Siegfried, the third chapter of Graham Vick’s new production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, showed a sordid and spoiled scenery, in which the solemnity and the intensity of Wagner’s music were unfortunately undermined by some incoherent elements. Revisionism and modern adaptations of operas are necessary: the audience gets bored always finding the same things at the opera: laces, bulky costumes, horns and dragons (in this specific case of Wagner’s Tetralogy). Furthermore, it is possible and often stimulating to modernize a plot, making it closer to the audience’s sensitivity: though it must not be an easy operation to make a modern adaptation from Richard Wagner’s Der Ring, with such an astonishing universe of different traditions, mythologies and musical inspirations.

Nevertheless, Graham Vick’s new production moved forward with fatigue. This Siegfried is set in a post-industrial world, dominated by squalor, violence and suppression (this is comprehensible, since the whole Tetralogy is indeed permeated with avidity and lust for power). The problem is that what we saw on stage did not really fit coherently with the plot or the music, nor was it particularly original, failing to transmit anything really strong.

Mime is here presented as a father who raises Siegfried with care and self-denial within a domestic environment. Mime, though, is supposed to be a much meaner character, without any care at all for Siegfried: he deeply hates him and needs Siegfried only for a very egoistic reason, to make him kill Fafner and steal his treasure.

Shortly after, in the forest, we saw Fafner himself, the frightful and invincible giant, turn into a dragon by magic. It is supposed to be an intense moment in which Siegfried has the first chance in his life to face fear. He does not, because he is the legendary hero and does not know fear (until he meets Brünnhilde, the first woman he has ever seen). Fafner was here represented by a garbage-man wearing a high-visibility jacket and riding a red golf-car. It was involuntarily hilarious, especially when Siegfried chased the golf car and they had a sort of “duel” on the golf-car running around the stage.

Then there were a rape scene (it was not the first time I saw Wotan raping Erda), some masturbation, and sex among a stretch of rubbish. Brünnhilde’s awakening, one of the most touching moments in the whole Tetralogy, was here an awkward moment where a clumsy Siegfried wearing only his underwear faced a punk Brünnhilde. It should be the very moment in which Siegfried experiences fear for the first time, and he actually seemed  shocked, but then he started to fall to the ground – made of artificial grass – several times, as if it was a game. Following Brünnhilde’s awakening, the duet was a funny sequence of winks and touching between the two heroes, with no lyrical engagement at all and the audience could not help laughing.

Christian Voigt did not seem to be in great shape: Siegfried is certainly a back-breaking role. He must sing for hours with considerable extension and, in this mis-en-scene, he must also perform a lot of action at the same time. Not easy at all, but Voigt seemed in trouble, lacking also the necessary charisma for this role. Meagan Miller, despite the announcement that she was unwell, was a remarkable Brünnhilde, with good volume and a beautiful timbre. She was able to depict moments of poetry with her limpid soprano, even though only one long scene is dedicated to Brünnhilde in this opera.

Peter Bronder (Mime), Thomas Gazheli (Wotan), Sergei Leiferkus (Alberich), Michael Eder (Fafner), Judit Kutasi (Erda) and Stimme des Waldvogels all sang well. The Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo did its best under the conduction of Stefan Anton Reck, producing a homogeneous, beautiful and swollen sound. Reck led the Orchestra through the obscurity of certain passages of the score, such as the Act I Vorspiel and Fafner’s scene, and through the idyllic brightness of others (the pastoral echoes and sounds of nature while Siegfried awaits to challenge Fafner and torments himself with existential questions).  

Despite this mis-en-scene’s lack of intensity, this Siegfried closed the 2015 season of the Teatro Massimo with an outstanding musical performance.