I recall fondly the form of Cardiff Opera Julius Caesar from Handel prior to the past pandemic. I’ve noted they seem to now do events both here and in Bath. This onward rise would see them tackle on of opera’s most absurdly strenuous offerings…
In these scenes from Götterdämerung, the final part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, worlds end and new life is restored. This ‘Twlight of the Gods’ remains one of Wagner’s and the art form’s finest creations, innumerable leitmotives are heard yet again, mutated and used as a psychological jab in its effect in the listener. These highlights were around 2 to 3 fifths of the full opera, though the absence of lead hero role Siegfried and to a lesser extent the Rhinemaidens aside the Vassals was apparent.
Guiding us through the harsh narrative terrian of the story, Dave Key-Pugh was an approachable and added humour. I think I heard a mispronunciation of a German name here and there, though it was of little significance. David Hutchings assisted the singers as conductor, with a consideration for the heft of their roles. Nicola Rose as accompanists, took on the fury of the orchestral role reduced to piano with a mighty passion throughout.
The opening scene sees the Three Norms here from Charlotte Collier, Wendy Silvester and Charlotte Whittle. Some quivering notes didnt quite reach their mark, though mostly this scene was fine, as the Norns wheel the thread of fate, as this absurd story is wrapped up over the next four hours. William Stevens has feathered before with the company and his Hagen is quite impressive, his time with Longborough covering the role is note worthy. Hagen who conspires to obtain the ring from Siegfried, gets some deliciously evil moments whenever on stage. His half brother and sister was from a fitting Alexander Learmonth as Gunther and a returning Charlotte Whittle as Gutrune. Here both singers come into their own, Alexander playing up the character’s insecurities, whilst Charlotte shapes the role with stellar vocals. As Alberich, Niall Hoskin is the thieving Nibelung, who set off the whole story, here speaking to his Hagen in an apparent dream scene. Niall got the delivery right, he makes the role his own.
Wendy Silvester gets what some say is the full Cycle’s highlight: Waltraute’s Monologue. Fellow Valkyrie sister of Brünnhilde, she comes to warn of their father Wotan and the eventful fate of all the gods. Wendy got into this rich solo, meeting the onslaught of delivery. It would be towards the end where her voice buckled, though if not due to the intensity of the writing, I’d put it down to the chillness of the venue. Laura Hudson faced Brünnhilde with a polished scope, the lasting legacy of this role being it’s soaring vocals, redemptive honours and climactic summation. As a funeral for Siegfried is taking place, Brünnhilde beings her massive final epic aria, her immolation triggers the end of all things. Wendy got the pacing and grandeur of these last 20 minutes down well.
I dare say, when are they doing the full shebang?
Cardiff Opera do Puccini’s La bohème at The Mission Theatre in Bath 14th to 17th December 2023.