Pros: The singing is absolutely stunning.
Cons: The show seems only semi-staged.
Music that has been heard in the greatest, grandest opera houses in the world – from Bayreuth to the Bolshoi – is miniaturised in this micro production of Wagner’s Die Walküre, above a pub in the Rosemary Branch Theatre. Usually Wagner is all about superlatives, about long running times and big budgets, huge orchestras and loud singing. It’s only the latter that this production has kept.
This small scale production takes the second of the operas that comprise The Ring Cycle – Die Walküre – and condenses it into just the first act and the finale. The plot is ridiculous and complicated, but it involves the son of a god pulling a sword out of a tree trunk and then marrying his sister. German libretto and no translation make it very difficult to understand what is going on, so a quick Wiki-read or a lot of German lessons are advisable before going.
All four of singers are excellent, but it’s Miriam Murphy as Brünnhilde who stands out, delivering a sonic punch to the face as she begs her father Wotan to allow her brother and sister to remain married. Her voice is stark, beautiful and also full of character – of anguish and resolve. She spits spiky consonants at the end of each line. The volume certainly fills the small space – hell, it could fill the O2 and it would still sound confined.
Direction and design are oddly abstract: Hunding wears a black kilt, a black sporran and a fur shawl, Siegmund is in black, faux leather jeggings and Sieglinde sports a frayed white rag. During act two one-eyed Wotan, who is wearing a pair of 3D glasses with one lens missing, brandishes a stick in a clear plastic tube. The monochrome design, however, is an interesting distraction from the impenetrable words.
What this Die Walküre really lacks is pace. Every movement is slow, lethargic, and there are long periods during which the singers sit motionless as the piano plays on. Their faces are tense with melodrama that matches the relentlessly epic music. Pianist Andrew Charity does an admirable job conveying the complex, flowing music with just his two hands. The accompaniment, having being written for a full orchestra, is inevitably clumsy at times, but never disastrously so, and the piano keeps the production ticking along when it has otherwise come to a halt.
Still, this is all only a taster – The New London Opera Players will be mounting a full production in March next year. While this particular production lacks the grandeur usually associated with Wagner, it does a good job of focusing on the principles: four very good singers singing very good music.
Composer: Richard Wagner
Director: David Edwards
Producer: The New London Opera Players
Box Office: 020 7704 6665
Booking Link: http://www.rosemarybranch.co.uk/#/die-walkure/4585537734
Booking Until: 1 October 2014