Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Siegfried - Edinburgh Players Opera Group, Portobello Town Hall, September 26th.

Another thing I've been busy with is the Edinburgh Players Opera Group. You may remember that a few weeks ago I mentioned that we would be putting on a concert performance of Wagner's Siegfried on 26 September. Well, we did that very thing, and it went off pretty well. The orchestral playing seemed a bit more ragged than the first time we did Siegfried back in 2003, which is funny because the orchestra had a lot of players in it who had also played then. There were certainly more anxious moments than the first time: perhaps we were all simply wearier this time (I think I got through the 2003 weekend on a supply of Pro-Plus). Maybe Mike Thorne's conducting was less clear? Hard to say. The 2010 anvil sounded a bit nano-tech for my ears: it sounded more as though Siegfried was making a biscuit tin, or at best panel-beating a 2CV, rather than forging a magic sword. But hey, it got the job done. The music, of course, was wonderful: every time I play Siegfried I think it has the best music in the entire Ring. There is Siegfried's big Act 1 Forging Song, brilliantly carried off by Jonathan Finney. There is the Wanderer's music, earlier in Act 1: a combination of Gerard Delrez's singing and Wagner's fabulous orchestral accompaniment. And a lot of little touches that are easy to forget: after Siegfried has killed Mime, as he drags the corpse to lay it on Fafner's hoard he sings music that confers a kind of tragic grandeur on both Fafner and Mime, two nasty pieces of work whose ugly sides were brought out by the desire for the ring whose curse saw them off.

Our singers were a mix of old and new faces. I mentioned Jonathan Finney and Gerard Delrez, who have formed the core of many of our previous productions. Normally our Brunnhilde would have been Elaine McKrill, but she had been involved in a production of her own, recently producing a baby boy (cue much debate as to its likely name - I still reckon Alberich). Her place was taken by Kim Myers, whose singing was a revelation to us all. It will be interesting to see who EPOG go with for next year's Brunnhilde: back to Elaine, or stick with Kim?

Our own Alberich was once again Nicholas Fowler, but our Mime - Ben Regan - was a last-minute replacement who did really well. At the first rehearsal he sounded like a stand-in, but two days later he had grown into the part (can one grow into a dwarf?) perfectly. Our cast was rounded out by Colin Heggie as Fafner, owner of perhaps the creepiest leitmotif in the whole Ring, Katrine Townhill as Erda (owner of one of the loveliest), and Susan McNaught as the Woodbird.

All the singers were great, but special praise has to go to Jonathan Finney for his singing of probably the hardest of the Wagnerian tenor roles, and Gerard Delrez who made singing Wagner seem the easiest thing in the world, and whose presence seemed to make everyone else sing and play a little bit better. Special thanks to conductor Mike Thorne, without whose enthusiasm and drive none of the above would have happened: and to Philip Taylor without whose own crazy enthusiasm for Wagner and for music-making not even Mike could have brought Edinburgh Players Opera Group into being.

Next up: Götterdämmerung in 2011.

Here is Brunnhilde's awakening from the last act of Siegfried, taken from the Bayreuth Centenary production by Patrice Chereau and conducted by Pierre Boulez. Still just about my favourite Ring production.

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