So involved and at one with the singers was the mighty Barenboim that he would lean over and mouth their lines and dance their phrases
Now the BBC Proms are in full swing, I cannot describe my sense of pride at witnessing the great Daniel Barenboim, after last year’s success with his Beethoven symphony cycle, delight and astound a cheering crowd with an incredible performance of Das Rheingold, the first opera in the first complete Proms Ring Cycle.
There wasn’t a spare seat in the house despite the heat. As the low foreboding rumbles of the Prelude, an E-flat growing and building, representing the birth of the universe, resonated from the depths of the Staatskapelle Berlin, the five thousand members of the audience came together into a common concentration.
So involved and at one with the singers was the mighty Barenboim that he would lean over and mouth their lines and dance their phrases. This is the first time we have seen the Staatskapelle at the Proms and it is long overdue. The attention to detail never overwhelmed the singers and the concert master Wolf-Dieter Batzdorf deserves a special mention for his sublime playing of some stunning solo passages.
In this lightly staged concert performance it was a treat it was to have a plethora of world class singers from the Staatsoper Berlin as well as our very own Iain Paterson making his debut as Wotan. What a tremendous job he did too. I’m a great fan of this singer who has already delighted us in title roles at the ROH and ENO and as he embarks upon new territory it was good to see a British among this international cast.
Watch below: Daniel Barenboim conducts the Prelude to Das Rheingold at Bayreuth
The Rhinemaidens – Aga Mikolaj, Maria Gortsevskaya and Anna Lapkovskaja – were certainly a luxurious trio and set the opera off on a luxurious richly toned footing. Ekaterina Gubanova also made an impact as a sensitive Fricka. Also a delight were Stephan Rügamer’s lyricism and strong characterisation as Loge, and two magnificent basses as the giants: Eric Halfvarson as Fafner and Stephen Milling as Fasolt. You could not have asked for a stronger or more accomplished Wagnerian cast on one stage.
Apart from the presence of no less than six harps and LED displays of water and clouds, other visual treats were the appearance of contralto Anna Larsson as Erda, mother of the Earth, who stepped out in front of the RAH organ to warn Wotan of the curse of the ring. Her full vocal tone and presence in the final scene resounded magnificently in the hall.
This was an exciting first concert to kick off the indulgent Wagnerfest of no fewer than seven operas at the Proms and I’m sure the tumultuous applause – a full fifteen minutes, plus stamping – must have provoked the gods above to answer in the enormous crack of thunder felt in London the night that followed.