At last a charming and relevant setting! Act 2 was a good modern setting where the images on stage clearly added to the literal understanding of the music drama. A stylish forest, a reasonable dragon plus great interpretations from the singers and supportive music from the pit.

Act 1 had been nicely pacey, even fast, which is the first time I’ve felt that in this cycle but unfortunately the brass in particular had problems maintaining ensemble. Maybe some video failed and there was a problem with seeing the conductor?

Nice action with a physically suitable actor as Siegfried grows up. He transforms in to the bear he has been hunting and then the singer Siegfried (Stefan Vinke) appears in the style of 21st century “bear”. But actually so what: the growing up was good but I didn’t see how this little piece of extra symbolism adds to my understanding of Wagner’s epic; or maybe it’s an example of misleading symbolism where none was intended. Stefan Vinke’s singing was wonderful: listening with my eyes closed he was naive, powerful and subtle.

Wotan the Wanderer (Bryn Terfel) appears in scene 2, very much the world-weary wanderer, but also very much Bryn Terfel playing the part very well but it would be difficult to say he personified Wotan the Wanderer.

Siegfried forging the magic sword Notung in Act 1 scene 3: lots of action which is presumably justified by the stage directions (because the action was similar to other productions) but still incongruous around the aircraft crash site. The symbols have taken over the stage! The staging and scenery becoming increasingly irrelevant: the plane crash is now clearly recognisable: the props are like loads of symbols or leitmotifs cluttering up the stage. Fortunately the plane is not seen after the end of Act 1.

There’s a view that the best stagings of The Ring are the most minimal; the strength (or at least the selling-point) of Keith Warner’s present realisation is the rich production. However when the stage is littered with symbols it’s increasingly hard to decide which symbolism is intended and which is in the eye of the beholder and spurious. And the music already is already rich with musical symbolism, aka leitmotifs, which are rich and authoritative and have the benefit of being specific to Wagner rather than bringing in allusions and confusions from outside the story of the Walsungs.

Act 3 started promising from the production point of view with Wotan wandering precariously on a rotating, inclined slab. But as the act continued it seemed the production had increasingly less to contribute. Siegfried’s journey through fire to Brunnhilde’s rock had no fire, just clouds; perhaps the production was “letting the music speak” but it came over as lame.

On the music front, the tempo seemed to drag as the seduction proceeded. Yes Brunnhilde plays hard to get but the orchestra seemed to be hesitant beyond the needs of the drama. There was unfortunately some more dodgy brass ensemble.

On the positive side, surtitles mean that the audience can be relied on to understand the action without exaggerated mime actions, even in the long narrations, so we have more convincing movement. Of course the famous ENO Ring in English (which was my own introduction to The Ring on stage) achieved the same immediacy with the benefit immediacy of Andrew Porter’s excellent singing translations.

Overall, I’m still thinking that this is a production which intends to open up our understanding of The Ring. But it’s being most successful when there’s plenty of action or the production is being minimalist.

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
Siegfried Stefan Vinke
Mime Gerhard Siegel
Wanderer (Wotan) Bryn Terfel
Alberich Wolfgang Koch
Fafner Eric Halfvarson
Woodbird Sophie Bevan
Erda Maria Radner
Brünnhilde Susan Bullock

Orchestra of the Royal Opera House