pátek 2. června 2017

2017 International May Festival - Wagner's Ring Cycle in Wiesbaden (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre)

The city of Wiesbaden is a very special place. A good  friend with its old-fashioned soul. You can find many old historical signs, beautiful parks, romantic corners and yet there are new modern parts where everything is growing, buzzing with new technologies, big shops, big dreams. Everything  at that point seems somehow ordinary. But Wiesbaden isn’t ordinary. Wiesbaden is unique...

And so was in a way Wagner’s cycle Der Ring Des Nibelungen I experienced in Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden as part of International May Festival (24.4. - 25.5.2017). To my understanding, this production of Ring is structured and presented as very visual historical journey through the world of humanity itself.

 Photographers: Karl und Monika Forster

Das Rheingold being set in the ancient times, back in the day. As the opera begins we see Rhinemaidens enjoying their day, playing with huge bubbles, sprinkling the gold from Rhine on themselves. All this in the very interesting shape of a massive eye – which appears later on in the Ring again. Alberich represents a regular guy with villain manners and rather funny looking hairy stomach that stops at nothing to get The Ring. Splendidly staged second scene takes us to Wotan’s tent where he rests with his wife – surrounded by various boxes, replica of future Valhala that’s being built by Fasolt and Fafner and a couple of sofas covered with massive furs. As the story progresses we get to see Freya (presented here as a belly dancer) and surrounded by children which seems very unusual . In this production, giants don’t seem to look scary at all. I enjoyed the scene where Alberich eagerly expressed his powers to Wotan and Loge in transforming himself into a massive giant and later changing to a small frog that Wotan together with his faithful Loge immediately captured (while visuals on above screne show images of powerful people such as Donald Trump - very poignant.) Alberich ended up in a massive cage. Probably the most and only disturbing moment in the opera to me was when Freya was being stripped off her clothes on stage (only to some see-through underwear) and covered with all the gold that giants required as payment for Wotan’s palace. Final scene topped it all when Loge breaks the tent's fabric and we see Valhala’s splendid front gate where everything  including all the boxed furniture, sofas and all other things are moved to. Wotan, Fricka, Freya and the rest of the family majestically walks in. Only Loge awaits on stage and wonders what will happen next…
Das Rheingold’s staging was my favorite of all the Ring operas; especially costumes suited the time and mood perfectly. Singing highlight for me was Wotan (Thomas Hall) with wonderful legato and whole pallet of colors that I admired very much. The orchestra under the baton of maestro Alexander Joel  had only began to display their magnificent talent and impeccable sound that the audience cheered hugely during all the operas that followed.

Conductor Alexander Joel
Director Uwe Eric Laufenberg
Stage Designer Gisbert Jäkel
Costume Designer Antje Sternberg
Lighting Designer Andreas Frank
Video Falko Sternberg
Youth Chorus Dagmar Howe
Dramaturgy Katja Leclerc 

Wotan Thomas Hall 
Donner Benjamin Russell 
Froh Aaron Cawley 
Loge Thomas Blondelle 
Alberich Thomas de Vries 
Mime Erik Biegel 
Fasolt Albert Pesendorfer
Fafner Young Doo Park 
Fricka Margarete Joswig 
Freia Betsy Horne 
Erda Bernadett Fodor 
Woglinde Gloria Rehm 
Wellgunde Marta Wryk 
Flosshilde Silvia Hauer
Jugendchor des Hessischen Staatstheaters Wiesbaden, Hessisches Staatsorchester Wiesbaden

Photographers: Karl und Monika Forster
In Die Walküre, we move to World War II. settings where Sieglinde lives and works in a pub and Hunding is a chief of a local war regiment - trying to capture Sigmund who’s been wondering around the woods. Again, first act is wonderfully staged with a massive tree positioned in the middle of the pub – upper branches touching the World of Gods from where Brünnhilde occasionally looks down to check the situation. Second act takes place in another tent – this time strategic war meeting is taking place with Wotan as general surrounded by other soldiers; and Brünnhilde when appearing as a proper war exited young heroin dressed accordingly in leather coat and leather helmet. Frica appears in a night dressed looking and acting like an already winning dictator herself. Wotan and Brünnhilde – both have amazing spirit and love for one another – the combination of heroism, stubbornness (Bruhnilde is truly father’s daughter) and attention to one another is apparent straight from the beginning of their first scene together. Intelligently created move to the second scene of Act 2 is done by taking down war tent’s fabric – and suddenly we are in a cold dark forest with Siegmund and Sieglide singing and living their love for one another. Brünnhilde appears and explains what could have been if only Siegmund agress to what she’s offering – and strangely enough we can see Siegmund entering wonderfully set table with food and drinks, surrounded by various girls while Wotan and Frica enjoing a glass of wine and looking at him. Make believe. Siegmund refuses in order to be with his beloved Sieglinde who ends up being raped by Hunding’s soldiers (totally unappropriated and shocking) when Hunding appears to have a fight with Siegmund. As Brünnhilde tries to help her half-brother win over Hunding, Wotan steps in and ends the fight by letting Hunding kill his beloved son. And Frica? She keeps sitting at the table and as Wotan leaves with the promise to punish Brünnhilde for not obeying his wishes, she looks on with a winning and horrifying smile on her face…

Do you care for a real horse on stage? Well, in Wiesbaden you surely get it. Act 3 starts with the Ride of Valkyries while one of them sits and rides a real horse on stage. Magnificent moment! Wotan arrives and is eager to punish Brünnhilde for what she had done. She appers in front of him and begs and explains; she is punished nevertheless as we all know. True highlight of Die Walküre is the end – Brünnhilde doesn’t end up on a rock or plain stage surrounded by fire – she literally walks into a statue that opens and closes from the front. Statue closes, Loge surrounds it with fire and devastated Wotan leaves the stage knowing he’ll never see his beloved daughter ever again…

To be honest, my main reason for coming to see and hear this Ring was the legendary soprano Evelyn Herlitzius who was simply magnificent! Father/daughter duo Egils Silins as Wotan and her Brünnhilde had amazing onstage energy together - the most touching, caring and stubborn Wotan-Brunhlide one can imagine. Egils Silins’ Wotan was very strick, uncompromising, nerveless and yet unable to show his emotions until the very end. Wonderful and last minute replacement for Sieglinde was Danish soprano Brit-Tone Müllertz.

Conductor Alexander Joel
Director Uwe Eric Laufenberg
Stage Designer Gisbert Jäkel
Costume Designer Antje Sternberg
Lighting Designer Andreas Frank
Video Falko Sternberg
Dramaturgy Regine Palmai

Siegmund Andreas Schager 
Hunding Albert Pesendorfer 
Wotan Egils Silins 
Sieglinde Brit-Tone Müllertz 
Brünnhilde Evelyn Herlitzius 
Fricka Margarete Joswig 
Helmwige Sarah Jones 
Gerhilde Sharon Kempton 
Ortlinde Heike Thiedmann 
Waltraute Judith Gennrich 
Siegrune Marta Wryk 
Rossweiße Anna Krawczuk 
Grimgerde Maria Rebekka Stöhr 
Schwertleite Romina Boscolo

Statisterie des Hessischen Staatstheaters Wiesbaden, Hessisches Staatsorchester Wiesbaden