Today WQXR broadcast the concluding GOTTERDAMMERUNG from the 2006 Bayreuth RING Cycle. Over the course of the operas I became enthralled with Christian Thielemann's conducting and his conception of the RING which seemed to focus on clarity of expression and beautiful orchestral colours. The weakness of some of the singers offset the conductor's work to an extent, and I would hope there will be some cast changes in the future performances (Bayreuth usually runs a RING Cycle production for five consecutive Summers; cast changes have been known to happen.)
In GOTTERDAMMERUNG, Stephen Gould continued the overall fine impression he made in SIEGFRIED. It is not your usual heldentenor voice, but clear and focussed of tone and quite expressive. The long narrative leading up to his murder was very impressive. Hans-Peter Konig's (photo) cavernous basso was ideal for Hagen and Mihoko Fujimura (photo) was a fascinating Waltraute with her sense of urgency always grounded in the music - a beautiful contralto sound, too. Beyond that we had somewhat disappointing Norns (I love the Norn scene but these three ladies were not first-class vocalists), an unpleasant-sounding Gutrune (Gabriele Fontana), a middling Gunther (Alexander Marco-Buhrmester in a thankless role), a shaky-toned but sinister Alberich (Andrew Shore) and an inadequate Brunnhilde: Linda Watson did have her moments but the tone is metallic, edgy and tends to fight shy of the pitch. Her "Ruhe, ruhe du Gott" in the Immolation Scene - a key phrase musically - was flat.
The mood of the Funeral Music was broken when someone sneezed loudly between the hushed beats of the tympani.
Having finished the book about Cosima, I am re-reading Nike Wagner's THE WAGNERS. She makes this very interesting and accurate observation: that as the RING continues to fascinate us and as more and more companies attempt to mount productions of the Cycle, there is a corresponding decline in the number of singers who are truly capable of performing these fiendishly demanding roles. New Wagnerian voices must be found and developed if the RING Cycle is to continue to cast its spell.