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CLASSICAL  July 2007

CLASSICAL July 2007

Subject:

Kirov "Ring" at the Met - Mammoth Potato, Petrified Penguins... Some Sounds Like German

From:

Janos Gereben <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 22 Jul 2007 10:12:36 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (141 lines)

http://tinyurl.com/2ztxoh

   Financial Times / July 23, 2007 / Arts

   A reluctant ring of the changes

   Der Ring des Nibelungen
   Kirov Opera at Lincoln Center, N.Y.
   MARTIN BERNHEIMER

   New Yorkers love their "Ring," and they love a conservative
   projection of the mystic myth.  While the rest of the world has
   been exploring modernist reinterpretation - often ridiculous and
   occasionally sublime - the Metropolitan Opera has clung, stubbornly
   and proudly, to let's-pretend realism.  For better or worse, it
   makes a tree look like a tree, a dragon sort of like a dragon.
   And validating old-school romantic conviction, James Levine has
   been enforcing spacious, leisurely, poetic grandeur in the pit
   for 21 years.

   Now comes the shock.  For the Lincoln Center Festival, the Met
   has imported a very different, much traveled "Ring" from the
   Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, from the company the Soviets
   called the Kirov.  This, for all practical purposes, and impractical
   purposes too, is Valery Gergiev's "Ring." It hardly adheres to
   the progressive strictures of /Regietheater/, a development
   dismissed by reactionaries as /Eurotrash/.  Still, it manages
   to defy tradition at every convoluted turn.  If only it could
   do so with equal parts confidence and competence.

   Gergiev, probably the most chronic, most blatant overachiever
   in music today, doesn't just conduct.  The skimpy programme
   booklet lists him as "production supervisor" and he shares
   responsibility for the "production concept" with his designer,
   George Tsypin.  Significantly, no one is billed as director.

   As a point of stylistic departure, Gergiev cites Ossetian folklore.
   That potential inspiration may explain some of Tatiana Noginova's
   costumes, which, amid other oddities, provide the once primitive
   Gibichung men - now mincing puppets - with prim skirts and equip
   the Valkyries with bizarre fan-shaped head-dresses.  The Slavic
   perspective does not, however, explain the clumsy mishmash of
   symbols, props and periods, the misplaced artifacts and time-warp
   contradictions of Gergiev's show.  Nor does it justify the
   pervasive theatrical ineptitude.

   The unit stage in all four operas is dominated by four huge
   statues suspended on wires.  Perhaps the monolithic figures
   represent primitive gods.  Sometimes they float in the background.
   Sometimes they loom in the foreground.  Sometimes they stand.
   Sometimes they tilt.  Sometimes they sit.  Sometimes they function
   as character abstractions, e.g.  Fafner the dragon.  Sometimes,
   when recumbent, they become props; Brunnhilde clambers into a
   convenient hole in one statue's chest for her extended nap.
   Another visual leitmotif, equally baffling and equally boring,
   involves a corps of petrified penguins that observe the inaction.
   The images look fussy and silly to this observer, but they may
   convey deep meaning for the initiated.

   In any case, Gergiev and Tsypin demonstrate little concern for
   story-telling.  The crucial gold of the Rhine is reduced to a
   yellow-lattice orb, big enough to encase Freia.  The giants are
   now a pair of massive tanks with arms clumsily attached.  Forget
   physical battle.  The flirtatious Rhinemaidens traipse about the
   scene in gauche evening gowns.  Reviving a time-dishonoured
   tradition, the evil dwarfs Mime and Alberich resemble Semitic
   caricatures.  The Forest Bird has become a wandering coloratura
   who flaps her arms as if in a grade-school pageant when she isn't
   pretending to play a magic flute.  Wotan appears to greet the
   new world atop a mammoth potato.  Balletic spooks provide
   distraction whenever a scene change is suggested or an illusion
   faked.  At fire time, sperm images, lit in crimson neon, squiggle
   on the backdrop.  I'm not making this up, you know.

   The charades bumble onward if not upward, with the hapless, also
   helpless, principals often left to what may be their own devices.
   Concept?  What concept?

   Under the circumstances, it would be gratifying to report great
   musical compensation for the dramatic deficiencies.  Unfortunately,
   this ingrate detected little.  Gergiev, whose forte never has
   been introspection, favoured high speeds most of the time, and
   whipped up undeniable excitement when surface agitation was
   warranted.  He kept the dynamic levels loud, loud, loud.  He did
   not sustain much tension between the big moments, however, did
   not dwell on telling details, did not focus leitmotivic relationships
   or build gradual, organic climaxes.  The gutsy Kirov orchestra
   followed his nervous whims faithfully and flexibly, though not
   without occasional mishap or passages of seeming disorientation.
   The ever-changing singers, all Russian and not exactly idiomatic,
   did what they could.

   The marathon - two cycles within nine days - began with a
   particularly listless "Rheingold" on July 13.  Alexei Tanovitsky,
   the tall and youthful Wotan, looked imposing, sounded wan.
   Larissa Diadkova, one of the few artists of international stature
   on duty, provided the counterforce of a smart and sensitive
   Fricka.  Nikolai Putilin as Alberich sang forcefully while
   stumbling about the stage like a zombie.  Zlata Bulycheva emerged
   muffled and shaky as Erda the earth-mother, possibly because she
   was made to masquerade as a laundry line.  Vasily Gorshkov sang
   craftily as a dramatically stodgy Loge.  The others were meek
   and/or weak.

   Standards rose a bit in "Die Walkure" on July 17.  Despite an
   announced indisposition, Mlada Khudoley mustered lyrical radiance
   as Sieglinde, generously partnered by Avgust Amonov as Siegmund.
   Mikhail Kit, the Wotan, seemed genuinely heroic until he tired
   in the "Abschied." Olga Savova, a mezzo-soprano, soared impressively
   to the soprano heights of Brunnhilde, and Gennady Bezzubenkov
   boomed darkly as Hunding.  Svetlana Volkova's unsteady Fricka
   made one long for Diadkova.

   "Siegfried," the next night, found Leonid Zakhozhaev straining
   for vocal survival over the long haul, an amiable lightweight
   burdened as the heavyweight hero.  Gorshkov, the erstwhile Loge,
   easily outsang him as a wily Mime.  Evgeny Nikitin droned
   relentlessly as the wandering Wotan, and Olga Sergeeva found
   Brunnhilde's should-be ecstatic awakening something of a trial.

   "Gotterdammerung" on Thursday offered new principals: Victor
   Lutsuk, vocally fearless as an astonishingly vital Siegfried,
   and Larisa Gogolevskaya, a big-voiced, slightly wobbly Brunnhilde
   who ran out of vocal steam at Immolation time.  Nikitin returned
   as a surprisingly macho Gunther, with Mikhail Petrenko posing
   little menace as a mini-Hagen dressed, I think, in a strapless
   evening gown.  Returning to her lower depths, Savova conveyed
   ample urgency as Waltraute.  The Norns were harsh, the mermaids
   shrill.

   Some of the singing, not incidentally, sounded like German.

Janos Gereben/SF
www.sfcv.org
[log in to unmask]

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