Off to the Rosemary Branch Theatre this afternoon for a couple of hefty chunks of Wagner’s Die Walküre, and rather fantastic it was too.
The New London Opera Players are at the venue performing two shows: this cut-down version of Die Walküre (Act 1 and the close of Act 3) and CarMen, an all-male version of Bizet’s sunny romp. Walküre was a very successful undertaking. The Rosemary Branch is small, probably even by ‘theatre-above-pub’ standards, and so big Wagner voices make a heck of a noise, but it was wonderful to revel in the sonic power at close quarters, and all performers were well able to shade and shape their performance even in this constricted space.
Robin Green and Laura Abella made a great start as Siegmund and Sieglinde, both having voices that really made you want to listen to those early conversational passages (there were no surtitles, so this is no small matter!) Stephen Holloway joined as a sonorous Hunding, and then the act began its long arc to the jubilant conclusion, paving its way for future tragedy. After the interval Holloway took on Wotan and was joined by the wonderfully impressive Miriam Murphy, who stepped up the vocal power a further notch. Laser-clean of tone, her Brünnhilde also added an extra layer of dramatic depth as she fought against her father’s sad conviction of his duty.
The piano accompaniment, by music director Andrew Charity, was a bit rough, even by the measure of ‘pub opera’, more so in the passages of orchestral tumult where the piano became a bit over-resonant and indistinct, whereas in some of the more reflective music there was a lovely sense of the phrasing and the leitmotifs at work. In its reduced, simplified form the ‘orchestral’ passage immediately following Wotan’s “so küsst er die Gottheit von dir” was the most powerfully poignant I can recall in a live performance of the work. I wonder if a four-hander might not be a better bet for music of such orchestral scale?
These opportunities to get ‘up close’ to big opera like this are relatively few, and are to be sought out by anyone who wants to keep their appreciation of the artform fresh and alive – highly recommended!
Head to the Rosemary Branch website to book.