By Terry Clarke
Now this was more like it. After a frankly rather disappointing Ring in Munich where we witnessed the distraction of 80 dancers waving, writhing and prancing in every scene, we returned to the converted barn, which is the Opera House at Longborough, in the beautiful English countryside. Here we witnessed a chamber Götterdämmerung that was superbly sung and acted and allowed the music to speak for itself without any directorial interference.
The set was simple but effective. A high barred double gate and a tilted circular disc (shades of Wieland Wagner) framed the drama satisfactorily. By nature of the space the orchestra is smaller than major houses but nonetheless 80 musicians squeezed into the pit and made a mighty sound in the 400 seat auditorium.
The wonder of the evening was the gorgeous singing of Rachel Nicholls as Brünnhilde. She is quite an experienced singer in other operatic fields but this was her first attempt at this role and from the moment she stepped on stage her performance was totally riveting and she maintained it right to the ending, attacking the immolation as if it was the start of Act 1. She was ably assisted by the Siegfried of Estonian, Mati Turi, also his first time in the role. He is a big chap but mobile with it and brim full of enthusiasm. Their opening duet electrified the house and the confrontation with Waltraute, Alison Kettlewell, was equally dramatic.
Hagen was portrayed as a thin intellectual who started rather benignly but became progressively more evil as the evening progressed. The rather light bass baritone of Stuart Pendred might be lost in a larger house. The Gibichung siblings of Eddie Wade and Lee Bisset were in fine voice and convincing in their roles. Strangely, to begin with, Gunther was pushed on to the stage sitting in a wheelchair. We debated the meaning of this, one critic thought it signified his weakness, however he jumped out of it most athletically on the arrival of Siegfried; both Hagen and Siegfried had a turn in it and it was never seen again.
Longborough receives no state funding and thus some economies have to be made, so there was no disguising the fact that there were only 11 vassals and they sounded a bit thin, despite their enthusiastic singing and movement. Two of the Rhinemaidens doubled as Norns but who cared? They sang beautifully and looked delicious.
This is the completion of the Longborough Ring, which has been in development since 2007, conducted by Anthony Negus and directed by Alan Privett and which will be presented in full cycle in June and July 2013. So for 2013, take my advice, as well as Melbourne, ignore all others and beg, borrow or steal tickets to the Longborough Ring, enjoy the fabulous views over the Cotswolds and the picnic in the car park, and just pray that Rachel Nicholls is Brünnhilde.