The inspection of a Century
New reserve currency: Humanity
Michael Leinert completes his production of Richard Wagner's RING (1997 – 1999)
At Staatstheater Kassel a tradition of staging Wagner's "Ring" has long been established, and is now being continued by Michael Leinert, stage designer Walter Perdacher and conductor Roberto Paternostro with "The Twilight of the Gods". In the early seventies producer Ulrich Melchinger introduced a Wallstreet atmosphere and the forms and colours of pop art to the sphere of the "Ring". [...] In the eighties Siegfried Schoenbohm took up the tetralogy. This "Ring" went through many centuries and different styles, focusing on present times.
Michael Leinert's "Ring", produced within two seasons in spite of growing financial restrictions, continues this specific Kassel dramaturgy of presenting the "Ring" from a modern point of view. Changing times with new experiences and events allow new perspectives of the work. At first sight the interpretation of Leinert and his Dramaturg Karl Gabriel von Karais appears somewhat schematic: their "Ring" is meant to represent " one hundred years of German history".
"Rheingold" symbolizes the founding of the Empire, the era of Wilhelm I. and Wilhelm ll., the consolidation of power and the emerging threats from inimical powers. "Die Walküre" stands for the catastrophe resulting from the ugly events in the thirties and forties up to the end of the second world war: the bunker of Valhalla has not proved very stable or long-lasting. "Siegfried" leads into the era after the war: the "idyll" is being restored. Wotan's policy of power has failed. People are drifting between hope and fear. "The Twilight of the Gods – Götterdämmerung", the last part of the tetralogy, represents contemporary times. The Gibichungs and their world are in power ruling on the basis of money, psychological terror and electronic control. The Norns, trying to use computers to clean up the chaos during the prelude of the opera, have to realize that their efforts are in vain: the profusion of information is more than anybody could take in and leads to ignorance. Leinert and Perdacher succeed in presenting an oppressing performance, a notable scenic interpretation.
On the Valkyrie's rock we find a homely scene, an idyll as taken from the GDR, with flower pots, little trees, washing on the line, deck chairs and sun shades, Siegfried of course has the historical accessories of his sword Nothung and the magic hood, but he also has shirts and underwear packed into his agent's suitcase. Arthur Miller's salesman Willy Loman starts to conquer the Golden West. Christian Franz is absolutely convincing in that scene and, most of all, every moment during this long performance he sings the part of Siegfried with fascinating intensity and attention, powerful with heroic timbre [...].
Very impressive is the scene of half dream with Alberich (Klaus Wallprecht). Here Hagen (Manfred Volz) appears in the background as in a picture: an increase of the evil and the brutal, presented like a front page of the "Spiegel" magazine. Exciting also the setting of the conspiracy between Hagen, Brünnhilde and Gunther: the murder is decided upon and organized in a business-like manner with the three sitting at a long conference table. Here Leinert emphasizes the special part of Brünnhilde in this alliance of evil: she tries to separate herself from the other two assassins as she wants Siegfried's death not for vengeance but in order to know the true motive for the sudden loss of his love. In this performance she takes the part of the "only human being" : Leinert's pleading for more humanity.
Standing on a black grand piano, symbol of bourgeois music life, that also carries the body of Siegfried, Brünnhilde is lifted into the sky, looking upwards, silently, for minutes that seem to take ages. She takes Nothung to cut her wrists, thus the two lovers are reunited in death by the sword. There are no flames, no gods sitting in the back. The Daughters of the Rhine receive their gold but does it still have any value? Humanity - that is the new reserve currency. Will this come true? Brünnhilde’s eyes are full of doubt.
Susan Owen sings and plays the part of Brünnhilde with crystalline expressiveness, very modern in the articulation of feelings and the use of gestures. Her voice is full of power, beauty, clarity. [...]. Waltraute's scene is really wonderful:: Renee Morloc in a smart leather outfit (of course the Valkyries ride on shining motor bikes) sings the part of the despairing sister with intense feeling, clean articulation and a beautiful sound. Bodo Brinkmann (Gunther) and Gertrud Ottenthal (Gutrune) are the other members of the cast that mainly consists of singers from Kassel Staatstheater - a proof of the efficiency and quality of permanent opera ensembles. Especially the older members of Kassel orchestra are experienced Wagner players. Roberto Paternostro guides the musicians through the score with great proficiency, minding for stretched transitions as well as smaller details and asking for utmost brightness of sound and expressiveness. Unfortunately this "Ring" will disappear from the Kassel repertoire with Michael Leinert’s leaving the ensemble at the end of the season, which can only be called an economical folly.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung May 1999, Gerhard Rohde
Leinert keeps to the text every second of the piece. Altogether, Leinert and his team presented a convincing and impressive "Ring". At Kassel, the tetralogy has not been staged in a hurry but with time for inventions and preparations. All the different parts are well matched, They never claim to present a definite point of view concerning Wagner's mammoth composition. The intelligent and plausible performance of details is much more important establishing an overall perspective almost by itself.
The musical realization has been very convincing, thanks to General Music Director Roberto Paternostro and the excellent ensemble, almost all from Staatstheater Kassel! The orchestra played with great attention to the conductor's lead. His principal emphasis lies with the transparency of the music, just as in the other parts of the tetralogy. Once more the technical and musical level of singing has been surprisingly high. Susan Owen performed the part of Brünnhilde with a really powerful voice (..), a number of bigger opera houses may envy Staatstheater Kassel for this daughter of Wotan. The same applies to Christian Franz as Siegfried - a lovely heroic tenor voice at the beginning of a great career. Manfred Volz was very convincing in the part of Hagen (..) just as Gertrud Ottenthal in the roles of Gutrune and the third Norn.
OpernglasJuly 1999, Stefan Maus
The "Ring" at Kassel is complete. Hardly two years after the premiere of Das Rheingold (1997) now " Götterdämmerung - The Twilight of the Gods" has been staged at the Staatstheater. (...) The Artistic Director and producer has fulfilled his task. The Artistic Director leaves, his work is not allowed to stay. Suffering are all those who supported the project with their efforts and passionate work as well as the audience who received this "Ring" with much approval. (..)
The ensemble is really admirable. Especially Susan Owen's Brünhilde impressed by the never ending powerful brightness of her soprano, and Christian Franz performed the part of Siegfried with a tireless heroic tenor voice. Bodo Brlnkmann in the role of Gunther has developed the range, substance and liveliness of his singing. Manfred Volz appeared as Hagen with precise articulation, and the two female characters, Waltraute sung by Renee Morloc and Gutrune sung by Gertrud Ottenthal, had the adequate intensity in their voices and in their declamation. Applause for a long time..
OpernweltJuly 1999, Klaus Kirchberg
"The Twilight of the Gods" or „Woman, eternally" at Kassel comes very close to the truth in a celebrated performance. (..) Great images are the most important elements in this "Götterdämmerung": Brünnnhildes (!) funeral march exactly presents the contesting emotions appearing in the music; the murder is planned at an exciting business meeting, like brainstorming after a glass of water,- there is no theatrical tittle-tattle at the end when Brünnhilde, being the image of „Woman, eternally , is lifted up out of reach. Everything is full of tension and precision in stage design and interpretation without any trash of redemption or apocalypse. Especially after four inventive evenings, real art is that of restriction.
No restrictions, however, were needed at Kassel with the excellent cast of the opera: first of all Susan Owen as Brünnhilde and Christian Franz as Siegfried with a highly developed art of intonation. Manfred Volz matches perfectly the part of Hagen, being also a flexible actor. Bodo Brinkmann's Gunther is on an equally high level as was his Wotan, and the part of Gutrune is perfectly performed here by Gertrud Ottenthal. Renee Morloc as Waltraute and Klaus Waltprecht as Alberich complete the ensemble properly. Roberto Paternostro conducted the orchestra of Staatstheater Kassel very nobly, working an chamber music-like lines and producing a dark and glowing sound out of the sonorous music written by Richard Wagner. Therefore, this "Ring" had a very happy ending in all respects.
Nordbayerischer Kurier Bayreuth, May 1999, Frank Piontek
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