Opera Platform has made available a 2014 performance of the production of Die Walküre from The Dutch National Opera - the cast includes: Christopher Ventris as Siegmund, Catherine Nagelstad as Sieglinde, Kurt Rydl as Hunding, Thomas Johannes Mayer as Wotan, Doris Soffel as Fricka and Catherine Foster as Brünnhilde. The production featured a stage that wrapped around the orchestra in an arch. There were a couple other parts to it but it is a rather simple design, but this stage does all number of things and the concept works well. Additionally there are few props, the constuming is fairly traditional and effective - especially Wotan's gown which he reveals in the last scene! The lighting is also effective. The Netherlands Philharmonic is conducted by Haertmut Haenchen. The production is directed by Pierre Audi.
I have to say this is actually the second time I have seen this very performance. I actually have watched a 4 Ring operas in this production before, though it has been a while ago. On the whole I found Walküre effective and well done. The singing on the whole is very good - Siegmund, Sieglinde, Wotan, Fricka and Brunnhilde are all excellent. Hats off the Brünnhilde for totally nailing her entrance "hi-yo-to-hos" - not easy, but Catherine Foster is terrific. Doris Soffel was very effective as Fricka and I liked Thomas Mayer as Wotan. His was a troubled and distraught Wotan, which he conveyed effectively. The twins were also excellent. Kurt Rydl cut a powerful figure on stage as Hunding, but vocally I felt he was not up to the rest of the cast. For me the most moving part of this production was the last scene in act 2 - Brunnhilde and Siegfried all the way through the battle. This section was beautifully sung and powerfully acted. I found it very moving. I should have felt the same about Wotan's farewell but there were distractions - not the singer's fault mind you.
(Spoiler alert) So act 3 begins with the fire on the mountain - ??? - ok. Not sure why, but ok. The stage blazes for the orchestral intro and then the fire disappears in time for the girls to come in and do their thing. The Valkures are very effective - all good singers and I personally enjoyed the choreography of their motions. I thought it was effective and painted a picture of these servants of Wotan who have no will or identity of their own - only Brunnhilde is not in sync, of course - she has broken with that life at the end of act 2. So we go all the way through act 3 and I am expecting some cool fire. But no - no fire. We had fire at the beginning, but no fire at the end! What is up with that? Just some red light? Was it fire code, safety - all good reasons. But the fire at the beginning of the act was misplaced and the lack of fire at the end of the act 3 was a major disappointment for me.
The other thing about this production which I did not like is the way they depict Wotan's spear. He does not carry a spear - it is a part of the set, and it appears at his behest (effective when he puts an end to Hunding, though I will say). Ok, so I am old fashioned in this - but I want Wotan to carry a spear. The spear is important - it is an extension of himself - it is the basis of his power - and it is the basis of his struggles and misery.
Those are two quibbles about a production that otherwise is really excellent. It is musically excellent and it is well worth watching. And not only that but there are English subtitles, which are nice. I recommend this great production on Opera Platform's site.