So, onto Siegfried. Now we are in 1968 but it’s a rather laid back Danish 1968. It doesn’t reference any of the canonical events of that momentous year though there is a bit of a youth vs experience vibe. Holten doesn’t let us forget that Siegfried is 18 and Stig Anderson, at 60, manages to pull off the look very well. James Johnson’s Wotan, on the other hand, is shown in decline; the elder statesman who can’t retire gracefully, like a Berlusconi or Murdoch. Mime is an ageing nobody hunched over his typewriter and still yearning for some “success”.
Watching this DVD I was struck by how episodic Siegfried is and how that presents staging problems. It really is a series of scenes with not much to link them. In Act 1 we have Siegfried and Mime arguing over the sword, Mime and Wotan playing their riddle game and then Siegfried forging Nothung. Holten accommodates this by creating a three level house and having the scenes move from level to level. It’s quite effective and strong performances from all three principals keep the action moving along.
Act 2 is set in and around Fafner’s lair. Again Holten uses a multi level set. Up top is a toxic wasteland overseen by some sort of sensory apparatus controlled by Fafner. Hagen shows up for some reason and then we get Alberich and Wotan chatting like two grumpy old men at the local diner. Wotan keeps taking photographs, presumably to emphasise his lack of agency. The dragon is a technological illusion controlled by the aging giant who seems almost relieved when Siegfried kills him in rather undramatic fashion. The only thing remarkable about the woodbird scene is that a real dove is used and it seems to behave itself.
Act 3 begins with Wotan paying court to Erda who seems to be dying. She’s on a drip and he brings roses and champagne (Wotan does a lot of drinking!). The sense of “the end of all things” is palpable. The scene between Wotan and Siegfried that follows is fairly classic. Wotan finally realises that his power is at an end. He breaks his spear himself in an act of self-negation. The flaming rocky peak is beautifully staged and sets the scene for the Siegfried/Brünnhilde meeting. Anderson and Iréne Theorin, the Brünnhilde, do a good job of conveying the sexual uncertainty and raging hormones of the young soon to be lovers. So each scene works very well on its own terms and the youth vs age theme just about manages to weave a consistent thread the piece.
Musically, it continues the high level of the previous two episodes. All the principal singers are more than adequate and Anderson is outstanding. Michael Schønwandt is in firm control and the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra plays well for him.