Leipzig Opera’s Ring Cycle concluded on Sunday with a stylish and thoughtful production of Götterdämmerung. As was the case with Das Rheingold, the director Rosamund Gilmore chose to stage the opera in one setting, with one minor change. The action took place in what looked to be a vast, open, modern living room with several rectangular pillars shooting up from the floor. A large panorama of a window was seen above the platform at the back of the stage. In Act 1 there was a small balcony on stage left that served as Brünnhilde’s rock.  The balcony was removed in Acts 2 and 3, as was a display case in the room where Gutrune sat to await Siegfried’s arrival. Props were few, namely a rectangular glass coffee table and simple chairs. A white piano sat on stage right. Siegfried’s naive admiration of the piano was recalled with poignancy in Act 3 as the piano served as his funeral berth.

The piano becomes Siegfried's funeral berth © Tom Schulze
The piano becomes Siegfried's funeral berth
© Tom Schulze

Lighting by Michael Röger was again effective in creating appropriate moods to accompany the music drama. Smokey blue remained a dominant hue, with a harsh bright light in Act 2 illustrating the cruel world of the Gibichung family. In the immolation scene, only the piano bearing Siegfried’s body with Brünnhilde standing on top was lit in red, the rest of the stage being shaded in dark gray and blue. The music depicted all the fiery destruction. The dancers dressed as gods appeared and encircled the funeral pyre, only to go back into the pillars and sink underneath the stage with only their heads showing, together with the piano, Siegfried, Brünnhilde and a dancer acting as Grane. The glorious finale was played on an empty stage, the final chords lingering in the air for a long time.

The dancers were used as Norn’s helpers to wind and stretch their rope, as Gibichung servants (maids wearing lambs’ heads, butler with a raven wing) and prop movers, and as water spirits dancing around the Rhine maidens. A special mention should be made of dancer Ziv Frenkel, who acted as Grane throughout the Ring. In Götterdämmerung, this Grane shed its horse costume to become a white-clad human, accompanying Siegfried on his Rhine journey as well as his dead body from the hunt. At another point, he crouched at the foot of the piano during the immolation scene. His presence was stealthy and quiet enough not to detract from the music drama and was, at times, moving.

Sandra Maxheimer (Wellgunde), Magdalena Hinterdobler (Woglinde) and Sandra Janke (Flosshilde) © Tom Schulze
Sandra Maxheimer (Wellgunde), Magdalena Hinterdobler (Woglinde) and Sandra Janke (Flosshilde)
© Tom Schulze

The Gewandhaus Orchestra was again in top form. Conductor Ulf Schirmer took pains to emphasize the quiet and intimate moments of Act 1, allowing Brünnhilde’s duets with Siegfried and Waltraute to unfold as dialogues rather than shouting matches. He also let the orchestra play at full volume during Hagen’s horn call, with three players on stage with shortened versions of alpine horns. Siegfried’s funeral march began with a subdued mood, but Schirmer built up the momentum and volume to culminate in a magnificent climax before a quiet coda. The immolation scene afforded plenty of opportunity to revisit the musical motifs of the Ring, making for a magnificent recapitulation of the four evenings.

Thomas Mohr, who sang an excellent Loge in Das Rheingold, seemed an unlikely choice for Siegfried. He was at his best in Siegfried’s remembrance and his farewell to Brünnhilde in Act 3, when he sang with nuance and tenderness. He was less comfortable in more declamatory singing, especially in Act 2. Christiane Libor as Brünnhilde excelled in negotiating both the high and low notes of the role, with even vocal production and secure high notes. Her voice never lost its luxurious warmth, but that worked against her in Act 2 when she had to sing in loud and angry bursts. The “Vengeance Trio” was not the highlight of the act as it should have been. Runi Brattaberg continued to shoulder the low voice male roles of the Ring, and his Hagen was sung and acted with dark sarcasm. 

The Leipzig Opera Chorus © Tom Schulze
The Leipzig Opera Chorus
© Tom Schulze

The Gibichung siblings – Tuomas Pursio as strong-voiced and neurotic Gunther and Gal James as a bright-voiced Gutrune – made worthy contributions. Karin Lovelius as Waltraute, while singing and acting well enough, did not make a very strong impression. The Norns and Rhinemaidens completed the strong ensemble, however. Both Mohr and Libor returned from Act 2 intermission with fresh voice and stamina, and Act 3 was a musical highlight of the evening – another Leipzig Ring securely in the record book.