This was a Das Rheingold to explain Der Ring des Nibelungen. The production is bedded in and smooth and the singers are impeccable. Antonio Pappano’s conducting weaves the continuous thread of Wagner’s music smoothly, making it easy for us to understand because he understands The Ring so deeply; his conducting is supportive of the singers so they can give good performances though he has a way of clarifying the musical line which appears to simplify Wagner’s music.

Symbolism abounds in Keith Warner’s production. The world globe is represented by a lattice drawing, which opens out to a square lattice and eventually becomes a lattice cube representation of the magic tarnhelm. This is by no means a bare stage setting, there’s plenty of detail with much clever use of the set and props to emphasise the metaphysical basis of Wagner’s story.

So we have understanding and clarity but we loose magic and the moments of high drama - Freia’s removal, Alberich’s curse, the entry of the gods in to Walhalla - become if not commonplace, at least lacking in the ultimate spine-chilling juju. As The Ring is so big and so expensive for The Royal Opera to mount, a production at Covent Garden is under pressure - maybe self-perceived rather than external - to widen the understanding of their show; but by mounting an “accessible” production they’ve lost a lot of the simple wonder that goes with playing it as a fairy-tale.

Wolfgang Göbbel’s lighting design joins the symbolism with a number of vivid variations on cold grey including a nice lime green and a pale yellow, plus a very convincing rainbow - I wonder how they do that! Niebelheim is green - it could have been fire-red - but being green distinguishes it from Loge’s fire.

The gala programme has a provocative piece by Michel Portillo on why Wagner chose the exchange of love for power as the theme for his tetralogy. Interesting to have the view based on the practical experience of an ex-Cabinet politician with experience of the practical implications of power. Michel Portillo also points out some of the many logical inconsistencies in the story, the existence of these supports my view that Richard Wagner wrote a very big fairy tale rather than an essay in metaphysics.

Next stop: Die Walküre...

Director    Keith Warner
Set designs    Stefanos Lazaridis
Costume designs    Marie-Jeanne Lecca
Lighting design    Wolfgang Göbbel
Original Movement Director    Claire Glaskin
Video    Mic Pool
Video    Dick Straker
Associate Set Designer    Matthew Deely

Conductor    Antonio Pappano
Woglinde    Nadine Livingston
Wellgunde    Kai Rüütel
Flosshilde    Harriet Williams
Alberich    Wolfgang Koch
Wotan    Bryn Terfel
Fricka    Sarah Connolly
Freia    Ann Petersen
Donner    Peter Coleman-Wright
Froh    Andrew Rees
Fasolt    Iain Paterson
Fafner    Eric Halfvarson
Loge    Stig Andersen
Mime    Gerhard Siegel
Erda    Maria Radner
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House