Opera Scotland

Rheingold 2016Mariinsky Opera, St Petersburg

Read more about the opera Rhinegold

The opera programme of the 2016 Edinburgh Festival featured two imported stagings. The rarity was a piece difficult to bring off and receiving its first Festival showing - Bellini's Norma. The second was a work far more frequently seen, Così fan tutte. There was the start of a new Ring project, in concert form, with Das Rheingold. The Usher Hall concert schedule also included several works that should be listed here, even if they are not exactly opera. These ranged from Bach (St Matthew Passion) to Elgar (Apostles) and Schoenberg (Gurrelieder).

The Festival has presented Walküre on its own several times, but Rheingold only once. That was at the turn of the century, when it embarked on an ambitious co-production of the Ring with Scottish Opera. It was built up over successive years, with complete cycles performed in 2003. We are now promised single performances of the four evenings between 2016 and 2019. These will be in the form of concerts in the Usher Hall. A distinct novelty is that each evening will be presented by a different conductor and orchestra. Gergiev and the Mariinsky have performed the cycle many times at home and on tour, including in Birmingham, but have yet to give Wagner in Scotland.

The packed house gave the company a tumultuous reception at the end of this performance, and the cheers and applause were thoroughly deserved. The expected two and a half hour span might have been expected to seem wearisome in concert format. Not to worry, however. Indeed the performance was actually a few minutes longer than that, but like all good Rheingolds it seemed to flash past. Gergiev now paces the evening with great skill, bringing out much of the beauty of the score. His orchestra sounded as though they had been playing the music for decades.

The soloists were a remarkably consistent team, and showed the true company spirit, with major artists happily singing shorter roles. Thus, not only did the first cast Dido from The Trojans in 2014 appear here as Fricka, but her superb alternate in that run was Wellgunde in an unusually mellifluous trio of Rhinemaidens.

Vladislav Sulimsky must have given one of the most beautifully sung accounts of Alberich, while the tenors Mikhail Vekua and Andrei Popov never resorted to caricature in their interpretations of Loge and Mime. Evgeny Akhmedov was a sweet-voiced Froh, reminding us of his Hylas in The Trojans, At the centre of it all was the majestic Wotan, Vitalij Kowaljow. His voice seemed effortless with every line beautifullu phrased. A further bonus lay in the fact that his vocal tone also bore an uncanny resemblance to that of Scottish bass David Ward, the superb Wagnerian of years gone by.

When it was announced, this idea of a Ring spread over four concerts a year apart and coming from four different sources seemed unusual. But whichever company has been lined up for next year's Walküre will have its work cut out to cap this.

Gergiev and the Mariinsky have recorded Rheingold:-

Performance Cast

Woglinde a Rhinemaiden

Zhanna Dombrovskaya

Wellgunde a Rhinemaiden

Yulia Matochkina

Flosshilde a Rhinemaiden

Ekaterina Sergeyeva

Alberich a Nibelung

Vladislav Sulimsky

Fricka wife of Wotan and goddess of marriage

Ekaterina Semenchuk

Wotan leader of the gods

Vitalij Kowaljow

Fasolt a giant

Yury Vorobiev

Fafner a giant

Mikhail Petrenko

Froh god of joy and youth

Yevgeny Akhmedov

Donner god of thunder

Ilya Bannik

Loge god of fire and cunning

Mikhail Vekua

Mime A Nibelung, Alberich's brother

Andrei Popov

Erda goddess of earth and wisdom

Anna Kiknadze

Performance DatesRheingold 2016

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

15 Aug, 19.30

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