Die Walküre ★★★★★ Hackney Empire | August 4 - 7, 2021


Die Walküre is opera at its very pinnacle and to find it at the magnificent Hackney Empire is amazing – especially when so brilliantly performed. Wagner's Ring Cycle, based on the Norse Völsunga saga, lasts almost twenty hours. Here, we have part two in a somewhat truncated arrangement by the late Graham Vick and Jonathan Dove. Dove's reduction of the orchestra to just eighteen players is nothing short of miraculous. Julia Burbach's production, within Bettina John's set of gleaming steel structures, is clear, incisive and frequently exceptionally beautiful. Wagner didn't write conventional opera with arias and choruses. He used wonderful recurring leitmotifs to represent people, situations and ideas, and when his work is performed as well as this, it is quite marvellous. Towering over the show is Mark Stone's meltingly heartfelt Wotan, imperious, glorious in tone and yet finally a broken man. Laure Meloy brings wonderfully rich singing to her moving portrayal of Brünnhilde. It is, however, Natasha Jouhl as Sieglinde who captures us. Her voluptuously glittering soprano fills the auditorium with her patent adoration of her twin brother. Finnur Bjarnason's tall and handsome Siegmund with his stentorian, almost baritone, tenor rising to every climax for once makes their relationship look real. Simon Wilding's deeply evil Hunding is so well sung that one feels sad that he loses so much of his music in the cuts. And kudos to the brilliant Orpheus Sinfonia under Peter Selwyn which also shines as a star of this evening. This is a performance that will live in the memory for many years. Sensational!

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by Alex Brenner.

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