Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I only managed two acts of 'Le Crépuscule des Dieux' (Gotterdammerung; Twilight of the Gods; The Dammed; That Dammed Ring) at Paris Opera, Bastille, last week and any comments have serious reservations - we were both hit by sledge hammer jet-lag despite some good sleeps. The dark, the length, the pace all conspired against us.

Cast list again:

Bastille seemed an even bigger yawning space than I remembered. Here's a snap to show the height of the place (can't get ceiling and pit in the same shot) as well as the distance from the stage (the little yellow writing is the 'no phone etc' on the front of curtain). We sat front of first level.

The orchestra generally sounded somewhat muted. Presumably Phillipe Jordan was keeping things reasonably modulated for the singers and I'd like to have stayed if for no other reason than to hear them 'play out', as in the funeral march, but I'll never know. The pace was too slow for me. I like this forward driven and shaped with a strong sense of inevitability. It was a soft sweet reading (too French I heard myself mumbling) and I found much even hard to recognise.

Voices generally carried well, except for Torsten Kerl's Siegfried which was a struggle to hear. And he was saddled with a shuffling, stooped demeanor, which didn't help the hero/anti-hero image either. Hans-Peter König fared best, quite thrilling stuff despite spending the night in a wheel chair nursing a world globe - another image which added nothing to, and for me actually detracted from, a character. Katarina Dalayman's duped bride we'd heard before in another smaller friendlier venue; there she battled the Berlin Phil and managed that far better than the battle of the Bastille. Here she resorted to getting a bit shouty for the big notes, and not sounding too nice in the process.

Sophie Koch was a well sung and effective Waltraute (if you like a young know-all type of sister) who resorted to a hissy-fit and tipping over Brunnhilde's kitchen cabinet at the end of her failed counsel. It was silly, though not the only bit - Brunnhilde had spent the whole exchange clearing the table into the cupboard, and there then was something flat on stage for the 'rape' scene (another tepid episode, a feckless Gunter with Siegfried hiding under the kitchen table) to follow. The problem was becoming apparent - there was no wisdom here, certainly not on the stage.

There was a 'bag-lady' in a corner of the stage during the wonderful ominous prelude to Act 1 (not so ominous in this 'French' version, more's the pity) fiddling with a shield and broken spear before the Norns appeared upstage. Well, wouldn't you know, next thing next act the bag-lady derobes into Alberich, the apparition, with a not especially effective Peter Sidhom pleading with Hagen. I'm more for the other-worldy infusing of evil into the bad seed approach. Those Norns by the way were wandering lost around a slow revolve, dressed in designer black with sunglasses for a funeral they couldn't find, yet.

So, what did I really like? The Rhinedaughters. They made a guest appearance in fabulous tight silvery fishtails, with outrageous little black maps of Tasmania on the outside (just where little maps of Tasmania are meant to be) and long slinky red gloves. Thats was the best bit, which explains why the jet-lag won and with eyes propped open with matchsticks walked back into the Marais and to bed after Act 2.

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