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Siegfried Jerusalem ...
Graham Clark ...
John Tomlinson ...
Wanderer
Günter von Kannen ...
Philip Kang ...
Anne Evans ...
Birgitta Svendén ...
Erda
Hilde Leidland ...
Waldvogel
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Heroes humbly bowed before my virginity
8 February 2005 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

Mrs Gimble is at a conference in Dublin this week so I was able to review this recording from my collection. It is my third time round this particular ring cycle. The first time was a life-changing experience; the second time I was still devastated. It is only this week, in viewing Siegfried for the third time, that I have slight reservations. These reservations are not about the cast or the production but with the composer. Wagner does a trick that is well known to risqué comedians: if you are offended by the joke, it means you understand the double entendre, therefore you are implicated. Wagner presents us with Mime, an odious dwarf: if we protest that this is anti-semitic we are falling into the trap of recognising the stereotype.

We need not feel guilty about recognising Siegfried as a proto-Nazi, although Siegfried Jerusalem plays him more as a naughty Labrador who rushes round unthinkingly demolishing everything in his path. This time round, I had problems with the way he casually murdered Mime, who was, after all, his stepfather. I also had problems with his casual slaughter of the dragon, Fafner. I think the WWF might find that a bit insensitive.

None of this is meant to be critical of Siegfried Jerusalem's incredible performance. He sings magnificently at full blast for most of the four and a half hours of this opera. His parents must have felt very confident in naming him. Every member of the cast excels. Graham Clark succeeds in making Mime a sympathetic character, which may be why I was so upset by Siegfried's casual dismissal of him. Philip Kang is a wonderful dragon. John Tomlinson, as the Wanderer, does more acting and less singing in this piece compared to Das Rheingold or Die Walküre but his scene with Birgitta Svendén, as Erda is very touching. Gunter von Kannen, as Alberich, also has an interesting cameo reminding us that he is the Nibelung that the Ring is all about.

As I noted in my review of Die Walküre, this is a very literal production. Fafner really does turn into a dragon and the woodbird really is a bird. So you get to hear Hilde Leidland as Waldvogel but you only see a bird fluttering at the end of Wotan's spear.

The last half hour of this piece is possibly the most erotic thirty minutes of opera ever written, when Siegfried wakens Brünnhilde from her sleep within the ring of fire. Anne Evans is so majestic that she has no trouble getting away with lines such as: "Heroes humbly bowed before my virginity". She is even more magnificent in the final part, Götterdämmerung. Mrs G is on holiday in Singapore in a couple of weeks time so I hope to review it then.


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