Festival Music

Die Walkure

Usher Hall

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Keith Bruce

five stars

OF COURSE, the Usher Hall was packed from the organ gallery to the top tier for the second of the Edinburgh International Festival's concert performances of Wagner's Ring cycle. On stage a hugely expanded RSNO under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis and a cast of 14 singers of the highest quality: each of the eight Valkyries who joined their sister Brunnhilde (Christine Goerke) at the start Act III the possessor of a wonderful solo voice.

The Wagner audience of today is a privileged generation, and not just in the quality of the singing to be enjoyed. Today's opera singers cannot help but perform, so the lack of staging is really no hindrance to appreciation of the story-telling. Of course it is there in the music, but the sexual tension between Simon O'Neill's Siegmund and Amber Wagner's Sieglinde was evident from their first appearance on stage, so the extended snog the American was subjected to by the Kiwi tenor at the end of the act was inevitable.

For many in the auditorium Goerke and Wagner were the discoveries of the night, and cheered to the rafters, but Bryn Terfel's Wotan was, of course, superb, with masterly dynamic control and he, like O'Neill, used every inch of the Usher Hall stage. Scotland's own Karen Cargill was every inch a match for him, both vocally and in character, their exchange perfectly setting up Terfel's with Goerke at the culmination of the last act.

From the exquisite opening half hour that is all about the low strings and woodwind to the brass, horns and harps later on, the orchestra was on stellar ensemble form throughout. Five hours that simply flew by.