Die Walküre


Wagner Die Walküre opera to libretto by the composer. Directed 2007 by Carlus Padrissa and La Fura dels Baus at the Calatrava opera house Palau de las Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia. Stars Peter Seiffert (Siegmund), Matti Salminen (Hunding), Juha Uusitalo (Wotan), Petra Maria Schnitzer (Sieglinde), Jennifer Wilson (Brünnhilde), Anna Larsson (Fricka), Bernadette Flaitz (Gerhilde), Helen Huse Ralston (Ortlinde), Pilar Vázquez (Waltraute), Christa Mayer (Schwertleite), Eugenia Bethencourt (Helmwige), Heike Grötzinger (Siegrune), Manuela Bress (Grimgerde), and Hannah Esther Minutillo (Roßweiße). Zubin Mehta conducts the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana. Video creator was Franc Aleu; staging and acting coordination by Valentina Carrasco; set design by Roland Olbeter; costume design by Chu Uroz; lighting design by Peter Van Praet. Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini and Davide Mancini. Sung in German. Released  2009, disc has 7.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: B+

This Die Walküre opens with something really rare: a Wagner singer with beautiful legs! I refer to Petra Maria Schnitzer, who plays Sieglinde as a cave woman being kept as a slave to her Neanderthal-looking husband played by Matti Salminen. Anna Larsson is a surprise also: a Frikca thin enough to appear in Vogue! The rest of the star singers are serviceable, but it's hard to remember much about them shortly after you finish a viewing. Except, sadly, for poor Jennifer Wilson, a profoundly homely Brünnhilde dressed in the ugliest costume you can image. Every minute on stage for Wilson must have been agony, but the show can't stop because a woman is mortified by the costume designer.

Weird lighting in Act II often covers the faces of the singers with shadows. Because the singers are often standing on fast-moving flying platforms supported by machines, the cameramen are forced to use more long-range shots than would otherwise be indicated. The result is that you often can't see the singers well as you try to track the complicated ideas expressed in Wagner's elaborate libretto.

The orchestra played well for Mehta. Alas, it's hard to judge much of the singing.  Bad sound balance often makes it hard to hear the singers over the orchestra. And because of all the visual noise on the stage, it's hard to get clues with your eyes that can help hone it on the signal the singers are trying to get across.  (This is not a problem with the Met disc of Die Walküre, where you usually can hear and see perfectly what the singers are doing.) Finally, subtitles are vital aids to understanding that are normally fine and that we now take for granted. Well, the subtitles to his Valencia Die Walküre are lugubriously archaic and cumbersome. Somebody must have copied them out of a nineteenth-century translation of the libretto. If subtitles are important to you, avoid this disc.

Impressed with the comupter graphics, the L'OperaDou Jury gave this title a "B+." I would personally grade this title down from that.  But because of my respect for the wisdom and integrity of the Jury, I leave the grade at "B+."