I've seen lots of stage performances and lots of movies. All try to show the proverbial shock of someone who's been lied to or misled. And all for what?
The "Twilight of the Gods" finale to Wagner's ring cycle isn't quite as mythic as the previous three installments of the saga. We don't get creatures of yore conniving and battling bewitched heroes, nor do we see the superficial splendor of the beings who got the whole process rolling in the first place. Instead we see repercussions of desire gone horribly bad, and the effects on the beings who worship the ego-maniacal deities.
We're witness to the tragedy of why one kind of person perpetually ruins everything for society since the dawn of man. We're witness to the machinations of another who is seduced by the prize the Rhine-maidens were bid to guard. And the authors of this horrible story, Loge, Wotan, Fafner, Alberich and the rest, have long since faded into the background. But where have they gone? Peering into the uncaring heart, one truly made of gold and nothing more, should yield the true answer. And it is Wotan's issue, Brunhilde, who, so mistreated, so wronged, so fraught with circumstances beyond her control created by the gods, and pushed beyond her limits to combat or otherwise deal and contend with those who suffer the curse of the ring, who ultimately, and I'll add willingly, pays the ultimate price. Can anyone deny her solution?
The performances are solid. The cast huge. Supernumeraries throng the stage with shield and spear. Behrens does an exceptional job of voicing the mistreated Brunhilde, as does Salminen playing the heavy. Sigfried Jerusalem keeps true to the Sigfried character by playing him as an enchanted (drugged) hero whose mind has been momentarily wiped clean. The levity he adds does much to reinforce Behrens' character's indignation and cause of her descent into madness.
My only criticism with this piece is as I mentioned in my Das Rheingold critique; and that is the visuals are stark. I've seen a few iterations of the Ring Cycle, and each one has a unique take. The Met tried to be as true to a literal presentation of Wagner's opera verse the not-so- clever social commentary on contemporary times that other productions have gone by placing the saga into more contemporary settings. But, for all that, for all the Vienna productions, productions produced and aired by the New York Met, Los Angeles, and other major metropolitan areas with opera aficionados, this one lacks color and depth.
It's a superficial critique, I know. I've perhaps embraced the curse of the Ring forged by Alberich's servants by saying this production lacks visual luster, but it does. Again, I'd seen the Ring Cycle before, and was mildly approving of the various interpretations, but the one I'll always remember was the 1990 San Francisco War Memorial Opera House production (partially preserved in Jon Else's "Sing Faster" documentary). Whether it was the video technology of the time that was incapable of capturing the colors on the Met's stage, or poor lighting, I cannot say. But it looks mostly bland, and that's a criticism I've leveled on nearly all of the Deutsche Grammophon's opera DVDs. I just don't know what goes on there.
Having said all that, the production itself is respectable, and gives a very solid and true retelling of Wagner's saga. One that was originally meant as a conveyance of how the world could be wrought anew and hopeful, but turned into a cynical tragedy the more Wagner lived and experienced life itself.
Either way, if you must see a DVD of the Ring Cycle, and are yearning for a "period" accurate telling of the myth, then this is the DVD to watch.
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