Saturday, November 27, 2010

REVIEW: Das Rheingold in The Metropolitan Opera HD Live

Bethanie’s Wellcome Theatre, Sunday November 21

This new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold was perfectly literal and figurative; and traditional and innovative! Totally mind-blowing!

Cirque du Soleil director Robert Lepage’s production has a rack of 24 planks (“the machine” as MET calls it) that can rise and fall and turn 360 degrees that forms a variety of forms and functions. One of the most stunning stage images was when Wotan (Bryn Terfel) and Loge (Richard Croft) descend to Nibelheim on a huge stairway. Wotan and Loge (body doubles of course), harnessed on cable, walked perpendicularly on a wall of stairway giving the audience a top view of the journey… simply amazing… simply something that one doesn’t expect on an opera stage.

James Levine worked magic with the brilliant orchestra. I have never heard so many details in Das Rheingold. Motifs were elegantly raised and displayed.

As for the cast, it was the best of the best… well except for Richard Croft…not that he was horrible, but his voice was just a tad small for the role.

The biggest revelation for me was Stephanie Blythe’s Fricka. The last time I saw her (and it was live!) was in Royal Opera House’s production of Handel’s Semele as Ino back in 2003, she was funny and fantastic. This time, in a Wagner opera, she was commanding and vulnerable. I remember the saying, “Bellini wrote beautiful music to be sang dramatically, while Wagner wrote dramatic music to be sang beautifully”; and that’s exactly what I heard.

It would be interesting to see how the production progress through the whole cycle and I certainly do hope that Lepage has a lot more tricks up his sleeves. So far, my worry that the production will be enslaved by “the machine” didn’t happen…. but for how long? We will see… I will be in New York next year and I thought that I should try to get tickets for Die Walkure (my favorite in the cycle), well it is sold out, so it will be Die Walkure in The Metropolitan Opera HD Live in Hong Kong for me then…

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