Festival Music


Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

three stars

IT was always going to be a big ask to follow the triumphant concert performance of Die Walkure at EIF 2017, but part three of the EIF’s Ring-in-instalments had the apparent advantage of dovetailing with a similar project by Manchester’s Halle Orchestra and conductor Mark Elder. Perhaps that turned out to be less of a good thing than it looked, because terrific though the musicians were - and there were star turns all over the platform - and commanding as Elder’s interpretation of the score was, over the epic duration of the opera, the team-work that made the one-off creation of last year’s sensation seemed to be missing.

The singing cast was as full of star turns as the players, including the late substitution of Danae Kontora for an indisposed Malin Christensson as the Woodbird. She is the first female character to get a look-in during what is the most blokey section of Wagner’s tetralogy, with Anna Larsson’s Erda and the return of the excellent Christine Goerke as Brunnhilde all making their presence felt in the later chapters of the story. Earlier on it was Gerhard Siegel’s Mime and Iain Paterson’s Wotan, the Wanderer, who enlivened proceedings most with characterisations that seemed part of a much larger narrative.

The problem with all of that, of course, is that this is the part of the Ring that is entirely about the title character, the product of Walkure’s incestuous relationship between Siegmund and Sieglinde.

New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill has the perfect voice for the role, but was the only member of the cast to read his music throughout (Goerke had a score on a stand, but she rarely consulted it).

Necessarily, this inhibited his interaction with his colleagues onstage, often leaving him stranded alone on one side of the conductor, a limitation nowhere more obvious than in the exchanges with Goerke at the end of the five hour marathon. Perhaps that shouldn’t matter in a concert performance, but it did.