November 27, 2021
Coliseum; Wigmore Hall, LondonIndisposed singers, doused flames and musical longueurs aside, it’s way too early to dismiss Richard Jones’s new ENO Ring cycle. Elsewhere, the Sacconi Quartet fly on the wings of Jonathan Dove…
The week in classical: The Valkyrie; Sacconi Quartet review – at the mercy of the gods
Wagner maintained that the kernel of The Ring of the Nibelung lay in the second of the cycle’s four operas, The Valkyrie, in which Wotan, flawed leader of the gods, gives an exhaustive account of the backstory. The reason English National Opera began its five-year Ring adventure here, conducted by Martyn Brabbins and directed by Richard Jones, may be more pragmatic. With human emotion at its heart, The Valkyrie can feel like a self-contained work. It lasts five hours, with two extended (and usefully lucrative) intervals. It’s an event. The cycle’s first opera, Rheingold, is roughly half that length, with no interval.
There was certainly a sense of occasion at the Coliseum last week. Elite Wagnerians – singers, conductors – were out in force to hear what a new generation of British performers could offer in this overwhelming score. The cast, mostly new to their roles, has some of the best British singers: Rachel Nicholls (Brünnhilde), Matthew Rose (Wotan), Nicky Spence (Siegmund), Emma Bell (Sieglinde), Brindley Sherratt (Hunding) and Susan Bickley (Fricka), richly contrasting voices all, from the beauty of Nicholls’s steely, pinpoint accuracy to Bell’s more diffuse warmth, to Sherratt’s snarling, dark-toned heft. Their performances haven’t yet gelled, but the first outing of a new Ring always feels like work in progress, for musicians and production team alike.
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