't previously come across, is in all respects ideal: a moving actor, a powerful and sensitively used voice, with an intelligent understanding of this sympathetic role. The Sieglinde of Claire Rutter was slightly disappointing, a fine presence but less steady vocally than I expected; Alan Ewing's Hunding is a black bass, even less hospitable than Wagner intended, but adequately menacing. Siegmund had to break a glass case to extract the sword Nothung, but the First Act was a triumph, thanks in large part to the pacing of Stephen Barlow and the playing of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. …

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