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Wagner's Ring: Götterdämmerung

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by dpm (subscribe)
dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
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Wagner's Gotterdammerung, Twilight of the Gods, is the finale of the Ring Cycle and as such, it is always a special occasion.

No more so than this evening at Birmingham's Symphony Hall as it concluded four years of Opera North's concert performance of the Ring Cycle.

Gotterdammerung is a six hour epic which ties up all the strings and brings together all the stories to a catastrophic end. In fact it's less Twilight of the Gods than Total Annihilation of the Gods.

The only ones still standing, or rather swimming, are the Rhinemaidens who have finally reclaimed the Rhinegold – whose theft upset the natural order in the first place.

opera north - Wagner's Gotterdammerung
Opera North concert performance of Gotterdammerung

It's no easy task to maintain a first act of two and a half hours but full marks to the Orchestra of Opera North who never faltered and ensured Wagner's beautiful music was given centre stage. Watching an opera orchestra is a delight in itself as the musicians are so often hidden away at full stagings.

Conductor Richard Farnes ensured this concentration and fine tuning throughout the entire performance.

This production sat someway between fully staged and concert performance with three screens above the stage not only carrying the surtitles but also peppered with narrative and images of scenery, taking us from the Rhine to the mountains and into the hall of the Gibichungs.

All of the cast were wonderful. Alwyn Mellor made a mighty Brunnhilde - gentle and endearing in love and mourning but gloriously terrifying when on the path of vengeance. You wouldn't want to get in this Valkyrie's way!

Also impressive was Mats Almgren as the scheming Hagen. Evil enough to sacrifice his half-brother and half-sister to his machinations, he was yet so believable that everyone fell for his flattery. But we also saw his own vulnerability when he was forced to face his even more monstrous father Alberich (Jo Pohlheim), the Nibelung dwarf who stole the Rhinegold and then saw it stolen in his turn.

Mati Turi played Siegfried as a bit of a simpleton. He may be a great hero of Germanic tradition but he nevertheless fell prey to Hagen's tricks and brings about Brunnhilde's revenge. And when the Rhinemaidens warned that the ring is cursed and begged him to return it, he simply shrugged off their 'women's wiles' and headed for a drink instead. It needed his death and Brunnhilde's eulogy to reinstate him as the great hero.

And so, at the end, we also saw the destruction of the Gibichung siblings Gunther (Eric Greene) and Gutrune (Orla Boylan) who gave in to the temptation offered by Hagen but could not foresee its terrible results.

As the fires burned on Siegfried's funeral pyre and at the hall of the Gods, Valhalla, the screens were filled with red flames and the orchestra finally fell silent.

In Birmingham the applause and standing ovations were tremendous – and richly deserved. This really has been an epic journey which reminds us just why Wagner's Ring Cycle is so special.

Opera North take the production to the Sage Gateshead on June 28 and the Lowry in Salford on July 5. For information and tickets see here.
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Why? It's Wagner's grand finale
Where: Symphony Hall
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