Town Hall, Leeds
Less can be more when it comes to Wagner, and Opera North's "austerity Ring" – now on its second instalment in its second year – continues to enthral and amaze. First and foremost this is because its musical standards remain consistently high, though it also owes much to its director, Peter Mumford, whose concert staging tells us more about Die Walküre than most full-scale productions by getting rid of everything but the essentials.
Three vast screens suspended above orchestra and singers carry surtitles, plot summaries and video projections that underpin the narrative. The camera whirls through a snow-bound forest as Siegmund flees his pursuers, and water turns bloody when he dies. The fire that burns on Sieglinde's hearth elides her domestic captivity with Brünnhilde's more elemental imprisonment later on. The singers are in evening dress, though Hunding (Clive Bayley), being prosaic, wears a suit, while Wotan (Béla Perencz) sports a frock coat to show he's boss.
The cast grippingly lay bare the opera's psychological and moral complexity. In some respects the evening belongs to Erik Nelson Werner's Siegmund and Alwyn Mellor's Sieglinde – glorious, the pair of them, their erotic rapture, heroism and guilt all entirely credible. Perencz occasionally lacks majesty, but descends convincingly from smug certainty to tragic self-knowledge and despair. His Brünnhilde, on opening night, was Kelly Cae Hogan, a late replacement for the indisposed Annalena Persson. She used a score and was occasionally tentative in the middle of the second act, though there were some thrilling things elsewhere. Richard Farnes's conducting, meanwhile, is sensational in its sweep, detail and understanding.
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