Thursday, 2 August 2012


K. and I went to the NZSO's concert production of Valkyrie on Saturday night.  Valkyrie might well be my favourite opera and I was really looking forward to this given what a success the Auckland Philharmonia's Rheingold was last year.

The stage was crammed full of musicians, with just a bit of space left for the singers up front.  When the first violin came out to tune-up the orchestra it was clear that this was going to be good: they were all together, no messing about.  I confess that after Rheingold I was slightly apprehensive about the brass during the 1st act prelude, but there was no need to be: these guys were good.

Although it was just a concert production, the cast made considerable effort to include as much action and acting as possible.  I was actually getting nervous about the singers' entrances as the prelude was coming to a close -- my usual experience of concert productions is that the singers sit up-front throughout -- but sure enough our Siegfried appeared in time, as did our Sieglinde a little while later.

The cast was uniformly excellent, but Edith Haller (Sieglinde), was the stand-out for both of us.  She was delightful to watch on stage, at turns playful and reserved; and she sang with incredible power and beautiful tone.  I particularly liked the way she sang her brief low sections ("ein Greis in grauem Gewand"), but she effortlessly leaped into the big stuff too ("O hehrstes Wunder! Herrlichste Maid!").  The brass was a little tentative in the prelude to act 2, and it would have been nice to have another hunting horn or two in the finale to act 2, but I guess you can't have everything.  We did get nearly an hour and a half for dinner, which was appreciated.  We dashed down to Vivace (a regular haunt) and the Valkyrie programmes visible on nearby tables showed that it was popular choice.

The prelude to act 3 was as tight and tidy as I've ever heard, with the front of stage filled with a great cast of valkyrie managing to look suitably amazonian even in the usual concert evening-wear.  Again, despite the concert setting, they did a great job Brunnhilde's approach, apparently watching her and Sieglinde rushing in from a distance, generating real drama from the cry that Grane has stumbled.  Sieglinde's exit led K. to suggest that, despite the incredible barrage of valkyrie and orchestra we got at the start of the act, Haller could have sung over top of the lot.  In the finale, the inclusion of some red lighting suggested the flames that surrounded Brunnhilde; a nice touch.

The strength of this production is perhaps best summed-up by saying how engaging all the lengthy dialogues were; these are a challenge of both singing and acting, requiring tight integration with the orchestra.   Tchaikovsky complained of "endlessly long dialogues"; but on this night, there was just great musical drama.

No comments:

Post a Comment