The Rinse Cycle review at Charing Cross Theatre, London – ‘puts Wagner in a spin’
Epic in scale, rich in Norse legend and Herculean in vocal heft, the four operas of Wagner’s opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelung are undeniably an undertaking for an audience as well as an opera company. As an antidote, Unexpected Opera has condensed the cycle’s 16 hours down to around two, presenting key excerpts drawn together by a witty narrative, all playing out within the wider frame of the goings on at the café Patisserie Valkyrie.
Simon Thorpe plays the scheming dwarf Alberich with a Brummie accent, Sieglinde’s abusive husband Hunding is a cockney, and Alberich’s son Hagen is performed in the style of Sean Connery. His ability to move effortlessly between comedy and drama is matched by Mari Wyn Williams, who sings heartily and also skilfully balances the burden of conflicting loyalties to Wotan and Siegmund with the banter back at the café. Harriet Williams impresses for her ample tone and Anna Gregory gets to fully take the stage only halfway through the third opera, Siegfried, while complaining of having to wear a revealing outfit as the Woodbird. Edward Hughes – as slow-witted Tim from the café – also amusingly plays the innocent forest child Siegfried.
Kelvin Lim transfers both the scale and intimacy of Wagner’s score via a single piano, with remarkable power and finesse.
The plot seems to spool forwards abruptly in one part of the final opera and the pacing of dialogue against sung excerpts is occasionally unbalanced, but this is an upbeat, entertaining show featuring a fine ensemble cast.
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