Longborough Siegrfried review


Longborough Festival Opera *****

Siegfried, the third instalment in Wagner's Ring cycle, is perhaps not the most engaging of the tetralogy, with its welter of back-storying and insufferable navel-gazing, but this production from the stupendous Longborough Festival Opera as it leads up to its second presentation of the complete cycle in little over ten years is the most involving I have ever seen.
There is nothing to be faulted (apart from the turgid first act, Wagner's fault) in this presentation, with no weak link in the casting, amazing playing from the Longborough Festival Orchestra under the veteran, much-respected Wagner conductor Anthony Negus (such clarity of texture!), and brilliant staging effects.
To deal with those first: Amy Lane draws communicative body-language from her cast as she directs them across what is not the least cramped of performing areas, resourcefully designed by Rhiannon Newman Brown, and so sensitively lit by Charlie Morgan Jones. And behind all the action are the wonderful back-projections of Tim Baxter, images constantly shifting, from Siegfried's captive bear, to a scary woodland glen, through the entrails of the slain dragon Fafner (the only failure – they look like spaghetti boiling in my saucepan) to gorgeous starry skies. All of these create a wonderful context for the impressive contributions of this tiny cast.
Bradley Daley is astounding in the taxing role of Siegfried, his vocal stamina just about holding out over the several hours Wagner has him onstage. His physical strength is equally admirable, and the forging scene is very well done.
As the Wanderer, Siegfried's unbeknown grandfather Wotan, Paul Carey Jones is impressive, imposing, but well conveying that Ubergod's crumbling self-belief. Simon Wilding gives us such a vulnerable hoard-guarding dragon, sporting a bowler hat as the magical Tarnhelm, that we all feel sympathy for him, as does Siegfried himself. As Erda, one of the mothers of Wotan's scattered offspring, Mae Heydorn was mysteriously compelling.
Adrian Dwyer's Mime is a brilliant example of resourcefulness: a tall man, he cannot of course replicate Wagner's prescribed dwarf (as cannot his brother Alberich Mark Stone, singing with a resonance which might qualify him as a future Wotan). Instead he uses fluidly athletic, almost Asperger's-like gestures which come difficultly close to reinforcing the antisemitism with which Wagner created this role.
Lee Bisset is building a Brunnhilde of immense sympathy and character, and though her contribution here is restricted to the final scene, her awakening and eventual succumbing to Siegfried's blandishments was so sensitively accomplished, both sorrowful and eventually radiant with a glorious top C as she fell into his arms.
But beyond all this was the revelation of what a character the Woodbird can be! In this production it appears enigmatically at the very end of Act One, signalling the start of Siegfried's adventures. Thereafter if becomes a real presence, marshalling the callow youth, sharing with him genuine affection as they progress arm-in-arm through the forest and up to Brunnhilde's fire-encircled mountaintop. This is a boyish, bookish, but still birdlike characterisation, and Julieth Lozano is simply grippingly outstanding.
Christopher Morley

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