Die Walküre


Wagner Die Walküre opera to a libretto by the composer. Directed 2010 by Tankred Dorst, with assistance by Ursula Ehler, at the Bayreuth Festival. Stars Johan Botha (Siegmund), Kwangchul Youn (Hunding), Albert Dohmen (Wotan), Edith Haller (Sieglinde), Linda Watson (Brünnhilde), Mihoko Fujimura (Fricke), Sonja Mühleck (Gerhilde), Anna Gabler (Ortlinde), Martina Dike (Waltraute), Simone Schröder (Schwertleite), Miriam Gordon-Stewart (Helmwige), Wilke te Brummelstroete (Siegrune), Annette Küttenbaum (Grimgerde), and Alexandra Petersamer (Roßweiße). Christian Thielemann conducts the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra. Sets by Frank Philipp Schlößmann; costumes by Bernd Ernst Skodzig; lighting by Ulrich Niepel; dramaturgy by Norbert Abels; music supervision by Christoph Ulrich Meier; directed for TV by Michael Beyer. Released 2011, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C+

Arnold Whittall praises this production (especially the conducting of Christian Thielemann) in the June 2011 Gramophone, but you have to wonder if he saw the Blu-ray version or just the DVD. I agree that the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra does a great job and is well recorded. There are a few tracks in which the orchestra is partly too loud for the singers, but sound balance overall is good. Picture quality and video content is also good.

I have little enthusiasm for the singers. Johan Botha (Siegmund) and Ebith Haller (Sieglinde) are too heavy and ordinary-looking to make much impression. Dohman (Wotan) is solid but not expressive. Kwangchul Youn overacts, and Mihoko Fujimura is too weak to sing Fricka (maybe a bad night). That leaves us with Linda Watson, a woman with surprising acting ability, as Brünnhilde. Alas, once Linda puts on her Valkyrie costume nothing can keep her from looking ridiculous. Her red wig is hideous, and the cut of her red dress accentuates her lumbering bulk. The rest of the Valkyrie chorus girls are also hurt by their Star Trek outfits---they look like riot police with their huge, clear, rectangular plastic shields. No doubt this is exactly what Tankred Dorst intended---and this because there are too many riots these days. Thank you, Tankred, for reminding us of this.

Dorst veers wildly from good ideas (the ruins and ancient-looking sculptures) to obscure and pointless intellectual gamesmanship. For example, a  bicyclist calmly takes a break in the background of most of Act 2; per the keep-case booklet, he represents us, the audience. Thanks, Opus Arte, for that tip. I wind up with a "C" for artistic merit for this show; I bump that up to "C+" for fine SQ and PQ.