After three exciting evenings, all defining qualities of this Budapest production culminated in Götterdämmerung: strong images in video projections, brilliant singing and a tremendously suggestive orchestral sound.

Christian Franz (Siegfried) and Oliver Zwarg (Gunther) © Zsófia Pályi | Müpa
Christian Franz (Siegfried) and Oliver Zwarg (Gunther)
© Zsófia Pályi | Müpa
In Götterdämmerung the mythical placelessness and timelessness of previous evenings are transformed into images of the present. Where in the Norn scene a winding and then suddenly tearing band of light hints at the web of fate, we find ourselves not in the stone chamber of Wagner's libretto, but in a stone desert of today – a luxurious penthouse apartment looking out on the skyline of some major city. We see a couple, clearly in love, in a typical morning situation, then the departure of the man, the woman remaining deep in thought – a scene commenting in a meaningful contrast to the libretto's euphoria: "Zu neuen Taten, teurer Helde!" (Onwards to new deeds, dearest hero). Evelyn Herlitzius sang in rapture of love, with great flourish and emphasis.

Moving on to the Gibichungs, we are in the world of business people. Office spaces are suggested in the background with minimal means: designer furniture and people in perfect office outfit, negotiating, working on laptops or following exchange rates in newspapers. The situation is given a punch line by the fact that Hagen, Gunther and Gutrune are plotting deceit against this backdrop. Polina Pasztircsák and Oliver Zwarg in the roles of the siblings gave generally rather unspectacular performances; besides a certain weakness in intonation, Rúni Brattaberg’s Hagen lacked the charisma of this murdering, sinister schemer.

Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde) and Waltraud Meier (Waltraute) © Zsófia Pályi | Müpa
Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde) and Waltraud Meier (Waltraute)
© Zsófia Pályi | Müpa
We are back in Brünnhilde's apartment when Waltraute approaches her sister with her secret mission. This scene develops into another highlight of this Budapest Ring cycle thanks to the immediacy of the acting of both singers. Evelyn Herlitzius and Waltraud Meier presented psychologically differentiated and convincing interpretations of how the initial joy of the two Valkyries at seeing one another again turns to bitter argument. Waltraud Meier's narrative was gripping and immensely nuanced. Her voice, untarnished in her long Wagner career, still has a shining top register as well as a sonorous lower register and is impressively terse in expression. She describes Wotan's desperate dejection touchingly and with dragging voice ("So sitzt er, sagt kein Wort"), warmly as he finds new hope ("Noch einmal lächelte ewig der Gott") and delivers with great vocal intensity Wotan's most heartfelt wish that Brünnhilde return the ring to the Rhinemaidens ("Erlöst wäre dann Gott und die Welt”).

Brünnhilde, however, misjudges this opportunity, and Evelyn Herlitzius again mimes Brünnhilde's defiance with great vocal proficiency: with the words "Was willst du Wilde von mir?" she denies all warnings and squanders the last chance to change fate. In Wagner's grand dramaturgy this is immediately followed by her abduction and her defilement at the hands of Siegfried, who defeats her as Gunther, wearing the magic hood. As previously in Das Rheingold, Christian Franz displayed impressive presence in singing and acting. As if Gunther was half-aware of the situation, Franz delivered this scene with faltering voice and wan colour.

The dream scene with Hagen and Alberich at the beginning of Act II gained expressive force in particular from the ever-renewing wealth of orchestral colour. Oskar Hillebrandt’s Alberich (as in Siegfried) could not match the high standard set by Péter Kálmán in Das Rheingold; then we saw the Budapest Radio Choir in the guise of Hagen's men. Supported by the Budapest Studio Choir, they shaped twilight moments between brutality and congeniality - here, Wagner's musical intention was optimally fulfilled. 

Members of the choir © Zsófia Pályi | Müpa
Members of the choir
© Zsófia Pályi | Müpa

Ádám Fischer created intense drama in the vow and in the revenge trio, which is followed by Siegfried's murder at the beginning of Act III. Before, however, he flirts with the Rhinemaidens, and Christian Franz depicts a naive hero who negates the future and, deludedly, only lives in the present. Fickle, he withholds the Ring from the zwRhinemaidens, then again he would be prepared to give the ring away in return for their affection. He does not recognise the trap Hagen lures him into and eagerly provides information about the advice he received from the woodbird. Here the singer in the role of Siegfried has to ascend to the heights of the song of the woodbird. This didn't come entirely easy to Christian Franz, yet his tone and emotional expression were very convincing. Beautifully tender and with faltering voice he sang a last memory of Brünnhilde. With greatest power and force in the orchestra the funeral march then became a moment of utmost devastation.

Evelyn Herlitzius made Brünnhilde's final song a truly shining apotheosis of love. With full vocal vigour, decisive and energetic top notes, but also warm empathy she painted Brünnhilde's farewell to Siegfried and Wotan and allowed the woman, now become wise, to outgrow herself. Once again the video shows licking flames that unleash terrific effect in combination with the music; it then shows the Rhine and his swimming daughters, until a volcanic eruption seems to extinguish the whole world. To the strains of the hymnically resounding love motif a red curtain closes. An ambiguous cipher, on the one hand for the end desired by Wotan, on the other for the prospect of a new, better world.

 

Translated from German by Hedy Muehleck.