Wagner – Siegfried

Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Wednesday February 8 2006

Conductor: Christoph Eschenbach. Production and sets: Robert Wilson. Costumes: Frida Parmeggiani. Lighting: Kenneth L. Schutz, Robert Wilson. Siegfried: Jon Fredric West. Mime: Wolker Vogel. Der Wanderer: Jukka Rasilainen. Alberich: Sergei Leiferkus. Fafner: Kurt Rydl. Brünnhilde: Linda Watson. Erda: Qiu Lin Zhang. Stimme des Waldvogels: Natalie Karl. Orchestre de Paris.

What are you supposed to do during a one-hour interval? It’s too short for dinner and too long for a lollipop. On Wednesday night, with a second one of 35 minutes, the evening stretched from 6 to 11.45. As a result, everyone, audience and performers alike, was tired at the end with the sole exception of Brünnhilde, who slept through most of it; but she, as a friend said, seemed only half awake.

By now, if you’ve been following me, you’ll have got the gist of this Paris Ring. Though debate rages on on the web fora, the papers were mostly quite positive about Siegfried and I personally continued to find Wilson’s staging to be excellent story-telling with some visually beautiful moments.

The forging scene was well done, with Siegfried standing atop a large, angular, smoking anvil with red light seeping out and a stark change of lighting on the backdrop every time he struck a blow. Act two was full of good things from the very start, with sloping tree-trunks moving and mingling slowly and Alberich creeping among them, through the dry-ice fog, in expressionistic silhouette. The dragon was well and not ridiculously done: a fierce black head with laser-green eyes. And the appearance of a child in a little angular skirt, arms outstretched and holding curly twigs, as the bird, was a strikingly human touch in this stylised word. The return of Erda in her dappled veils was a fair start to act three.

Indeed, the whole evening seemed pretty satisfactory to me until Siegfried and Brünnhilde were left alone. Volker Vogel had done a great job of grimacing and gesticulating, his face lit green like The Joker, as Mime, Leiferkus had given us a stylishly-sung Alberich, Rydl was a suitably cavernous Fafner, Rasilainen still seemed a noble enough Wanderer to my ear, Erda was Erda and the Waldvogel twittered spot on…

Those of you who know the Stuttgart DVD will be familiar with Jon Fredric West’s Siegfried and already know that he’s better at the heroic parts than the lyrical: his voice hits home like a hammer, appropriately enough. But the evening was long and the part is a killer and Wagner is unkind at the end, leaving the very worst till then. And by then, West was tired and forced largely to bark back at Linda Watson’s placid, rather sleepy Brünnhilde.

Hers is a plummy, mezzo-sounding voice and she hits nearly all the notes, taking all he time she needs to reach them; all except that last terrible top one… But there was little excitement in her performance, even though she, unlike her partner, was fresh. Also, by this time, the orchestra, which had not shown great signs of discipline all evening, was tired too, so the horns and brass, until then (unlike the strings) not bad, cracked painfully as Brünnhilde woke.

So all in all this Siegfried was pretty good until Erda and the Wanderer had gone, but after that dragged on too long… At the curtain calls, by the way, West looked so exhausted he could barely drag himself on stage. We just managed to drag ourselves off for a pizza.

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