Monday, November 12, 2012


I love this photo. It's nothing more than an i-phone snap after the Munich Götterdämmerung as we headed down the steps and out across the square. But it captured much of the night in a single frame.

It was Sunday July 15, and Nina Stemme had just finished singing the hell out of Brünnhilde. She was the third B of the cycle, following the brilliant youthful Walküre Brünnhilde of Irene Theorin (whose Isolde was about to reduce me to tears in my first night at Bayreuth, little did I know) and Catherine Naglestad's fulsome pulsing aroused Siegfried Brünnhilde. It seemed to make perfect sense to have three different sopranos for these three different women - young impetuous, sexually awakened, and last but not least the woman matured through male treachery and alone wise to the world - each so wonderfully different yet each so right.

The Ring had been six nights, with nights off between Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung and there was a grand air of celebration, generally as well as among our small group. JT was to fly back to London early next morning, Dr B was heading home to Sydney via Berlin, and we would drive S&D down to Como for a few nights before coming back to Munich.

Very briefly, I thought vocally it would be hard to beat, and have already made quick notes to that effect, especially now with Nina Stemme topping the lot. It was the production by Andreas Kreigenburg - the world is people and people are the world production. Rhinegold begins well before the written E flat with the stage filled with 'people' with the sound of water running, trickling, as people picknick, the Ring cast moving among them (look, bet she's a Rhinedaughter), undressing, painting themselves blue, becoming water, becoming the Rhine and so it began. It didn't suit me but it was fun. Later they would become earth smeared and clumped from whence Erda would appear, or in white turn into branching trees in Siegfried, or in red suspended in a frame turn themselves into an angry Fafner. The most notorious moment was at the start of Act III Walküre when instead of that Ride music bursting out there was a music-less ballet of stomping snorting mane thrashing Valkyres which went on and on, and on, till someone called out (in German of course) 'start the music', and then boos, and then bravos, and then mild mayhem, till finally the Ride began. I really don't think Mr Wagner needs anything added, on the contrary, and found it more than impertinent that anyone would think their creativity was anywhere near worthy. But again, it was fun.

Anyway, here she was, her magnificent self atop the red carpet, dwarfed by the massive columns of the Bavarian State Opera, the upper floor lights still glowing, with the crowd wide spaced and leaning forward, peering. This was the only broadcast night, out into the square (where some diehards braved a cold drizzly night) and over the airwaves and 'net, and here we were at the wrap-up. General manager looking men and a gushy hostess dominate, with the star demurely giving them the space they demanded when all we wanted to see was her wonderful self. Camera men cast wiggly shadows up the steps, and a man holds his camera out for all the world looking like he's giving one of those salutes.

Escaping the cold, we dodged the puddles and skipped across the square, slipped into Spatenhaus

and up the stairs.


wanderer said...

From David:

Fabulous, I'm sure - Theorin would be my choice - but the photo on the opera house steps is a mystery to me. Are you saying Nina is the centre of attention? I'm rather more troubled/amused by the unsavoury looking youknowwhat salute by the man on the left. Maybe just 'Heil dir Sonne!'

w replies:

David, I'm saying Nina *should* have been the centre of attention which was otherwise grabbed by the announcer (with the microphone) and the guys-in-suits. I though it incredibly generous of her, still in costume after the Big Sing, to go out into the cold night air and stand there all but in the background while the broadcast was wrapped up. I don't think she was interviewed.

That salute is part of the fun of the photo I think, especially as it is reinforced in the shadow. It looks like a return to the forbidden, but close inspection show what I think could be his camera or recording device. Other than that, yes 'Heil dir .....' will have to do!

Theorin's Isolde completely messed me up, as they say these days, in the very best sense.

wanderer said...

David, more on Theorin: She's scheduled to sing all three Brünnhildes in MIlan next June (Barenboim). I'm there!

Anonymous said...

It took me a while to spot the "salute." How naughty of you to suggest the resemblance to "one of those."

Susan Scheid said...

wanderer: Thanks for The Tempest link. Will be interesting to see how it goes tomorrow. From the bits I've heard, he seems to push the singers to the edge and sometimes past human capacity. I'm looking forward to my Ring next spring.

David said...

My lazy fault for not picking up on your later paragraph. And there was I thinking I'd been the first to notice the salute. Apologies.

Susan Scheid said...

wanderer: if of interest, we've had a little back and forth over on David's Anna post on The Tempest. I found much to like, though thought David's take from his review a couple year's back was right on target.