Thursday, 8 April 2010

Götterdämmerung Berlin Rattle - the movie

Currently on the Berliner-Philharmoniker site, there's a film of Götterdämmerung. Go to "Digital Concert Hall- archives - specials")  There's a trailer to watch, and, if you want the whole film, it's 15 euros for 48 hours. This I think is the performance from Berlin last year, but it's the same production that was at Aix and recently in Salzburg. Please see boulezian and intermezzo for their reports. Excellent photos, too.

This Götterdämmerung was my Easter treat, sort of, because it's a thoroughly decent performance. Rattle has a good feel for Wagner's majestic, sweeping themes. Maybe not the blackest of Götterdämmerungs, but that is OK.  Indeed, a really dark interpretation wouldn't fit well with this production, by Stéphane Braunschweig. It's stylish and quite attractive - clean lines, nice, simple black plinths for The Hall of the Gibichungs. Which makes you realize how empty their palace is and how sterile their lives really are.

The colour scheme is black, white, red, symbolizing, perhaps another Reich which used power for evil means: Alberich's true successors. So for me, Mikhail Petrenko's Hagen was interesting because he acts the "apparatchik" aspects of the role so well. This is where the film comes into its own, you can see close-ups of his face, so the subtle grimaces and tics register.  Petrenko's Hagen is a conniving  lowlife who uses the sytem for the sake of manipulating power. Watch how Petrenko whips up the mob: they wail, his eyes are dead. At least Alberich had a goal, to stomp on anyone bigger than himself. This Hagen is a cold-blooded fish without redeeming graces. A well-observed characterization.

Ben Heppner's Siegfried is the perfect counterbalance. Heppner's not young and is a bit pudgy..  But that's fine, too, because arguably, Siegfried isn't really a hero at all. Without all the background that goes before, in a stand alone Götterdämmerung, his weaknesses are revealed.  There's no need to present Siegfried as an athlete, Think of all the middle me who delude themselves.  Being fearless means nothing if you're easily manipulated.  Being a hero means nothing if you promptly dump the treasure you've won.  If Siegfried had any sense he'd have stuck with Brünnhilde instead of squandering his good luck. Wagner's no fool. Those who let themselves be taken in by the Hagens of this world can't really plead "magic".

Brünnhilde's the real hero of this opera, and indeed, of the whole Ring cycle, because she's the one that doesn't play power games.  She's the one who saves Sieglinde, gets immolated for her kindness and then gets screwed (in many ways) by the kid she saved. And when she gives the Rhinemaidens their ring, they'll probably lose it again, because they, too, are fools.  Katarina Dalayman's
Brünnhilde is pretty good but a bit too Aryan maiden, and indeed an anoionymous memeber of a group of clones..

That, I think is the weakness of this production. The basic premise is promising, but it's not fully explored or developed.  It's not Dalayman's fault, it's the production's inability, for whatever reason, to push the ideas too far. Understandable, perhaps, because the Nazi thing has been done so often, it's become a cliché for lazy minds to fall back on. And Germans are not the only ones fooled by evil rulers.

So the production pulls back because the real message is still too explosive to face.  Wagner's saying things that are frighteningly valid today. But you can't reallly expect too much danger or relevance in high-profile productions.  Still, I'm glad I heard this, way above average playing. _lease ex[plore this site - plenty on Wagner, stage craft, etc.

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