Prom 15: Die Walküre
Wagner: Die Walküre
Bryn Terfel bass-baritone (Wotan)
Eric Halfvarson bass (Hunding)
Simon O'Neill tenor (Siegmund)
Anja Kampe soprano, Proms debut artist (Sieglinde)
Nina Stemme soprano (Brünnhilde)
Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano (Fricka)
Sonja Mühleck soprano (Gerhilde)
Carola Höhn soprano, Proms debut artist (Ortlinde)
Ivonne Fuchs mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Waltraute)
Anaïk Morel mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Schwertleite)
Susan Foster soprano, Proms debut artist (Helmwige)
Leann Sandel-Pantaleo mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Siegrune)
Anna Lapkovskaja mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Grimgerde)
Simone Schröder mezzo-soprano, Proms debut artist (Rossweisse)
Daniel Barenboim conductor
I guess in opera and vocal music more generally there's a split between those who are really most interested in the singing and those who are most interested in the orchestra (and maybe some who are only interest in the conductor). I'm more interested in the orchestra usually but over the years I've developed some sort of critical faculty for singing (not that it is very sophisticated) and I've heard big names, who have big voices belting out big tunes. But I've never heard the full Wagnerian voice experience - a big voice belting out big tunes over a long time scale. The robustness of the voice is a factor along with it's beauty, sensitivity and an ability to interpret the same time. This Walküre had at least two of the greatest Wagnerian singers of our day in it - this Prom was an educations for me.
The opera, in this performance, was dominated by the fine singers assembled. From the incestuous coupling of Siegmund and Seiglinde in the house of Hunding to the final act's essay on the father/daughter relationship as Wotan imprisons his prodigy - it was about fine acting and interpretation and at the top of that pile were Stimme and Terfel. Both very experienced in the parts - Terfel by turns impetuous, conflicted and as you might expect paternal and Stimme forthright, vulnerable and questioning. To see such great singers at their peak was a privilege. What's more their proximity to the 5000 assembled seemed to bring a very direct sense of their many skills. But they weren't the whole show - O'Neill and Kampe impressed controlling their response to the pull and push of Wagner's emotional demands in Act 1 and in her later scene with Stimme, Kampe proved she had a powerful voice to match the Swede. Halfverson was immense too - moving from his role of the giant, Fafner - to the manhunter with much greater menace.
The Walküre themselves lined up at the beginning of Act 3 at the back of the stage in gowns of an assortment of colours and styles were formidable in voice and striking across the huge orchestra Barenboim conducted. The orchestra and conductor had the luxury of intervals for this opera whereas the night before for the cycles rather weight prelude both were on stage for over two and half hours in stifling sweltering heat. But I sensed the orchestra and conductor were feeling the weight of the occasion or perhaps expectation. An onstage spat between Barenboim and the leader at the end of Act 1 was unusual - but perhaps more indicative (and possibly disruptive in a good way) was the way Barenboim tore into the score especially the Act 1 and 3 preludes underlining the dark hues of menace that pervade this opera. Nothing is undertaken without a frisson of expectation that the violation of the way of things will come back and bite the protagonists.
So if I felt the orchestra didn't quite shine as it had in Rheingold, there was much to enjoy there. Not least Stefan Dohr's contribution to the horn section and a string section that can whisper but also fill the space of the Albert Hall easily. The woodwind are a fine band - lacking the individuality you'd get with a more established symphony orchestra - but as an ensemble welded together in matters of tone and substance.
This opera gave me so much that I have never experienced before but my abiding memory will be of the conflicted father and daughter - both so beautifully and intensely realised by two amazing singers.