Kirill Petrenko conducted. Where Barenboim relished muscular energy, Petrenko went for clean lines and clarity, the energy purposefully contained. How wonderful it was to hear two very different interpretations only two days apart. Both valid, both authoritative. Wagner conducted with committment always gives us something to think about. Petrenko was specially good at defining the rumbling undercurrents that flow through this opera. The orchestra doesn't have as many "star turns", as in, say Götterdämmerung but it conveys atmosphere. Petrenko's textures suggested the density of rocky outcrops rising above a dense forest. Fafner feels overwhelmingly present, even though he doesn't actually appear until the second Act. He's breathing, ominously, while everyone else is busy singing, scrapping and posing riddles. A bit like Erda. Perhaps this sounds silly, but my dog, who hears opera all the time and usually ignores it, jumped up and paid attention when Fafner growled out of my PC. Staffies don't know what operas are "about" but they sure can recognize sounds!
Burkhard Ulrich's Mime wasn't quite as manically kinetic as the score might suggest, but he negotiated the twists and slithers in the part effectively. Trolls are dangerous when they don't look like trolls. Real life Mimes hide their treachery by sounding smooth. Wolfgang Koch's Wanderer sang with slow-moving gravity. It can't have been more than 20 years since Wotan fought with Brünnhilde over Siegmund, but he's aged dramatically. Koch's Wanderer is fast becoming an Erda, too. Nadine Weissmann's Erda, by contrast, sounded refreshingly sprightly. Her sleep must be doing her good, and she doesn't want to be disturbed. Martin Winkler's Alberich was lively, taunting and tantalizing.
But the show revolved around Lance Ryan. Significantly, Wagner doesn't write the part in this opera for effusive emotion. That comes in Götterdämmerung when Siegfried has, more or less, grown up. But while he's in the forest, he's still in fragments, like the sword. Mime splutters and splatters. Siegfried sings in brief bursts: a surly teenager ! Mime spars with the Wanderer and with Alberich on equal grounds. Until Siegfried has forged the sword, he's no match for anyone. In this performance I was hugely impressed by the way Ryan transformed. With the wonky, out of tune horn warbles, Siegfried is taking his first baby steps so to speak. The Bayreuth horn player sounded surprisngly bluesy, intensifying the humour. Gradually Ryan's voice rises and fills out. Rich vibrato isn't his thing, but his sound rings clear and pure. No forcing or stutter this time. Ryan's Siegfried is pristine, like the child of Nature he's portraying. Mirella Hagen's Waldvogel is a little shrill, but that only serves to highlight Siegfried's growing confidence. By the time Ryan confronts Fafner. he's fully formed, and Fafner's smart enough to notice. This time, when Siegfried meets Brünnhilde, he's most certainly the kind of man a Brünhilde might fancy, even if she's still half awake. Now, both Siegfried and Brünnhilde are dazzled by the dawn and the glorious new prospects that await them. Catherine Foster sang a sweet, girlish Brünnhilde. She's the first English soprano to sing the part in Bayreuth (Susan Bullock has done it just about everywhere else). But Lance Ryan's Siegfried steals the show.