I’m not a fan of opera. Why then did I spend nearly 6 hours (with two intervals, thankfully) watching Opera North at the Lowry Theatre in Salford last Saturday?
It started with the lovely “summer” we had last year. Half way through our staycation, as we limped back up the M6 with a gale-shredded tent stuffed into the car, I flicked through the internet to find events we could go to in the remaining week of our holiday. Events preferably indoors, without wind, rain or flimsy tents.
That’s how we found ourselves at Opera North’s concert staging of Das Rheingold, the first of the four parts of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
Rather than placing the orchestra in the pit and leaving the audience to focus on some dodgy acting from the singers (sorry opera lovers), in a ‘concert staging’ the orchestra are as much the stars of the show. The orchestra plays on stage with the singers performing in front. Some introduction and the English surtitles are projected on screens above the performers.
We had no real idea what to expect, but we were utterly enthralled by the concert/performance. And that’s why we returned to watch the second part of the Ring Cycle – Die Walkure – last weekend.
And we’re so glad we did. The singing and orchestral performance were impeccable and extremely enjoyable. The sound of 8 Valkyries singing the familiar tune The Ride of the Valkyries sent shivers down my spine. And now I know what the Valkyries are laughing at in that piece (their horses’ behaviour towards each other if, like me you’ve always wondered)!
Of particular note were Clive Bayley, playing a chilling and thunderous Hunding, and Annalena Persson as Brunnhilde, the most favoured of the Valkyries, with her clear diction and voice full of emotion.
The only quibble I had was with the logistics of the minimal set. The surtitles above the performers were hard to read if you sat at the far sides of the theatre. I like to know what I am listening to, and wished I could have seen all the text, but it’s a small grumble.
Opera North will be performing the remaining two parts of Wagner’s Ring Cycle over the next two years. If you enjoy good music, go. You don’t need to know the story up until now (the programme will tell you) and you don’t need to be a Wagner expert. Just sit back and the let the music transport you to a fantasy land of dwarves, giants, gods and mortals.