Saturday, October 15, 2011

Guthrie "HMS Pinafore" - PBS Broadcast: "Horrible, Horrible!"

Well I want to begin this review of the Guthrie Theater's misguided production of "HMS Pinafore" by simply stating that I am not, in principal, opposed to updated productions. I have seen many a wonderful opera or play updated or placed in a new time - examples: Sugar Creek Festival's brilliant "L'Elisir" which was updated to the mid-19th century America out west; the Met's "Macbeth," a magnificent "Midsummer Night's Dream" set by the Illinois Shakespeare Festival in New Orleans, "Comedy of Errors" by Chicago Shakespeare set during World War II or even a recently released on DVD production of "As You Like It" set in Japan. What did all of these productions have that was missing from this "Pinafore" - in a word: respect. Watching "Pinafore" last night on PBS one got the distinct impression that the production team just didn't believe in the work of G & S, that they didn't trust it or respect it enough to allow it to stand on its own. It needed fixing - it needed to be updated. This led them down the wrong path I'm afraid. All of the productions named above treated the material with deep respect and love. The Chicago Shakespeare production (directed by Barbara Gaines) was probably the most far afield but yet it was completely faithful to the work and captured the essence of the early Shakespeare play while still bringing a sense of poignancy and regret and hope that was allowed to emerge. It is one of my great sorrows that this production was not filmed for TV - it is perhaps the most magnificent production of anything I have ever seen - but I am digressing.

It might be instructive to compare this "Pinafore" with the Papp "Pirates." G & S purists still have mixed feelings about the Papp "Pirates." (Now, not the movie version - which is really bad - find the video of the stage version). Mostly, I think, because of the re-orchestration. But other than that the dialog is almost 100% complete, the libretti of the songs are only occasionally changed, two songs were added in the 2nd act, but they fit into the plot that Gilbert had devised (for the most part), the songs were only re-orchestrated otherwise they were sung intact - no extra music added, no re-harmonization, no adding silly extra drum beats. In my view the Papp "Pirates" starts with respect for the original work and goes from there. What do we have with this "Pinafore?" The music is completely altered - not just re-orchestrated, but re-harmonized and re-written. New music is added, Sullivan's music is mostly missing for mostof the show except for the faint wisp of his tunes. There are exceptions - the arranger apparently did not know what to do with "Kind Captain" so it was performed pretty much traditionally, as were parts of the 1st act finale and the glee - but then (Like having a 2x4 wacked over the head) suddenly we are jolted into some strange re-arrangement with brilliant choreography that had nothing to do with the show at all - like Act II "He is an Englishman" or "O Joy, O Rapture Unforseen." Then there was the silly sub-plot that the production team created for Dick Deadeye which meant we were subjected to a bunch of confusing extra dialog that made no sense and only diluted Gilbert's wonderful dark character and which culminated in the mind-boggling sequence with Queen Victoria at the close of the show. What did that add? What was the point? Granted the close of "Pinafore" is a little silly and unbelievable - but so is class stratification (that's the point). This subplot added nothing to the show - except time.

Reflections on the performance need to be prefaced with a story - which comes from the memoirs of Rutland Barrington - who was a member of the original D'Oyly Carte company and created roles such as the Captain in "Pinafore," and Poobah in "Mikado." Barrington had a reputation for ad-libbing and being a jokester and would often put extra bits into a performance. Gilbert had expressly banned such bits and silliness - but Barrington could not help himself. (This is paraphrased) Apparently Barrington hit upon a clever bit that was getting some laughs and he begin to do it regularly in each performance (in "Patience" I think, not sure of the show). Eventually word got back to Gilbert, probably from his wife Kitty who would attend performances specifically to look for that kind of thing. Gilbert told Barrington to knock it off. "But, it gets a laugh," protested Barrington. "You would get a laugh if you sat on a pork pie," retorted Gilbert. This is a famous exchange and so when G&S fans talk about pork pies, now you know what they are talking about. Well the point is that Gilbert was not interested in gratuitous laughs and funny bits that had nothing to do with the plot or the characters. For him, the comedy came from the work only if it was played straight and serious.

Watching the Guthrie "Pinafore" last night I thought a lot about pork pies. The show was terribly overacted and mugging for laughs was rampant. Again there seemed to be no trust that the work was funny without adding all kinds of stupid and idiotic bits: boob jokes, pants dropping, pratfalls - gosh one thing after another. None of it was funny. The worst offender was, unfortunately, Captain Corcoran. I am sure this was the way he was directed, but he was over the top in a terribly inappropriate way. Josephine and Buttercup were not quite as bad, but were guilty of being over the top too. Surprisingly Sir Joseph was not. I thought that Sir Joseph and the Dick Deadeye were the strongest members of the cast and were the only two who seemed to have any real respect for the material. Ralph sang out of tune throughout, The Boatswain didn't really exist as his part was cut up and given to several different members of the chorus or just cut. And Hebe was so annoying that she just became another one of this production's silly jokes.

There were a couple moments I want to highlight. There is a history around the character of Hebe which is, in brief, that Gilbert wrote the part with one older actress (Mrs. Howard Paul) in mind but she was eventually replaced by a much younger Jesse Bond. Jesse was a singer and had never been on stage before and was terrified of dialog. Gilbert cut all of Hebe's dialog as a result and left the part with only some singing. (You can read the entire story here: Hebe's Dialog by Marc Shepherd) The Guthrie "Pinafore" restored all of the cut dialog. That was kind of cool actually. I enjoyed the cabin scene with the dialog which is never performed (What, never? Well, hardly ever). While in other places they played fast and loose with the dialog, assuming that we 21st century Americans are so dumb that we wouldn't know the meaning of some of Gilbert's words (like "solecisms" for example) and so the dialog became heavy and stilted, nevertheless at least the two great lines were untouched: "From such a face and form as this..." and "...I am but a living ganglion..." True Dick Deadeye then launched into the silly and confusing subplot which blunted the power of that line and Josephine and Ralph then completely destroyed "Refrain Audacious Tar" by switching the verses around. And Sullivan's magnificent aria for Josephine "The Hours Creep on Apace" was also destroyed by the arranging. The choreography was brilliant and well danced - but irrelevant.  What did the tango sequence have to do with "Things are Seldom What They Seem?" The set designer was actually interviewed during the intermission and made a comment that he had created a ship from the time of G & S.  That is fine - I didn't mind that - the set was actually great.  But, I got the impression that he did not seem to realize that Gilbert had actually based his set design on the HMS Victory and that Gilbert's intention was a masted man-o-war.

I have already mentioned the Queen Victoria nonsense. But I must add that the role was actually played by the incomparable Barbara Bryne. So as idiotic as I found the entire sequence nevertheless the redeeming feature was the enjoyment of being able to see such a wonderful actress at work. Also, just a point of historical note - a midshipman was a junior officer and not a common seaman.

In closing perhaps the most telling moment in the production came right after Queen Victoria's entrance when Sir Joseph's dialog quotes Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's "Joseph and the Amazing...." - "Grovel, grovel..." This sums it up for me. This production team really did not want to be doing Gilbert and Sullivan. They displayed no respect for G & S. Rather, they were trying to turn "HMS Pinafore" into an Andrew Lloyd Webber extravaganza - and it was a miserable failure. Maybe the next time PBS chooses to broadcast G & S they will choose a production that is actually a "Great Performance!"
Rutland Barrington as Captain Corcoran - note that mast in the set behind him.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wiener Philharmoniker - Summer Evening - PBS

A short note with some reflections on the wonderful Vienna Philharmonic concert this evening that was broadcast on PBS. The performed Liszt "Les Preludes," Paganini and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" (in the traditional Ravel orchestration). It was a wonderful concert. The orchestra was wonderful. They have such a luscious string sound. The winds overall sound is different from American orchestras. I find the brass brighter, and the winds darker in sound overall. I have to say I do not know how anyone can follow Valery Gergiev. He conducted a beautiful performance - but as I watched him I could not imagine how the orchestra was able to follow him and they played behind the beat - which I find disconcerting. Best just to close ones eyes and not watch.

For me the highlight was the "Pictures" though for once I wish an orchestra would have the creativity to use a different orchestration than Ravel. (Immediately following the concert I went to iTunes and downloaded Leonard Slatkin's recording with Nashville where he has created a performance with a pastiche of different orchestrations - also Evgeny Kissin's recording of the work on piano). I did enjoy the dancers from the Vienna State Opera Ballet. The kids were cute and the pros were sensational. All the more because of the conditions, which seemed not so dancer-friendly. There was a nice wind and it looked to me like they were dancing on the concrete steps of the castle - I would think that would not be comfortable, but they were great and maybe they had laid down a different stage which I could not distinguish. One of the standouts in the orchestra was the contra-bassoon. What a great sound! No wimpy playing from that musician - he was ever present and his sound was solid - he blended in ensembles but you knew he was there. I loved it! This world needs more contra players like this guy! The oboist played beautiful - though his hand position seemed wrong to me - but it is a different style and what do I know. Except I don't think I could have gotten away with that hand position with my teachers Gomberg, Lucarelli, Thorstenberg and Mack. But, he played beautifully and he IS the principal oboist of the Vienna Phil - so it must work for him.

Listening to "Pictures" gave me one of the few pangs of nostalgia about playing. I really have not missed playing oboe/English Horn. I enjoyed it while I was doing it. I love playing the rep. I grew to hate being personnel manager in a mis-managed organization with all the power plays and diva fits. But there were moments - playing the EH entrance in "The Old Castle" with the shaping of the long note - high Bb (a difficult note to make sing on the EH) with a slur up to the high Eb in the midst of a decrescendo. I know the trick and I pulled it off every time! Doubling the strings in the Goldberg movement. Carefully blending and following the principal in the final promenade which is so exposed. It was a challenge - but I did it and I was good - once upon a time. I think I must have played this piece at least a half dozen times - not counting school. We played it in Caracas and I played it with every other orchestra I played with on a regular basis. So I enjoyed the concert - it was fun. It made me miss playing EH in orchestra - at least for the moment.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Gettysburg Gibert & Sullivan Festival

This year I spent the last week of June attending the 2nd International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival in Gettysburg, PA (of all places). Interesting location - especially considering the dates - June 24 through July 3. Now, if you know your American history you know that the Civil War battle of Gettysburg happened over July 1 - 3. As might be expected the closer we got to the battle anniversary the heavier and more challenging the auto traffic got. But even so, the Festival was fun. The main attractions were the evening main stage performances. These began with a special Victorian Orchestra concert to kick it off and ended with a Youth production of "Mikado" (I missed both of these along with the Festival performance of "Pirates"). In between there were a variety of companies - both British and American - who performed a total of 10 operas over 8 evenings! Quite an accomplishment. In addition to this there were daytime fringe performances and a lecture series. Overall it was really fun. I had a great time and enjoyed the performances very much.

There is not enough space for me to review everything - but I want to list a few of the highlights and then make a couple general comments about the experience. So here is a list of my favorite moments. It was so fun to finally get to see a production of "Ruddigore." The company from Maine did a good job. I enjoyed the well-danced Hornpipe by the Richard Dauntless - Fran Vogt. The Despard and Margaret were very good as was the Robin Oakapple and Rose Maybud. The chorus was particularly excellent and I really enjoyed the professional Bridesmaids - they were very funny at times.

Perhaps the best series of performances for the whole week occurred on Monday evening - the Triple Play. Three one act operas - two by Sullivan without Gilbert - "The Zoo" and "Cox & Box" - concluding with G & S's first (real) effort "Trial By Jury." "The Zoo" and "Cox and Box" were performed by a group of British performers - Charles Court Opera. "Trial By Jury" was performed by a combination of efforts from the Philadelphia and West Chester, PA G & S groups. It is hard to describe ow outstanding "The Zoo" was. The work was performed without chorus. But it is a work I barely know and I didn't miss the chorus at all. All of the 5 principals were outstanding. I especially enjoyed David Menezes as Carboy and Catrine Kirkman as Laetitia. They made an adorable nerdy couple of lovers who reminded me a little of Harold and his fiance on the "Red Green Show." The plot is really silly - and I don't think the music is Sullivan's best - especially the "aria" (if you can call it that) for Laetitia. But Catrine was so outstanding and made it work as an actress and what a beautiful voice. John Savournin played the Duke of Islington and he was great! This would not be the last time we would experience John this week. Savournin and Menezes were next joined by Sebastian Valentine for an outstanding "Cox and Box." Finally I felt that the Pennsylvania "Trial" was the best American production of the week. This "Trial" was flawless. The stars of the show were 1st - the chorus. This chorus was absolutely outstanding! I loved all of the extra chorus characters and all of the little bits of business - like the jury pulling out newspapers during the Defendant's defense. And their ensemble was flawless. 2. I really enjoyed Guillermo Bosch's Usher. 3. Sam Griffin as the Judge was terrific. The whole evening was outstanding.

Tuesday brought the British Nomad's production of "Sorcerer." I had never seen this live before. It was very well done. The cast and production were excellent. For me the standouts were: 1. John Savournin was John Wellington Wells (I loved his costume too!) and 2. American Richard Holmes as Dr. Daley. When I have read this script Daley comes across as such a drip - but not in the this performance. Holmes was terrific. There were at times a few coordination problems between stage and pit, but overall it was a very enjoyable production.

Wednesday gave us the English Trent Opera production of my favorite G & S - "Iolanthe." This was the only opera where the Festival had scheduled two performances - an afternoon matinee and an evening performance. It seemed as though this schedule might have been a little hard on the cast. A couple of the singers sounded fatigued in the evening. But otherwise I loved this show. The standouts for this production: 1. Andrew Nicklin is an outstanding conductor and stage director. I was really impressed with his musical control of the performance. 2. Nick Sales and Stephen Godward as Tolloller and Mountararat were top notch. 3. Bravo Chorus - especially the fairies 4. John Torr's Lord Chancellor was very well done - especially the "Nightmare Song." My favorite scene was the recognition scene between Iolanthe and the LC was beautifully done by Mr. Torr and Jessica Nicklin and I really loved the entrance of the Fairy Queen in that scene. Joan Self was perhaps the most diminutive Fairy Queen I had ever seen, but she did a wonderful job. She was very funny but she was also able to be effectively dramatic and serious.

Friday evening, and my last show, was another performance by Trent of my other favorite G & S - "Yeoman of the Guard." Again directed by Andrew Nicklin and again, this was also a fine performance. Nick Sales was a powerful and excellent Fairfax (what a beautiful voice too), Michael Tipler was an excellent Sgt. Meryll - it was fun to hear the restored song for Meryll (I wish they had let Strephon sing "Fold you Flapping Wings" in "Iolanthe!"). I also enjoyed Jessica Nicklin's Pheobe and Sarah Hughes' Elsie. John Savournin was back playing the Lieutenant of the Tower - he is fantastic and I loved his performance. But the star for me was Stephen Godward's Wilfred Shadbolt - what a terrific actor and what a beautiful voice. Even the rat bit was funny (gross - but funny) and his puppy dog devotion to the manipulative Phoebe was so believable and effective. I also enjoyed the Jack Point of Alastair Massey. On the whole - this was a great performance. The chorus was excellent. The sets for both Yeoman and Iolanthe were minimal - but they had to ship them from England so it was completely understandable and ultimately it didn't really matter because the acting and singing was so good by Trent. It was a real treat to get to experience these performances.

I have two other comments. I do not want to be critical but I found the Thursday performance of "Pinafore" troubling. The Sir Joseph might be a fine actor, but the choice - either his or the stage director - to play him so creepy I found very troubling. It reminded me of an Australian "Pinafore" from the late '90's. It is not necessary to make Sir Joseph creepy to make him "odious" to Josephine. He is "odious" because she is already in love with someone else. If you have ever been in love you know that even the idea of being with someone else is repulsive - and add to that Sir Joseph's healthy self-regard and there you have it. The only other thing I will say is that the cat bit was funny at first - but it got old. I really liked the Buttercup and the Captain was also good. I also enjoyed this company's "Fringe" performance of "The Racketeers."

I should also mention that I really enjoyed the Fringe performance of "Foggerty's Fairy" by the Maryland group. One never gets to see Gilbert's plays. What a treat! I really enjoyed it. I also really enjoyed the lectures - especially the presentation by Caroline Williams. The pre-performance lectures by Ralph McPhail were also excellent and very enjoyable.

Finally, I want to make some comment about the orchestra. As a former professional oboist, who had a career as both an orchestral player and a teacher which spanned over 25 years and who served for a number of years as a contractor and personnel manager for orchestras, opera companies and touring groups I would like to suggest that I do not understand why it is necessary to bring an orchestra over from England. There are so many absolutely outstanding orchestral musicians who are experienced and accomplished and who could do a great job. All you need is an good contractor. I could put together a top notch orchestra myself if I were not retired. I would encourage the Festival directors to engage a top notch contractor / conductor - from New York or Philadelphia and put out a call for players. Now, I do not think this will save much money for I would think that a few extra days of intensive rehearsal might need to be added to the schedule. But it still shouldn't be any more expensive than transporting a pit orchestra from England. But still, given the economic situation and the fact that many fine musicians need to find work I would strongly encourage consideration of this idea. (The concertmaster could be imported if some continuity between Gettysburg and Buxton is desired.) Now, I am not in any way being critical of the orchestra. They did a fine job. But I would hope that more American musicians could be engaged.

One additional comment about the orchestra - it was very disappointing to me that for "Ruddigore," "Triple Play," and "Sorcerer" an arrangement of Sullivan's orchestration was used which eliminated the bassoon. Caroline Williams points out in her book that Sullivan was very intentional in his orchestration and used the orchestration as a way of coloring the score. And the bassoon was one of Sullivan's favorite instruments. The Usher's song in "Trial," for example, was almost ruined by replacing the clever and funny bassoon solos ("From bias free of every kind") with clarinet. It's not the same and Sullivan would not have approved. Perhaps the pit was too small for a full orchestra (only ONE viola in the spinning song in "Yeoman"). If so, this might be another good reason to look for a different venue. And without the travel costs perhaps a couple additional players could be engaged to ensure that Sullivan's orchestrations are performed as he created them.

By the way - as an oboist I need to say hats off to the oboist. She played beautifully all week!

In closing, I really enjoyed my week at the Festival. I know that the attendance was not what would have been desired. Even so, I hope it continues. I hope to attend in the future. Thank you for this Festival and especially thank you to Rich Wiley for all of his excellent and outstanding work organizing this Festival.

So for all of the festival organizers and performers: Now give three cheers, I'll lead the way. Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurray!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Met Opera Radio

Well, here I am on vacation. And for vacation I chose to attend a Gilbert and Sullivan Festival - which has on the whole been great. But I will come to that later. I rented a car in Baltimore - a bright red Mini Cooper. It is a pretty sporty car. I like it, even though since the rental company removed the owner's manual I can't figure out how it really works. But it does include Sirius Satellite radio - which is cool, because they have a Met Opera Radio station. All Met opera - all day and all night. For the most part the programming is to alternate between full length broadcasts of recordings of Saturday afternoon performances with aria excerpts. So far I have listened to most of "Romeo and Juliette" from a 1974 broadcast, and parts of broadcasts of "Don Giovanni," "Parsifal," "Death in Venice,"Eugene Onegin," and "Aida." The "Aida" was particularly thrilling. It was a broadcast from 1994 I think and the cast included Juan Pons as Amonosro, Paul Plishka as Ramphis and Dolora Zajik as Amneris. I think she is the greatest Amneris ever and she was absolutely fantastic in this performance. The other two leads I did not recognize - but they were fantastic.
I got to listen to "Romeo et Juliette" by Gounod on my way from Delaware to Gettysburg and this 1974 broadcast had a cast of singers that I did not recognize for the most part - except for Charles Anthony who sang Tybalt and Franco Corelli who was Romeo. Corelli sounded as wonderful as ever - even though his French was weak, and I loved hearing Charles Anthony in a this great role. The soprano, from Canada, was also stunning. But I want to comment on the orchestra and chorus. Now I am a great fan of the Met orchestra and chorus. I think they are perhaps one of the greatest orchestra and opera choruses in the world. But, this recording reminded me that it was not always so. I was amazed at how sloppy both the orchestra and chorus were in this performance. The prologue was really a mess - singers making wrong entrances - nothing blending. And the orchestra was sloppy and in places the woodwinds were out of tune. Wow - I could not believe it. But this I think is pre-Levine. It is not the same orchestra and chorus as it is today. They have come a long way, thanks to James Levine. I think that one of the greatest contributions to opera by Levine has been to focus on excellence across the board. It is not enough to have great principals when the rest of the production is weak. Instead the outstanding principals are joined by an outstanding orchestra, outstanding chorus and so on and it makes a difference. So much gratitude to James Levine.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Robert Lepage and Wagner - Rheingold and Walküre at the Met!

Ok - I know, it's been like forever since I posted here. But I have been plotting some interesting posts and maybe I'll get to those this summer. Anyway, things have been really busy, and I have missed several of the Met HD broadcasts this year - much to my disappointment - but it could not be helped. However, I planned ages ago to make sure I made it to Walküre today and I did and I am so glad I did. It was sensational. Which was a surprise actually. I did not post any response last fall to the Met's Lepage production of "Rheingold" mostly because, well - I came away with such mixed feelings that I didn't know what to write. For the most part - I hated it. But was that fair? Maybe I was just really missing my beloved Otto Schenk production which I have watched many many times on video and then DVD. But today the clouds were lifted and I think I can make some clear comments about both productions.

Another reason I was not expecting the production to be so great today was because I had read a NY Times review in which they had talked about a mishap opening night involving the swinging beams and Deborah Voigt - the amazing, spectacular Deborah Voigt, by the way. Now, I am all for creativity, but when a production is so creative that it becomes a physical hazard risk for the singers then I'm on the side of the singers. No production concept is worth a potential serious injury to an artist. Note the debacle in Los Angeles with their Ring and how some cast members actually left the production because of the risk (not to mention the seemingly doomed broadway production of "Spiderman"). Anyway - false alarm - I think. There was no sign of it today (except for the late start). Everyone seemed at ease and comfortable on stage and - hats off - to Lepage. It is obvious that he also takes that responsibility seriously - as a viewer I was not made uncomfortable at all with any of the set gyrations in Walküre. That was not true for my experience watching Rheingold. I'll come back to Rheingold in a couple paragraphs.

First - Walküre worked a lot better. Maybe it is because the scenes are more static in this opera. Act I - in Hundings hut; Act II - on Wotan's rock outside Valhalla; Act III - another rock. That's it - so no descent into the Niebelheim like Rheingold, no swimming around the Rhein; no rainbow bridges. It worked a lot better. It was terribly distracting in Rheingold how those beams were moving all the time. Not so here. The highlights of Walküre are as follows in my opinion:
1. Cast - wow! What a cast! I still have a soft spot in my heart for James Morris and Hildegard Behrens - but Bryn Terfel is a magnificent Wotan. He was much stronger in Walküre I thought than Rheingold. And what can one say about Stephanie Blythe - she was incredibly effective and powerful as Fricka. I also loved Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund and Eva-Maria Westbroeck as Sieglinde. They even looked like they could really be twins. Sieglinde's last incredible line before her act III exit gave me chills. I had seen Deborah Voigt as Sieglinde in Chicago several years ago - and she was good, but I thought her Brünnhilde was outstanding. Also, Hans-Peter König was a great Hunding and I loved the girls in Act III.
2. The orchestra! Is there another orchestra in the world as good as the Met Orchestra? I think not. Elaine Douvas (oboe I) played beautifully as did English Horn, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet and the entire brass section. Magnificent.
3. The simulated forest was very effective, and I really like the chases with the supers. It was effective. But the staging of the Act II battle was the best I have ever seen. Mostly I think this usually takes place off stage - but in this production it was front and center. It was riveting.
4. The Walküres in Act II were great. Maybe it was the Met acoustics combined with the set - but the sound those girls produced was more powerful than I can remember ever experiencing before. And the simulated horseback riding was really fun - very effective. (So much better than the silly trampoline bouncing in Chicago - BTW.)
5. Wotan's farewell was beautiful. It was wonderfully and tenderly sung. The orchestra sounded like a chamber orchestra allowing Terfel to sing ever so gently. And the fire and how they left poor Brünnhilde at the end (it was a dancer or a super - but still).
6. James Levine!
All in all - I loved Walküre. It was musically brilliant and the production worked.

Now, Rheingold. Why did it not work as well? And in my opinion it didn't. Vocally some of the singers seemed more tentative - the notable exceptions in my view were Blythe and the soprano who played Freia, Alberich and Mime. Loge was weak and there was something about the Giants. Fafner just sounded liked he was miscast, too light a voice for the role, or so it seemed to me. And right away the whole concept seemed to falter. The first scene with the Rheinmaidens simply did not work. It was boring and silly - they hung from the air a bit and then they sat on the planks and did nothing. No chasing, no playing, no nothing. It didn't help that they showed a rehearsal clip where one Rheinmaiden in particular made it clear she was completely terrified. This affected my ability to appreciate her work in the role. All I could think of was how scary it must be and how terrified she was in rehearsal. Anyway, it didn't work. The descent to Niebelheim was ok. I really missed the kids screaming - this whole section was completely inferior to Schenk. The tenor who played Mime was the only bright part of this scene. He was terrific. I thought the stacking the gold in front of Fria was silly and the rainbow bridge was a complete disappointment. In short - I hated Rheingold. Except for the orchestra and some of the singers I can think of nothing that I really liked in that production.
In closing my views of this production of the Ring are mixed. Walküre was a great success - Rheingold, not so much. It will be interesting to see what they do with Siegfried and Götterdämerung next season. Perhaps they might go back and rethink Rheingold. It would be a good idea in my view.