Yu Feng
Chorus and Orchestra of the China National Opera House Beijing
22 September 2015
National Center for the Performing Arts Beijing
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegfriedLiu Yiran
BrünnhildeWang Wei
GuntherYu Jingren
GutruneLiang Runni
AlberichSong Fengrun
HagenTian Hao
WaltrauteWang Hong
WoglindeGuo Chengcheng
WellgundeYang Li
FloßhildeXie Jin
1. NornCui Jinghai
2. NornMo Shuang
3. NornWang Ye
Financial Times

Since 2005, when the Beijing Music Festival presented the country’s first Ring cycle (importing Stephen Lawless’s production from the Nuremberg State Theatre), China has gone on a Wagner binge. Until now, this has mostly entailed bringing in — and sometimes partnering with — productions from Europe, or commissioning local productions from European creative teams, sung by predominantly western casts.

What has been lacking is a thoroughly Chinese production, and that is where the China National Opera House, as the country’s oldest repertory company, has found its niche. Unlike the National Centre for the Performing Arts, China’s most prominent venue, which has commissioned new productions of Wagner’s early works, the CNOH has gone straight to the Wagnerian summit, developing the first Chinese Ring Cycle as part of its permanent repertory.

The company’s Götterdämmerung, which premiered on Tuesday at the NCPA, revealed just how steep the Wagner learning curve can be. Director Wang Huquan’s conception hewed close to the original story, if not discovering it for the first time at least relating it to audiences who would be.

Likewise, cast members were clearly discovering their respective roles, though soprano Wang Wei, the evening’s Brünnhilde, had played the same character in Die Walküre and other prominent singers such as tenor Liu Yiran (Siegfried), bass Tian Hao (Hagen), soprano Liang Runni (Gutrune) and baritones Yu Jingren (Gunther) and Song Fengrun (Alberich) had sung similarly voiced roles in other Ring instalments.

Conductor Yu Feng — also the company’s president — focused on power rather than precision and mined Wagner’s score for every musical nuance, occasionally to the detriment of the drama. Still, the performance mostly held up until the final hour, when either lack of stamina or of rehearsal time took its toll in orchestral and vocal clarity.

Little could be said to be distinctively Chinese, right down to Wang Yukuan’s costumes and Gao Jianxin’s make-up and blond wigs. Compared with the usual Imax-style stagings on view at the NCPA, Ma Lianqing’s sets and Feng Lei’s video designs remained on a human scale, much as you’d see in a provincial German house. And overall, the quality was probably not unlike many productions in Wagner’s lifetime.

Ken Smith | September 24, 2015

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
128 kbit/s CBR, 44.1 kHz, 229 MByte (MP3)
A production by Wang Huquan
Also available as telecast with a slightly different cast