Bertrand de Billy
Orquestra Simfònica del Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona
18/26 June 2004
Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegfriedJohn Treleaven
MimeGraham Clark
WotanFalk Struckmann
AlberichGünter von Kannen
FafnerEric Halfvarson
ErdaAndrea Bönig
BrünnhildeDeborah Polaski
WaldvogelCristina Obregón
Stage directorHarry Kupfer
Set designerHans Schavernoch
TV directorToni Bargalló

The third segment of this interesting, well-sung Barcelona Ring is unveiled

Director Harry Kupfer’s and designer Hans Schavernoch’s second Siegfried staging is set around an increasingly dilapidated World Ash Tree. Large floor sections rise and fall to furnish a huge metal fan for Mime’s smithy, a multi-clawed dragon to be fought, and to bring up Erda cocooned in the very roots of the tree (a coup that will remind Londoners of the famous Götz Friedrich Ring of the 1970s and ’80s).

The costumes are rationalised, modern epic: Siegfried and Mime as workmen, the Wanderer in Homburg, shades and greatcoat, Brünnhilde in quasi-military blazer and trousers. The Wotan family (Siegfried, Wanderer, Brünnhilde) all have red hair. The Wanderer keeps an eye on Siegfried throughout, flying off a toy Woodbird from the tree’s branches and even playing parts of the horn call for him – a touching portrait of a father’s love for his (grand)son. Kupfer’s handling of the fate of the Walsungs is one of the great threads of this Barcelona production.

Two veterans – Graham Clark and Günter von Kannen – perform with continuing ripeness and added colour, some derived from other productions they’ve been in. John Treleaven, soon to be Siegfried at the Royal Opera House, has the tricky character – by turns brutal, gentle, dumb and intuitive – massively in focus, even if the last act (inevitably) catches him in less than free voice. Falk Struckmann’s Wanderer is a suave master of ceremonies in voice and manner, but less involving in Act 3. Deborah Polaski’s Brünnhilde has ideal physical intensity and vocal stylishness.

For Bertrand de Billy and his orchestra these are relatively early Wagnerian days, and the sustaining and colouring of the long, outer acts are a challenge; the conductor is a fine accompanist rather than a heroic leader. The filming (by Catalan TV) is a primitive affair compared to the subtlety of Brian Large’s work on the two Bayreuth cycles, especially in its handling of entrances and character reactions not allied to a specific sung cue. Opus Arte provides no extra items, unnecessarily retains pre- and post-act applause and presents the work on three discs as opposed to other companies’ two.

The Boulez/Chereau version, about to appear on DVD, is a visual classic of Italian-influenced French beauty with astonishing, trendsetting characterisations, while the Zagrosek/Jossi Wieler is a more acerbic re-imagining of the opera as contemporary play, with Acts 1 and 3 wholly indoors. The Barenboim/Kupfer/Schavernoch Bayreuth production with Jerusalem, Tomlinson and Anne Evans in the cast, which will reach DVD shortly, is a starker, more epic version of a similar concept to Barcelona, strongly sung and conducted.

Mike Ashman | 9/2005

There have been a plethora of releases of Wagnerian operas on DVD recently, not all of them felicitous events. This production by the famed stage designer Harry Kupfer is mediocre, redeemed from disaster by Graham Clark’s delightful Mime and Deborah Polaski’s artful, though labored, singing. The opera opens with a scene of an airplane hangar as Mime attempts to forge the broken sword Nothung. Clark is agile, athletic, intense, and oddly comical. A veteran Mime, he is perfectly cast, both vocally and dramatically.

The contentious adolescent Siegfried, however, sung by the middle-aged John Treleavan, is unconvincing. Treleaven’s underpowered and tepid vocal equipment is especially disappointing in one of the high points of the opera, the Forging Scene. Struckmann’s voice (as the Wanderer) is wobbly and choppy, with no staying power. Dressed in a shiny coat, trilby hat, and ponytail, he is a rogue creature, a member of a motorcycle gang rather than a noble god. When we finally reach the awakening of Brünnhilde in Act 3, we are in surer hands vocally. Polaski, who is experienced in this Fach, is tender and sincere, though frequently flat. The orchestra supports the singers well but plays Wagner by the book, as though the music were Mozart. The sound is good, and the entire opera is bathed in blue. Kupfer’s stage design falls somewhere between the styles of “Eurotrash” and the Met’s naturalistic productions.

Dalia Geffen | Jul 14, 2005

Siegfried–Into The Woods

The theme of environmental decay continues in the third installment of Harry Kupfer’s Barcelona staging of his second Ring cycle. Mime’s lair is a massive underground factory floor, complete with a giant wind-powered forge. Siegfried, ever the environmentalist, shears the blades off the propeller at the end of the first act–a welcome change from the usual splitting of the anvil. The World-Ash is still present, a huge hollow log suspended above the stage which Wotan (Falk Struckmann) sometimes uses as a lofty perch. There are less theatrical echos from the director’s 1988 cycle here–one feels that more thought went into re-thinking this most difficult opera for this production.

In the title role, John Treleavan has a fine, ringing tenor, sailing through the soft passages and rising to meet the vocal brutalities of the Forging Song. His Siegfried is a burly bully, playing obnoxious, often uncomfortable pranks on Mime and physically abusing his step-parent. But his voice starts to fray in the end of the second act, becoming tight and compressed. Treleavan fares better in the final duet with Brunnhilde, holding his own with some impressive, if strained high notes.

Graham Clark reprises his Mime yet again, and that’s never a bad thing in this difficult, unlovable role. The British tenor’s voice is sometimes shrill, sometimes lyrical–perfectly suited to the role of Mime. His hyperkinetic Harold Lloyd acting style captures every slimy nuance of the character, and his scenes in Act II are both pathetic and hilarious. (My favorite moment is when he swipes Alberich’s hat.) His death scene is a comic highlight with a bloody end–the dwarf actually gets the sword away from Siegfried (the whole plan to begin with) and then actually hands it back to his ward. Clark is a magnificent Mime, but so annoying that his death comes as something of a relief to the ears.

As the Wanderer (Wotan, cleverly disguised by a grey fedora hat) Falk Struckmann gives his finest performance of this cycle, his voice settling comfortably into the deeper pitches of the role. Gunther von Kannen is as ever, firm and deep as Alberich, his opposite number. Andrea Bönig continues her terrific run through this Ring. In Act III, she appears as Erda, tangled in fiber optics, a victim of information overload. She is vocally solid, although her mezzo is a little light for Erda.

The environmental theme dominate the forest scene of Act II. The World-Ash is now a hollow trunk that Wotan hides in, releasing the Forest Bird into the woods like a wind-up toy. Fafner (Erik Halfvarson) literally comes out of the forest floor but this dragon is more pathetic than intimidating. Halfvarson (who also played Hunding in the cycle’s Die Walküre) appears in the mechanical cyborg outfit from Rheingold although casting him instead of Matthias Holle is confusing–a first-time viewer might think that Siegfried, trying to kill Fafner has accidentally offed Hunding instead.

The most impressive visuals come in the final act, a near earthquake at the start of the Erda scene and an impressive rendering of the Magic Fire scene in its second iteration. As Brunnhilde, Deborah Polaski sings a beautiful Awakening scene. Her duet with Siegfried has both power and passion, and she copes admirably with the devilishly difficult high notes at the end of the final duet.

Paul Pelkonen | March 17, 2007

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Opus Arte
Technical Specifications
720×480, 2.1 Mbit/s, 4.9 GByte (MPEG-4)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.