The miracle which is Longborough is now renowned worldwide. Martin and Lizzie Graham’s vision in transforming the barn at their Cotswold home into an opera-house capable of performing Wagner with the kind of full orchestra that determinedly megalomaniac composer demands has now been triumphantly vindicated with the completion of half of the Ring tetralogy.
Walkure last week was simply astounding: Anthony Negus’ players broad, resonant and warmly detailed – and so sensitively paced to the stage-action; Alan Privett’s direction brilliantly simple yet a hundred per cent resourceful; Guy Hoare’s lighting, so intricately tracing the predominantly gloomy atmosphere; Kjell Torriset’s set a treasure-trove of simple structures swinging and pivoting on a stage necessarily raked for full visibility.
There was no attempt at fixing a time-setting here. No dollops of mythical ages, no post-industrial commercialisation in the motivation, just a movingly honest unfolding of this generally disturbing story. Wotan, ruler of the gods who has put into motion an horrendous trail of greed at the expense of simple happiness, emerges as the unpleasant, pusillanimous, vacillating creature he is. Alberich the loathsome dwarf is as nothing compared with this manipulative waste of space who abuses his power which could have brought about so much that is good.
And in the cast, not a weak link among the principals, with Jason Howard heroically conveying the contemptibility of Wotan’s character (finally achieving partial redemption at the very end of the opera). Alwyn Mellor brought both stature and vulnerability to Brunnhilde, and Alison Kettlewell made Fricka, the tedious goddess of wedlock, as sympathetic as possible.
Andrew Lees and Lee Bissett (despite her continual hair-tossing) caught the heart as the doomed incestuous twin lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde, and Mark Richardson’s scowling Hunding was appropriately chilling. And the youth and vigour of the chorus of Valkyries made them after-life Wish-maidens indeed.
Only some of the surtitles jarred during the evening. “Here comes your trouble and strife” (cor, luv a duck); “Your disobedience will be severely punished” (I’ve heard feeble schoolteachers talking like that).