Die Walküre

Pablo Heras-Casado
Orquesta Titulares del Teatro Real
February 2020
Teatro Real Madrid
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundStuart Skelton
HundingRené Pape
WotanTomasz Konieczny
SieglindeAdrienne Pieczonka
BrünnhildeRicarda Merbeth
FrickaDaniela Sindram
HelmwigeDaniela Köhler
GerhildeJulie Davies
OrtlindeSamantha Crawford
WaltrauteSandra Ferrández
SiegruneHeike Grötzinger
GrimgerdeMarifé Nogales
SchwertleiteBernadett Fodor
RoßweißeRosie Aldridge
Stage directorRobert Carsen (2020, Köln 2000)
Set designerPatrick Kinmonth
TV directorJérémie Cuvillier

Following last season’s successful production of Das Rheingold, Teatro Real continues this season with Die Walküre. Robert Carsen’s stagings are always interesting and thought provoking. However, it was a bit confusing, as this production was not centered around ecology, as was Das Rheingold. The setting is transposed to World War II, but no major ideas come from this dramatic change. In Act I, Hunding is an arms dealer and his hut a squalid warehouse. The sword was not drawn by Siegmund from a tree but from a fallen trunk, not the loftiest of images. The opening of Act II is in a chic art nouveau salon, an emphasis on the disparity between the powerful and commoners. The warrior “Brünnhilde” is nonchalantly reading a magazine on a sofa. Wotan is an SS General whose spear is replaced by a walking cane, accentuating his weakness. In Act III, the Valkyries are dressed as working class housewives rather than warriors. They are collecting dead heroes among many frozen corpses and sending them off on a ladder to Walhalla. The final scene, the duet between Wotan and Brünnhilde is among the remaining frozen corpses, and the fire by which Wotan surrounds Brünnhilde is merely figurative. Some of these transformations are memorable for their extravagance and their visual effect. However, they are not always à propos.

It is hard to assemble an ideal cast for the opera as there are six major roles. Most convincing was Adrienne Pieczonka as Sieglinde, who had the appropriate voice for her role as well as excellent acting skills. She was able to convey the different moods of the character: misery, rapture and despair. Despite the public’s enthusiasm, Ricarda Merbeth’s Brünnhilde was less convincing. This was her debut in a role much heavier than her usual repertoire. While she does manage the notes, her limitations are apparent throughout the performance. Fortunately, she’s both an intelligent singer and an excellent actress. Stuart Skelton initially impressed with his ease in the upper register, but alas, his voice became progressively less powerful. Moreover, he lacked stage presence. Though his voice is not as fresh as years ago, René Pape’s Hunding was of the high standard one expects of the German bass. Mezzo Daniela Sindram was a convincing Fricka dramatically, but less so vocally. Her high notes sounded strained. Polish baritone Tomasz Konieczny was an excellent Wotan. His understanding of the role is obvious in his delivery and his German diction is impeccable. One may have wished for a deeper voice, but Koniezny manages to overcome his vocal limitations through his exceptional interpretation. Despite a few off notes, the Orquesta titular del Teatro Real was up to the challenge of performing this monumental work. Pablo Heras-Casado was able to bring out the textures and colours of Wagner’s music. Nonetheless, after last season’s excellent Das Rheingold, this was a rather disappointing Die Walküre.

Ossama el Naggar | Teatro Real 02/12/2020


Madrid’s Ring cycle continues with a satisfying Die Walküre

Madrid’s Ring cycle, which began last year with a successful Das Rheingold, is continuing at the rate of one opera per season. The second production, Die Walküre, was generally a convincing one, particularly in musical terms.

Pablo Heras-Casado gave a superb reading of the opera, and the Teatro Real orchestra once again demonstrated their unquestionable talent. Although there were both ups and downs, the ups predominated. The best parts came in Act II and in the third act following the famous ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. I missed more dramatic strength in Act I, but the conducting of the second act was excellent, especially the Todesverkündigung (‘Annunciation of Death’) scene. The ‘Ride’ seemed excessively loud, but the emotion was strong in the second part of the third act, both in the duet of Wotan and Brünnhilde and in the always awaited ‘Magic Fire’.

The stage production by Robert Carsen premiered in 2000 and could be seen at the Liceu in 2014. I reviewed it at that time, and my opinion is basically unchanged.

In the first cast, Brünnhilde was performed by Ricarda Merbeth, an excellent soprano who has shone in characters like Elsa or Chrysothemis. I was struck by her jump to the more dramatic characters, such as Elektra or Brünnhilde herself. If I am not mistaken, it is her debut in the character in Die Walküre; until now she had only sung the role in Siegfried, which is the most lyrical of the three Brünnhildes. Her voice occasionally fell somewhat short on power, which was evident throughout the second act after her brilliant ‘Hojotohos’; the best part of her performance was in the beautiful duet with Wotan in Act III.

In the second cast, soprano Ingela Brimberg had an appealing voice but it is not what one would call a dramatic soprano, which is what this character requires. The most convincing part of her performance came in Act III, where she sang with gusto and expressiveness. She too did nicely with the ‘Hojotohos’, although there is a certain vibrato at the top.

Wotan was played by baritone Tomasz Konieczny in the first cast. He has been a prominent interpreter of the character in recent years at the Staatsoper in Vienna, where he will sing the role again next month. An outstanding singer and performer, he was more convincing than Greer Grimsley’s Wotan last year in Das Rheingold. James Rutherford in the second cast was less impressive in vocal terms. His voice has a certain appeal, but he had some serious projection problems: his voice was one of those that remain on stage, and was inaudible on more than one occasion.

Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka gave a good performance as Sieglinde. She does not frequently sing this role, although it has been more than 13 years since she first sang it in Bayreuth. Her voice is suited to the character, and she was a fine interpreter. Elisabet Strid was a bit light for the character. Her voice is attractive, but she falls short in the lower notes. This is a role that demands an important middle range and a lower one as well.

Stuart Skelton was an impressive Siegmund. He is undoubtedly one of the outstanding performers of the character today, with a voice that suits the role. His ‘Wälse! Wälse!’ were remarkable. Christopher Ventris in the second cast showed signs of fatigue as the performance progressed, and his ‘Wälse! Wälse!’ fell short.

René Pape, perhaps currently the leading bass in Wagner operas, had not sung at Teatro Real for 12 years. It was delightful to once again hear his magnificent voice and to share in his accomplished performance as Hunding. There was also a strong performance by Ain Anger who, I thought, was the best in the alternative cast.

Daniela Sindram was good as Fricka, as were the Valkyries, especially Daniela Köhler and Rosie Aldridge.

José M. Irurzun | Teatro Real, Madrid, 12 & 14. 2. 2020


Los trémolos en dinámicas crecientes y decrecientes del Ochestervorspiel del acto inaugural de Die Walküre demuestran su potencia escénica en la versión de Pablo Heras-Casado y la Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid. Un Wagner que suena convincente, y así se mantendrá durante prácticamente la totalidad del episodio que comprende la jornada primera de la tetralogía Der Ring des Nibelungen. Un instante después de que se desvanezca el último eco del aviso ritual que advierte a los asistentes de que la función va a dar comienzo (siempre me hizo gracia que el Teatro Real dé la bienvenida a su público con el enojoso timbre de un teléfono móvil), el grueso caudal sonoro, en buena medida sostenido desde la cuerda para después permitir progresivamente al metal teñir el trasfondo armónico con voluptuosas líneas melódicas que trazarán cada uno de los leitmotiv que caracteriza a las dramatis personae, se adueña del patio de butacas y posee a sus ocupantes contagiando la estremecedora agitación orquestal que emerge desde el foso.

Lo que se contempla sobre el escenario puede llamar a engaño con respecto al concepto elaborado por Robert Carsen y Patrick Kinmonth: un ir y venir frenético de hombres uniformados, que azuzan a perros inquietos y portan lámparas que centellean con ligero temblor para encontrar, se presume, a alguien que ha emprendido la huída. Efectivamente, un fatigado Siegmund no tardará en comparecer aterido de frío (y encarnado por Stuart Skelton, que, extraordinario durante cada intervención, se erige, junto a la Brünnhilde de Ricarda Merbeth, en la verdadera figura protagónica de esta producción, por encima de su antagonista, René Pape en el rol de Hunding, a quien pasa notable factura la dicción en alemán, asimismo de Tomasz Konieczny como Wotan, cuyos reconocibles méritos no terminan de satisfacer plenamente las grandes expectativas depositadas en él, y de Adrianne Pieczonka como Sieglinde, irreprochable pero desde su menor incidencia en la trama). Porque esta coreografía histérica, alimentada por una inclemente tormenta de nieve, sólo encontrará parangón en la apertura del tercer acto, cuando los celebérrimos alaridos —“Hojotoho! Heiaha!”— de las valquirias constituyan el ruido de fondo de una bacanal pantagruélica: los muertos yacen a cientos, atestando el suelo de cadáveres que cobran vida y se reconvierten en cuerpos inertes según el capricho de Brünnhilde y sus secuaces. De hecho, este número supone el despliegue actoral más espectacular de cuantos integran las casi cinco horas de representación (algo en lo que sin duda tiene que ver, una vez más, el esforzado desempeño de Heras-Casado y sus músicos). Pero no es ésta la pauta que, desde el punto de vista general, dota de sentido a una propuesta escenográfica más bien sobria, suntuosa únicamente de manera sugerida, para apuntalar, de forma justificada, el extenso discurso en el que se resuelve condenar a Siegmund, pues aquél no es sino el centro de gravedad de la obra (y, seguramente, también el momento dramáticamente más exigente de la ópera épica).

Así, son enormes espacios diáfanos (a excepción de eventuales recursos de atrezo, como un todoterreno militar averiado, un montón de bidones, las escalas laterales o el conjunto de muebles que conforman el inmenso salón privado de Wotan y Fricka, una sobresaliente Daniela Sindram) los auténticos elementos que articulan esta Die Wälkure. Un montaje en el que el fuego atraviesa de principio a fin esta entrega del Anillo, pero cuyas llamaradas parecen haber intercambiado su adecuada intensidad: la exigua hoguera que alumbra el interior del refugio de Hunding simboliza, sin embargo, el instante de mayor conmoción (un contrapunto acaso no pretendido de la escasa atención que logra captar la espada legendaria hundida en el fresno), la chimenea que crepita alumbrando la mansión divina no alcanza el fulgor que debiera, y los muros ígneos que custodian el sueño de Brünnhilde no infunden ningún respeto asimilable a un poder sobrehumano. Abandono el teatro con la sensación de que Carsen no consigue un acabado redondo o completamente afinado, pero reconfortado por el hecho de que la música en estos casos redime la escena: como si se tratara de una deidad más en el palacio del Valhalla, tramando la perdición de los mortales para que los venideros tengan (tengamos) qué contar.

Ramón del Buey Cañas | 21 Februar 2020

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
960×540, 982 kbit/s, 1.5 GByte (MPEG-4)
Telecast (TVE)
Possible dates: 12, 16, 21, 25, 28 February 2020
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.