This Ring cycle, from Stuttgart has different directors, casts and concepts for each of the four parts. Rheingold and Walkure are moderately successful whereas Walkure and Gotterdammerung are embarrassingly bad. Still, it is interesting to note that the recent BBC Radio 3 review of DVD versions of the Ring places this Stuttgart cycle a close second behind the 1980's Pierre Boulez version from Beyreuth
For this Rheingold, director Joachim Schlomer's big idea is to set the opera in the pump room of a 1930s spa. There is just this one set, with a large ornamental pool in the centre representing the Rhine. With the exception of Erda, most of the characters are on stage most of the time. Gods, giants and Niebelungs are all clients of the spa where the Rhinemaidens are the personal trainers.
The idea works reasonably well and I was impressed by the way Schlomer manages to maintain the metaphor throughout the production. But this is not the production to see if it is your first Rheingold because it misses the traditional magic There is no swimming at the bottom of the Rhine, there are no giants, no Niebelungs. Alberich just hisses a bit when he is supposed to have turned himself into a serpent and he drops a pathetic rubber frog in front of him when he is supposed to turn into a toad. I did like the tarnhelm, which is just a mirror held in front of Alberich's face, a sort of Magritte tarnhelm I suppose. All the roles are well sung, with Esa Ruuttunen's gangling Alberich outstanding, the tallest dwarf in Nibelheim. Overall, this production is too pleased with its own cleverness. Not only does it lack magic, it lacks humour, with a well-sung but humourless Loge from Robert Kunzli.
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