The Valkyrie lacks fresh thinking and Wagner’s elemental power… if this is as good as it gets, perhaps the English National Opera shouldn’t bother
London Coliseum Until December 10
This Valkyrie is a damp squib, not just because Westminster Council banned the fire effect from the Magic Fire Music. There is little or no magic there either.
English National Opera’s music director, Martyn Brabbins, is no Wagnerian. His tempi are often erratic and he lacks the elemental power of a true Wagner conductor.
The singers for once at the ENO are all British. But not all cover themselves with glory.
Rachel Nicholls (above) is an interesting Brünnhilde, but why is she dressed up like an American teen off to a baseball game?
Brindley Sherratt certainly does as a vocally rock-solid Hunding, despite the extreme physical violence he has to hand out to his wife Sieglinde (Emma Bell), gratuitously imposed by director Richard Jones.
Bell sings well but without any real vocal allure or sensuality. Nicky Spence is a highly promising Siegmund, yet there is no chemistry between him and Sieglinde.
Rachel Nicholls is an interesting Brünnhilde, but why is she dressed up like an American teen off to a baseball game? She struggles to command the stage.
The major disappointment is Matthew Rose’s Wotan, who, though a credible hen-pecked failure, doesn’t project any of the nobility Wagner also intended.
I am not sure Jones likes Wagner. In Act 1 he constantly introduces spurious additional characters. In Act 2 there are people running around with pantomime horses, hardly the fresh thinking a director of his stature ought to present.
As for Act 3, the absence of the fire helps turn the ending into pure bathos. Wotan spends much of his time hooking up Brünnhilde to a hoist so she can be raised 10ft off the ground (why?).
A new ENO Ring is to be developed in the next five years. If this is as good as it gets, perhaps they shouldn’t bother.