Daniel Barenboim conducts the Staatskapelle Berlin in Wagner's Siegfried at the BBC Proms. BBC/Chris Christodoulou
Siegfried sees the turning point in the Ring. Wotan, king of the Gods, renounces his power and crucially wills his destruction. Siegfried, in contrast, begins to become aware of himself, his purpose and potential. Musically the opera also demonstrates an interesting philosophical shift in the music of Wagner.
Influenced by Schopenhauer, the music by Act 3 is taking on a primacy above and beyond the drama. The use of the orchestra to highlight points on the stage (the famous sword motif, for example) changes; by Act 3 the orchestra is expressing the inexpressible and the subconscious. It no longer used to simply bolster and attend to the on stage drama.
Siegfried, played by Lance Ryan, is a hero driven by nature and instinct; he is the embodiment of a romantic figure. His quest to free himself from the analytical, pedantic and plotting shackles of Mime, played by Peter Bronder, was fantastic fun to watch. Bronder and Ryan balanced this relationship well; at times Siegfried is the bully, at other moments I wished he'd get shot of the dwarf sooner than he does.
Lance Ryan as Siegfried in Wagner's Siegfried at the BBC Proms. BBC/Chris Christodoulou
Ryan is a great showman, excellently portraying a character who, frankly, doesn't care for or understand boundaries. And why not extend this character trait to a bit or orchestra interaction, as Ryan did? And when his famous motif was invoked by the horn player, Ryan, nonchalantly leaning against a railing asked 'got anymore?'. The audience loved this. No doubt some crusty traditionalists baulked at the notion, but they, as Siegfried would tell you, are the pedants and not worth listening to!
Eric Halfvarson gave a thunderous performance of Fafner the dragon. Halfvarson has a remarkable voice, capable of those deep, dark, echoing threats needed for the role. What a contrast to the often clipped and jesting Siegfried.
The Staatskapelle Berlin lead by Barenboim were once again on top form. The intensity of feeling brought out at the start of Act 3 Scene 3 stood out for me, as did those moments of unfulfilled resolution and yearning in the dialogue between Siegfried and Brünnhilde. So much of the music, linked to Siegfried's naive flow of consciousness, came in great emotional waves. A pleasure to listen to.
A fantastic performance, and a fantastic piece of Opera which seems to cover everything: from the adolescent humour of Siegfried and the low greed of Alberich and Mime, to the soaring search for meaning and identity that unfolds before Siegfried. I actually enjoyed this so much I purposefully avoided the sonic graveyard that is the tube after the performance, opting instead for a walk across the (half) nature of Hyde Park. (No singing birds leading to any Valkyries sleeping on hills unfortunately...)