SIEGFRIED Opera North, The Lowry
The soloists in Siegfried, the third part of Wagner’s Ring cycle given by Opera North at The Lowry this week, were the best team yet. Four of the eight were repeating their performances from the original 2013 production, four were new – and the happy outcome was that each new participant contributed something extra to what was a very powerful realization the first time.
Richard Farnes’ conducting of the score (which contains some of the most accomplished and moving music Wagner ever wrote) was again inspired, and rewarded with superb effort by the orchestra: rightly cheered as much as the singers when the plaudits came.
The morality of the story is probably something few Wagnerites worry about these days. Young Siegfried is a self-absorbed brat with no respect for his elders, and you can only think a lack of proper parenting has made him that way. But he ends up communing with nature – something we all like to see – and winning the love of the ‘ewig weibliche’ Brünnhilde, which is the only happy ending the Ring tetralogy affords. Whether his attitudes helped sow the seeds of Naziism is a debate best left for another day.
The role is one of the great tests of a Heldentenor, and in Lars Cleveman Opera North have the man for the task. His tone is wonderful and his power sustained at the same high level throughout (in purely theatrical terms it was a pity he couldn’t have shaved his beard and put a wig on to look younger, but we’re using our imagination so much in this interpretation of the cycle that another suspension of disbelief was not difficult).
Béla Perencz was superb as The Wanderer, too. This was a god who had rediscovered his vigour, and he sang with passion and presence. Jeni Bern made the Woodbird totally delightful, with fluttering, stepping movement, and Kelly Cae Hogan was every bit as wonderful as Brünnhilde as she had been two nights before, combining strength and richness and making the final love duet a thing of splendour.
Mats Almgren (Fafner) and Jo Pohlheim (Alberich) returned to the fray with all the same virtues they displayed before, and Ceri Williams’ sheer warmth as Erda was something to luxuriate in.
In some ways Richards Roberts’ return to the portrayal of Mime was the acting-singing highlight of them all. It’s not a nice character at all (I wonder if Gollum had his origins there?), but he found all the humour in it he could.