Die Walkure review at West Horsley Place, Surrey – ‘in need of more energy’
Grange Park Opera is nothing if not adventurous. Just three weeks after it moves into a newly built theatre at a new venue, it takes aim at the second segment of Wagner’s Ring – the ultimate challenge in the entire standard repertoire.
Jamie Vartan’s designs present images from the period of German nationalism of Wagner’s own day, including a famous painting depicting the first German Emperor, Wilhelm I, at his moment of triumph in 1871 – the year after Die Walkure’s premiere.
The first act resembles a small museum – a silent actor (Brian Smith Walters) is even credited in the new role of the Curator – containing exhibits from the natural world as well the few props the act requires, notably the sword Nothung, which Siegmund removes from a glass case rather than heroically drawing it from the canonical tree trunk rising through Hunding’s house. In the final act the magic fire with which Wotan encircles the sleeping Brunnhilde runs around the banister of the balcony above the room that forms the unit set.
Despite such striking images, the wholesale focus on one particular historical period limits a piece whose mythical narrative offers far wider and more complex resonances. Often a meticulous and detailed director, here Stephen Medcalf has created something far more generalised, painting Wagner’s in-depth psychology with the broadest of brush strokes.
Symptomatically, not enough of the German text comes over, while vocal performances are distinctly variable. Bryan Register’s Siegmund nevertheless suggests considerable potential in the role, while Thomas Hall’s Wotan, if hardly subtle, is grandly voiced. Claire Rutter’s Sieglinde and Alan Ewing’s Hunding are both solidly sung.
In the pit, meanwhile, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra sounds tentative, while Stephen Barlow’s conducting could do with more propulsive energy.