No horses were immolated during the filming of this opera
How do you review perfection? Wagner's achievement in The Ring of the Nibelung is unequalled. He wrote the music, the libretto and created the mythology. No-one else has ever come close to performing such a feat single-handedly. This Götterdämmerung is the end of my third time round this particular ring cycle from Bayreuth in 1992. It seems to me to be as close an embodiment of Wagner's vision as it is possible to get. Siegfried Jerusalem is again peerless as Siegfried and I particularly enjoyed Waltraud Meier as Waltraute. Obviously their parents knew that they were born to play these parts. Bodo Brinkmann and Eva Maria Brundschuh are amusing as the craven Gunther and his sex-starved sister Gutrune. Philip Kang, after playing the dragon in Siegfried, is suitably evil as their half-brother Hagen. But, after 15 hours of opera, Wagner saves his best until last and Anne Evans is simply magnificent in Brünnhilde's immolation scene. Then, in the final magnificent chords we see the twilight of the Gods as the Nibelung, Alberich, stares ruefully at the new, human order.
Oh well, after seeing this Götterdämmerung for a third time, I suppose I am entitled to nitpick just a little bit. The first scene, with the three Norns is just "Previously on the Ring of the Nibelung " It is Wagner's way of bringing latecomers up to date on the story so far. Also Wagner is over-fond of love potions in his plots. Maybe, in a more innocent age, love potions were more acceptable. They were used in comedies such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and L'Elisir D'Amore. But in these days of date-rape and Rohypnol we are less inclined to find such ideas funny.
Brünnhilde weaves protective spells around Siegfried but, assuming that he would never turn his back on an enemy, she omits to protect his back. This appears a bit slapdash to me. Still, after Siegfried is duly speared in the back by Hagen, she makes amends by throwing herself on his funeral pyre. She exhorts her horse Grane to follow her into the flames. In one of the few moments where the production baulks at taking Wagner's directions literally, animal lovers will be pleased to see that no horses were immolated during the making of this film.
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