Look Who’s Tolkien


Live Broadcast from The Met, Saturday 5th November, 2011


Another opportunity to see a world class production in the comfort of your local cinema and it’s a corker.  Third in Wagner’s four-part Ring cycle, this one tells the story of teen orphan Siegfried.  His coming-of-age tale involves forging a mythical sword, overthrowing his foster father, slaying a dragon and reviving a damsel from enchanted sleep.  Hardly Adrian Mole then.

The demands of the role mean that only a few singers exist in the world today who can tackle this most demanding tenor part.  Charming Texan, Jay Hunter Morris more than copes, and conveys Siegfried’s moody adolescence (Kevin and Perry were never this volatile) and youthful naïveté, despite his hefty physique and more mature appearance.  He strides around, dressed like a Disney Prince – he even has an animated companion in the shape of the friendly bird who guides Siegfried to the sleeping Brunnhilde. This is J R R Tolkien territory, Norse mythology with the emotions cranked to the max.

As oversized, evil dwarf Mime, Gerhard Siegel looks like Dom de Luise with a comb-over and the disgusting personal habits of John McCririck.  He provides most of the humour of the piece – yes, folks, that’s right: there is plenty of humour in this opera.  It is the most accessible of the whole cycle, perhaps of all Wagner.   Bryn Terfel is Wotan, but here he is called the Wanderer (they call him the Wanderer; he roams around, around, around).  He wouldn’t look out of place in the Fields of the Nephilim (remember them?)   Deborah Voigt is a robust and moving Brunnhilde and Eric Owens a sturdy Alberich.

The set is a breath-taking application of technology: huge, moving oblongs on which video scenery is projected and also on which the cast walks, sleeps and fights.  Even watching from the remove of the cinema screen, it is impressive.  While I was pleased that Fafner the dragon was not a video projection, the puppet was more of a snake – perhaps lighting it differently could have made it more menacing.  What you don’t see is always more scary than what you do.

At five and a half hours running time (including two intervals) this may put off the casual viewer, but if there is an encore screening, I will definitely be going to see it again.

Bring on Part Four: Gotterdammerung in February.

About williamstafford

Novelist (Brough & Miller, sci fi, historical fantasy) Theatre critic http://williamstaffordnovelist.wordpress.com/ http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B008AD0YGO and Actor - I can often be found walking the streets of Stratford upon Avon in the guise of the Bard! View all posts by williamstafford

One response to “Look Who’s Tolkien

  • WinceyWillis

    Five and a half hours and the words John McCririck could put a person off but not when they are surrounded by such a positive endorsement. I have never been to one of these cinema productions, sound like this is the one that would get me hooked.

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