Trying to get a copy of my review of Die Walküre from my files to here, hope it works. - By gosh it did!
Inevitable it is not only for you, T.C., but for any Wagnerian to see this production. Not a traditional ‘NY Met Otto Schenk’ tear jerker; nor a ‘Seattle Green Ring’, and definitely not a ‘Bloomers-dropping Stuttgart Konwitschny’ one. The word ‘monumental’ comes to mind because the sets are huge, clean-lined and stark, with the costumes to match. No frills, no exhibition of bare body parts or raven-winged helmets plus animal skin costumes. Concentration was fixed on the singing, acting and music. Hartmut Haenchen led his orchestra as powerful as any I have heard. The ‘Ride of the Walküre’ must have shook the foundation of the Muziktheater.
I have stated more than once that Walküre is my favorite segment of the Ring, but I still wish Herr Wagner would have deleted two-thirds of the cackling herd of Walküren as they gather after singing their Hojotohos. Not only are we introduced to their names, we also get treated to the names of their horses, what those critters are doing – one stallion going after a mare – and all that sung by eight females with questionably good voices. As if that is not enough, Brünnhilde comes running and pleading with each of the eight, again telling me their names, to protect her. – That’s the time for me to go to my study and check for email or PMs from friends at GMG! – For some reason it is in this scene Jeannine Altmeyer’s voice gets a bit shrill, but I blame the surrounding eight sisters forcing her to raise her voice.
After Wotan sends his daughters packing, except his favorite one, I settle back and enjoy the opera again. “War es so schmählich was ich verbrach?” is a heart-wrenching outcry starting the most dramatic part of this opera. “Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind” is handled so many different ways by any of the Wotans I have seen and heard; this one too is different because Brünnhilde is already prone on the floor, arms by her side, shed of her armour and helmet, wearing only a black body suit. Wotan stands a few feet from her and actually has his back turned to her, making it more like a conversation he his carrying on with himself, recalling the wondrous times the two had together. He slowly turns around, walking towards her and kneeling down by her head and then his: “Denn so – kehrt der Gott sich dir ab: so küsst er die Gottheit von dir“ he stretches himself out on the floor beside her, bends over her face and kisses her on her mouth, with a long lasting kiss. He sinks his head down on her shoulder, drapes his left arm over her body and remains in this position all through one of the most beautiful musical passages of the Ring. Usually the interval is being used by Wotan to arrange her armour over her body, adjusts the helmet, places her sword next to her. Not this time. Motionless, father and daughter, and the music. It is a beautiful idea of the director Pierre Audi!
Then of course the Feuerzauber we are all familiar with, except Haenchen takes it more powerful, not the usual sweet sound of flames created by the piccolo; an abbyss breaks the stage floor behind Brünhilde and a shiny metal barriers moves into place, symbolic of a barricade protecting her. Stunning!
And so was the shattering applause from the house. There was no hesitatent remaining in their seats, from what I could see, everybody jumped to their feet, applauding, whistling, foot-stomping! All of it fully deserved!"