Theatre review - Die Walkure, Opera North, The Lowry, Salford

Opera North Die Walkure Images
Opera North Die Walkure Images

Part II of the Ring Cycle, five hours viewing in total, two intervals – one of one hour and 15 minutes during which we dined to fortify ourselves for the traumatic finale – it was compulsive.

Wotan is king of the gods, law-maker and father of nine warrior daughters, the Valkyries of the title. Wagner sourced his epic cycle from Norse mythology, so when a hero soldier dies, the Valkyries are the transcending souls who carry those heroes from the battlefield to paradise.

Eight of the daughters are illegitimate.

What Wotan wants most is to end the apparently endless battles with his godly enemies. He thinks the creation of a human hero, down below, will be beyond the reach of his enemy gods, so he breaks his duty of power, his curse as he sees it.

His chosen deliverance of this hero is an incestuous brother-sister relationship.

But he is already deceived. Fricka, his celestial wife, demands he stands by his imperial status. The humans must be killed, our Fricka’s honour defiled.Tragic Wotan’s favourite daughter Brunnhilde’s mission is to secure the birth.

She is touched by witnessing human love, and out of ungodly compassion spares the sibling lovers.

The night ended with the unflinching Wotan taking revenge on Brunnhilde, doomed to humanity on a rock surrounded by a ring of fire.

A compelling Opera North production to follow last year’s Das Rheingold, with the concluding two parts of The Ring to follow in the next two years. Compelling even given necessary restrictions. The 100-player orchestra, impeccable on the night, was too big for the pit so played on stage, thus restricting the singers to a semi-oratorical performance on a narrow strip at the front of the stage.

Three large screens at the back carried digital images which reflected, in a minimalist way – clouds, mountain rock faces, indistinguishable birds for Die Walkure, and finally, to great effect, fire.

A strange lapse too often saw white sub-titles on white surfaces, making the narrative unreadable.

Most memorable were the wonderful leads, especially Bela Perencz as Wotan, Alwyn Mellor as Sieglinde and Annalena Persson as Brunnhilde.