Wagner NZSO concert 'entirely wonderful'

TIMOTHY JONES
Last updated 09:03 26/07/2012

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OPINION: Die Walkure, by Richard Wagner with Simon O'Neill, Edith Haller, Christine Goerke, John Wegner, Jonathan Lemalu and Margaret Medlyn, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra conducted by Pietari Inkinen, at the CBS Arena, Wednesday 25 July, reviewed by Timothy Jones.

Another visit to the CBS Arena reminds me why I detest its every feature, but having got that gripe out of the way, let's move on to report an entirely wonderful concert.

Concert performances of opera can end up delivering the worst of both worlds, and one certainly wonders what Wagner would make of a performance of one of his works that was so far from gesamt, but I found this semi-staging entirely satisfying - helped of course by a spectacularly fine cast and the NZSO in top form.

Simon O'Neill was simply magnificent as Siegmund - fluent and effortlessly expressive. In fact I could say exactly the same of all six singers, Edith Haller as Sieglinde, Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, John Wegner as Wotan, Jonathan Lemalu as Hunding and Margaret Medlyn as Fricka.

The singing of each had real three-dimensional character and the absence of all the stage paraphernalia of props and costumes, sets and lighting, smoke and dry ice, counted for nothing.

Instead the six worked along the narrow front margin of the stage and acted, all quite brilliantly, with their voices.

That is of course exactly what is supposed to happen, but with all the other stage tricks removed, the effect was dynamite.

The sight and sound of eight monumental valkyries discussing their horses, and the heroes they carry, is certainly one of the happiest experiences I have had for many years.

So the singers had little room to move, which gave the starring role to the orchestra - and how they earned it. Maestro Inkinen cracked the whip and we were off at pace, with all the drama, light and shade you could wish for.

Forced to pick a moment where the neck hairs really did start to twitch and it would have to be Wotan's re-appearance to announce Brünnhilde's punishment. Now that was a moment of pure musical joy.

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