Das Rheingold, Richard Wagner
Melbourne Opera/Melbourne Digital Concert Hall
Livestream, Sunday 4 February 2021.
Melbourne Opera’s recent presentation of Das Rheingold, broadcast on Melbourne Digital Concert Hall featured an outstanding team of cast and creatives, delivering an eloquent realisation of the first of Wagner’s quartet of operas that comprise The Ring of the Nibelung. This pinnacle of operatic enterprise, featured an all-Victorian cast and placed musical and dramatic values at the fore.
Conducted by Anthony Negus and directed by Suzanne Chaundy, the production adapted to the demands of the COVID crisis with distancing between the singers and the expansion of the orchestral space from the pit into the auditorium. As Sydney is unable to stage operas of this scale, it was a treat to enjoy the superlative vocal performances and brilliant playing from the large orchestral forces despite the unavoidable limitations of translating this epic tale of humanity from stage to small screen.
Notwithstanding the digital layer to the sound, bass Eddie Muliaumaseali’I, impressively resonant and commanding as Wotan, led a home-grown ensemble of exceptional vocal talent which included baritone Simon Meadows as Alberich, tenor James Egglestone as Loge, mezzo-soprano Sarah Sweeting as Fricka, soprano Lee Abrahmsen as Freia and Rebecca Rashleigh, Louise Keast and Karen Van Spall as the Rhinemaidens. Completing the ensemble were Jason Wasley, Darcy Carroll, Roxane Hislop, and Michael Lapina. Basses Adrian Tamburini as Fasholt and Steven Gallop as Fafner were stand-outs in this cast which ignited high anticipation of growing Wagnerian talent.
Simple props and sets (Andrew Bailey) were accompanied by vivid lighting (Rob Sowinski); sway-pole dancers ebbed and flowed; an eclectic array of creative costumes (Harriet Oxley) embellished the characterisations from primitive hunters’ pelts for the giants, diaphanous liquid confections for the Rhinemaidens, a natty striped suit and bowler hat for Loge, metallic silver for Donner and tongues of fire licking at the lapels of a grotesque Alberich’s jacket.
The many demands and nuances of the narrative were engagingly illustrated through mime, drama, lighting and projections – admittedly a little difficult to discern at times. However, this was primarily a stage production that was filmed and not one that was made for the screen, large or small.
Running for 2 ½ hours with no interval and available on demand for 72 hours after the livestream, this digital presentation which had a three-night Melbourne season certainly fills a gap in the Sydney concert goer’s diary. It is a welcome return, not just to opera, but to a challenging piece of vocal, instrumental and dramatic substance.
The company has promised the other three operas of The Ring Cycle in the lead up to the full quartet in 2023, the first independent production of The Ring Cycle since 1913.
Something to look forward to.
Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©