This is the second instalment of Wagner's Ring conducted by Daniel Barenboim from Beyreuth. The Ring gets better with each succeeding part but even by part two it is nothing less than incredible. It is performed on a large, uncluttered stage in fairly modern dress, long leather coats being in this year for teutonic gods. John Tomlinson is a bespectacled Wotan, with one lens blacked out. Wagner's stage directions are followed fairly literally in this as in the other three films that make up this set so I was slightly surprised that there was a Walk of the Valkyries rather than the usual Ride but it was still thrilling. This is the only point in the Ring in which we see Wotan and Brünnhilde together and Tomlinson and Anne Evans are a stunning partnership in Act III. Wotan has to punish Brünnhilde for her disobedience by putting her to sleep surrounded by a ring of fire that only a hero can penetrate. Tomlinson and Evans fully exploit the incestuous nature of this father and daughter pairing. In fact there's a lot of incest in the Ring, what with Wotan's children Siegmund and Sieglinde in Act I and their son Siegfried with his aunty Brunhilde to come later.
There is a Christian resonance in the holy trinity of the father Wotan, the son Siegmund and the holy spirit Brünnhilde who describes herself as the instrument of Wotan's will. Of course Wotan doesn't just beget one redeemer he also begets nine Valkyries. In fact for someone who likes to put it about a bit he has probably chosen the wrong wife in Fricka, the goddess of marital fidelity. Henpecked by his wife and constrained by his own godliness from stealing back the ring, Wotan describes himself as the least powerful of all beings.
The Valkyries'job is to scoop dying heroes from the battlefield and transport them direct to Valhalla where they will be entertained by accommodating maidens. These days I'm a bit uncomfortable about this idea of virgins waiting in heaven to greet dead martyrs. Still, its an exciting story and you can't wait to find out what happens next. There are not many operas where you can say that
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