Probebühne IV der Bayreuther Festspiele
Wotan – Markus Eiche
Loge, Mime – Stefan Heibach
Alberich – Rainer Zaun
Wellgunde – Ulrike Helzel
Woglinde, Woodbird – Christiane Kohl
Flosshilde – Simone Schröder
Fasolt – Marek Reichert
Fafner – Friedemann Röhlig
Siegmund, Siegfried – Norbert Ernst
Sieglinde – Maraike Schröter
Hunding, Hagen – Mario Klein
Maximilian von Mayenburg (director)
Magda Willi (designs)
Ismael Schott (lighting)
Thomas Zengerle (video)
Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt an der Oder
Hartmut Keil (conductor)
After the preceding night’s Tannhäuser, this condensed Ring for children came as something approaching an unalloyed delight. Moreover, I cannot resist noting how much better behaved the mostly young audience (some members looked as young as six or seven years old) proved than its adult counterpart, no pretension, boorishness, or other exhibitionism. The children were captivated, and rightly so, not only on account of Wagner’s achievement, but also on account of the estimable performers’. Nor should one forget the skill with which the version performed was put together: Hartmut Keil, Maximilian von Mayenburg, and Saskia Bladt having almost achieved the near impossible, in presenting an accessible but never condescending Ring for children, with reduced orchestra, in a little over two hours, a twenty-minute interval included. Only in Götterdämmerung, perhaps unsurprisingly, does the pace come to seem unduly rushed, especially in terms of some awkward musical transitions. The wonder is, however, that the preceding dramas do not exhibit such signs. In many ways, this seemed a much more satisfactory reduction than that the Longborough Festival attempted a few years ago: there one really did feel the loss of what was missing.
Keil directed the orchestra with equal measures of verve and sensitivity. There was a true sense of discovery, to which one could not help but notice the children responding. He was helped by a fine cast of young singers, whose quality of voice needed no apology whatsoever. Markus Eiche was a young-sounding Wotan, fittingly for the way in which the character was portrayed, but he certainly did not lack heft. The same could be said of the giants, played by Friedemann Röhlig and a real find, Marek Reichert. Stefan Heibach had a considerable amount to do, as both Loge and Mime, proving as fine an actor as a singer. If Norbert Ernst sounded more of a Siegfried than a Siegmund – at least in a small performing space – he certainly convinced as the former, and about how many singers can one say that? There was not a weak link in the cast, the Rhinemaidens luscious, Rainer Zaun a nasty, villainous Alberich, Mario Klein dark and dangerous as both Hunding and Hagen, and Sabine Hogrefe a lovely, touching Brünnhilde. We shall hear more from many of these artists, I am sure.
How I wish that I had had something like this to see as a child. A DVD is promised.