A musical triumph receives standing ovation

Gotterdammerung, Longborough Festival Opera, Moreton-in-Marsh, July 17.

WAGNER’s Götterdämmerung brings his Ring Cycle to a weighty conclusion. Last Tuesday, Longborough’s massive project to produce all four parts of the cycle, which began in 2007 with Part1, Das Rheingold, reached a remarkable climax led by conductor Anthony Negus and a musical triumph.

The carefully paced Funeral March as Siegfried is carried away by vassals in a solemn procession was one of the most moving musical experiences of the year.

Negus’s knowledge of the score is immense - he is in love with the music. His singers’ voices carried well in this auditorium. Rachel Nicholls, best known for her work as a Baroque singer stepped up to sing Brünnhilde – a very pleasing surprise – and someone we will see again in this role at Longborough in next year’s complete cycle. In contrast, we are unlikely to see Malcolm Rivers again as Alberich and thought needs to be given to finding a darker Hagen than that portrayed by Stuart Pendred. The eleven-male chorus filled the auditorium and has clearly been well-coached by Simon Jolly, their chorus master.

Director Alan Privett follows a traditional script with just a couple of strange diversions. What is Gunther doing in a wheelchair in Act 1 when before too long he is up on his feet,strutting the stage with everyone else? Is this something to do with demonstrating his vulnerability?

And why is Brünnhilde lying motionless centre stage at the beginning of Act 2? Surely Gunther should be dragging Brünnhilde into the action?

Quite rightly, Act 3 began with a standing ovation for Anthony Negus. I can’t praise his performance too highly. The musical achievement is as good as heard anywhere else in the UK.

Of course Negus received a standing ovation at the final curtain call. So too, did designer Kjell Torriset and lighting designer Ben Ormerod. Orchestra leader Katherine Gittings deserved to be called on stage after leading an exhausting effort which makes huge demands on resources and stamina. It was good to see Richard Laing, Leamington Chamber’s conductor playing violin, supporting Katherine in the pit.

The next phase of the Longborough project continues next year with the presentation of the complete cycle. We wish them every good luck.

Clive Peacock