Götterdämmerung [Twilight of the Gods], opera in three acts and the final part of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen [The Ring of the Nibelung]. Performed at the Wermland Opera in Karlstad, 3 July 2011.
The eagerly awaited final part of Wermland Opera’s Ring Cycle lived up to the high expectations the first three operas had raised and even threw in a pleasant surprise.
The surprise was Martina Dike’s outstanding performance as Waltraute. In the most emotionally powerful scene in the performance, she described the despair of the gods in the face of their impending doom. Her performance was so powerful that it reminded me of the moment in Das Rheingold when the gods suddenly feel the ravages of age after Freia (and her golden apples that maintain the gods’ immortality) is taken from them. Martina Dike’s powerful mezzo was perfect for the part and every bit the equal of AnnLouice Lögdlund’s performance as Brünnhilde in that scene.
The other new singers did not have quite such an impact but none was disappointing. Gunther (Anders Larsson) sang well and came across as a leader who had genuine respect for Siegfried’s courage and martial success. This respect warred with his humiliation at being (as he thought) cuckolded by his own blood-brother in a very convincing way. The three Norns (Maria Streijffert – previously Erda in Rheingold and Walküre -, Astrid Robillard and Maria Metzler Saedén) gripped the audience immediately and transmitted the same disorientation and dread that Waltraute described as being the atmosphere of Valhalla.
The Rhine Maidens (Natalie Hernborg, Anneli Lindfors and Jeanette Goldstein) put in another strong performance equal to their unforgettable opening to Das Rheingold. The excellent set (especially the eerie green laser Rhine) helped to make their scene with Siegfried pleasing both to the eye and to the ear.
Unfortunately, Anne Bolstad was forced to mime the part of Gutrune because she had suffered a bad fall and had a swollen mouth. Lena Nordin sang the part from one of the boxes. In the first two acts Ms Bolstad’s movements were jerky and exaggerated almost as if she was a puppet. Perhaps the director Wilhelm Carlsson intended her to look coquettish, but she ended up being simply distracting. This was not Ms Bolstad’s fault, as she had proved to be an excellent body actor in Das Rheingold and, as it turned out, in Act III of Götterdämmerung.
After a slightly patchy performance in Siegfried, Pär Lindskog seemed to shake off his nerves and performed well throughout Götterdämmerung. His callousness towards Brünnhilde (forgotten and replaced in his affections by Gutrune thanks to a magic potion) was heartbreaking, and their confrontation at the hall of the Gibichungs was absolutely gripping. AnnLouice Lögdlund was again excellent both as a singer and in her acting as Brünnhilde. She may have flagged slightly at the end (who wouldn’t!), but her performance was of the highest standard throughout the cycle. The world’s big opera companies don’t know what they’re missing.
Alberich (Marcus Jupither) appears only briefly but, as always, he dominated the stage and exuded malevolence as he anxiously made Hagen promise to regain the ring for him. Hagen himself was given a thoughtful interpretation by Johan Schinkler, with an air of brooding and a sense that he was a misfit as a half man, half dwarf. (The tattoos that mark out the Nibelungs in this production were hidden under Hagen’s jacket whenever he was with humans.) This acting combined with Mr Schinkler’s impressive voice made for a very successful performance.
The Wermland Opera orchestra with their conductor Henrik Schaefer came down to the stage to take a bow and receive well-earned applause along with the soloists. Their playing throughout the cycle has been impressive despite the challenges of playing Wagner’s score with a small orchestra and the sweltering temperatures in their perch in the Upper Circle. Finally, the Wermland Opera’s chorus provided excellent support to the soloists and achieved a dignified and moving end to the opera. I shall most certainly be returning to Karlstad for future opera productions.