Stuart Skelton shines in Die Walkuere

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Let us first establish a couple of ground rules before we move on to reviewing the OPUS ARTE 2018 video recording of Wagner’s Die Walkure: one – no sarcasm or snark, two – no soft pedaling or pulling punches.

Now, with video recording the first thing I do is look at the cover of the DVD, the photographs that are used, how the whole thing entices me as a consumer and reviewer to tear off the shrink wrap and open up the package. In so doing I was not visually pleased by what I saw, starting with the ungainly wigs and costumes by Marie-Jeanne Lecca that do the singers no favors and fail to distinguish the mortal plebeians from the royal gods.

Once the music that opens Act One began to play I became totally enthralled by the sound of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, which led by Antonio Pappano plays superbly through the opera’s four hours. So swept up was I by the sound of the ensemble and by the heroic vocalism of Stuart Skelton, arguably the finest Heldentenor in today’s Opera business that I forgot that I was supposed to be watching a video.

But I soldiered on.

By the time Siegfried/Skelton got to his Welse, Welse outburst I was hooked and oblivious to the puzzling set of scenic designer Stefanos Lazaridis and most of the directorial capriciousness of Keith Warner.

Emily Magee is a spectacular Sieglinde, whose vocalism is a thing of wonder. When she opens up with Der Männer Sippe she forces me to turn down the volume on my CD player. Skelton’s impeccably sung Wintersturme is immediately followed by Sieglinde’s Du bist der Lenz, both Wagnerian tours de force that call for a panoply of vocal colors from Skelton and Magee both of whom generously deliver with a perfect balance of lyricism and stentorian singing.

The superb black-voiced bass Ain Anger is all contained evil as Hunding.

Act two begins with a brief scene for Wotan (the excellent John Lundgren), Nina Stemme, who valiantly makes her precarious entrance down a long metal stepladder and Sarah Connolly – most effective as a visually elegant Fricka. But somehow I keep waiting for Skelton to come back. He does for a few moments until he gets dispatched to Walhalla by the wife-deprived Hunding.

The rest of the opera is at 2 hours to go a bit of a slug for this listener, which puzzles me, as I never experience this with opera, other than Wagner with his endless moments of conversation.

The sound and visuals of the video are top notch. But get those singers some decent costumes.

Rafael de Acha    http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com