Ben Woodward units off once more on the Ring highway with Regents Opera’s virtuosic orchestra and robust forged – Seen and Heard Worldwide


United Kingdom Wagner, Das Rheingold: Soloists, Orchestra of Regents Opera / Benjamin Woodward (conductor). Grand Temple, Freemasons Corridor, London, 13.11.2022. (JPr)

Jillian Finnamore (l, Woglinde), Justine Viani (Wellgunde) and Mae Heydorn (r, Flosshilde) © Steve Gregson

Director – Caroline Staunton
Music director – Ben Woodward
Studienleiter – Paul Plummer

Woglinde – Jillian Finnamore
Wellgunde – Justine Viani
Flosshilde – Mae Heydorn
Alberich – Oliver Gibbs
Wotan – Keel Watson
Fricka – Ingeborg Novrup Børch
Loge – James Schouten
Donner – Andrew Mayor
Freia – Charlotte Richardson
Froh – Calvin Lee
Mime – Holden Madagame
Fasolt – Henry Grant Kerswell
Fafner – Craig Lemont Walters
Erda – Mae Heydorn

Ever since I first noticed them of their unique dwelling at Fulham’s St John’s Church, Fulham Opera (now reincarnated as Regents Opera) have tended to punch above their weight. Having already achieved a Ring cycle there between 2011 and 2014 – albeit solely accompanied by piano and some devices – they’re able to problem London’s two main opera corporations by staging a brand new cycle between now and 2024. Barrie Kosky’s new Ring at Covent Backyard will start with Das Rheingold in September 2023 however the rival Richard Jones one by English Nationwide Opera is prone to fall on the subsequent fence due to all their present monetary woes after simply Die Walküre and the forthcoming Das Rheingold. (This would possibly come as a blessed aid to the co-producing Metropolitan Opera, however that’s one other story!)

‘Punch above their weight’ is what Regents Opera proceed to do – a minimum of musically – with this Das Rheingold. For me, the forged and the orchestra of 19 (enjoying Ben Woodward’s sensible new association) surpass the Wagnerian soundworld I typically get from Longborough Competition Opera with their infinitely higher assets. As ordinary it’s inconceivable to know the place this Ring is headed from simply this Rheingold. I used to be all the time going to refer readers to a current Berlin evaluation (click on right here) of this ‘preliminary night’ to the Ring in a manufacturing by Dimitri Tcherniakov earlier than realising that Regents Opera’s director, Caroline Staunton, was his assistant there. (I additionally solely learn her programme essay making an attempt to clarify the Konzept for her Ring on the way in which dwelling, although fortunately I had labored that out, such because it presently is.)

Kudos to Regents Opera for presenting this Das Rheingold in between the viewers filling the Grand Temple of London’s Freemasons Corridor which is as imposing a venue as, I think, they’ve ever carried out in. There’s a raised rectangular platform and on it have been a number of pedestals with modest – and eclectic – artworks on most of them (was {that a} small Snoopy I noticed within the distance?). My first ideas have been a museum because the Rhinemaidens roamed round analyzing them earlier than Alberich emerged from a trough within the centre of the performing house (which could possibly be coated and uncovered as required). The blue lighting recommended the Rhine and so started the issues with this staging, as there was no actual house for Alberich’s pursuit of the Rhinemaidens they usually simply wandered spherical and spherical.

Staunton is clearly as disciple of Tcherniakov however whereas his Rhinemaidens are laboratory assistants with clipboards in the beginning, Staunton’s simply look, nicely, like Rhinemaidens of their vibrant flouncy robes. So it continues: we is perhaps seeing three flooring (River Rhine, mountaintop and Nibelheim) of a gallery – because the objet d’artwork are swopped about, although the characters inhabiting them look as they could do in any Rheingold, with recognisable costumes and simply differing make-up, face paint or tribal markings. Similar to Berlin, because the opera proceeds, other than these costumes there’s little or no else that Wagner would possibly recognise other than a hoop. Its energy seems to be an phantasm as are the remainder of the magical occasions we see. Tcherniakov has no ‘actual’ gold or Tarnhelm, and neither does Staunton though Freia will ultimately be swathed in gold foil in an try to cover her. Staunton gives a small podium (apparently primarily based on the Fourth plinth in Trafalgar Sq.) the place we get some efficiency artwork. Notably this entails a bare-chested Alberich – Oliver Gibbs and never a fairly sight, sorry! – having smeared himself with gold physique make-up miming placing one thing on his head and turning right into a dragon after which a frog. Oddly – but in a very efficient scene – Erda in white approached via the orchestra just like the Ghost of Christmas Previous and one ought to marvel what this needed to do with the rest we noticed, however I repeat, it’s most likely a lot too early to fret about this. Elsewhere, we do see one among Freia’s apples as a silver – although not gold – object, Donner places down a hammer on one of many pedestals (though it appears like a deal with had been put right into a stable piece of tiramisu) and there’s a spear there all through the opera which Wotan touches as soon as (solely because the final notes of Rheingold die away).

Henry Grant Kerswell (Fasolt), James Schouten (Loge) and Keel Watson (Wotan) © Steve Gregson

The enjoying by the orchestra is virtuosic and Woodward performed a fluid, pacey, vibrant account of the rating with an instinctive really feel for its dramatic construction. The novel answer to the anvils for the Descent and Ascent from Nibelheim are nearly price your ticket cash alone and sound significantly better than heard in (even) extra prestigious venues. I had solely minor quibbles about among the forged – some singing their roles for the primary time – although personally, I might have wished Regents Opera to have given British singers extra alternatives; however the Rheingold ensemble is very robust. The all the time dependable Keel Watson is a commanding Wotan and provides a considerate portrayal of a god who thinks he has every little thing below his management, while unwittingly sowing the seeds of his personal destruction. Oliver Gibbs surpasses the rest I’ve heard him sing with a fearsomely aggressive and feeling arduous executed by Alberich.

I additionally notably appreciated James Schouten’s well-sung Loge, who was the grasp manipulator this character should be, together with his Byronic hair there was greater than a suggestion of glam rock about him. Additionally impressing have been Ingeborg Novrup Børch along with her enticing mezzo voice because the reproachful, possessive Fricka, Henry Grant Kerswell was the lumbering lovelorn Fasolt (suppose Lennie in Of Mice and Males), and Charlotte Richardson sang Freia with a splendidly recent sound. Among the best singers for me was Mae Heydorn who was Flosshilde and in addition Erda when she eerily intoned her prophecy of the gods’ eventual doom with darkish, sonorous tones. The voices of the Rhinemaidens (Jillian Finnamore, Justine Viani and Mae Heydorn) blended nicely and Holden Madagame’s Mime, in addition to Andrew Mayor’s Donner have been strongly sung. Craig Lemont Walters didn’t make an awesome impression as Fafner on this event and Calvin Lee – whose intensive biography suggests he’s a personality tenor – sounded as if he was auditioning for Siegfried.

I all the time advocate Regents Opera performances and please see both of the 2 remaining performances (on 17 and 19 November) and the following Ring operas and see the way it all works out in the long run.

Jim Pritchard


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