Das Rheingold at the Royal Festival Hall was, all told, a disappointment, but it might not have been had there been one or two more rehearsals, and a replacement of one of the singers. Vladimir Jurowski plans to perform the whole Ring cycle in due course with the LPO, but he needs to remember that memories are still very fresh indeed of Opera North’s transcendently wonderful performance at the same venue in 2016. That showed, among other things, that you can semi-stage the Ring cycle with some imaginative lighting, a minimum of meaningful movement and no props.
This new Rheingold looked, for the first few minutes after the Prelude — superbly played, and for once faithful to Wagner’s dynamic markings — as if there was going to be some interaction among the singers, with the Rhinemaidens singing to one another and taunting Alberich. But when it came to stealing the Gold, where lighting effects could have helped, he merely sang his defiance and hurried into the wings.
Unlike the Opera North Ring, where the singers were in front of the orchestra, this lot were in a walled area behind it. They were also on various levels, and it remained unclear to me whether, for instance, Fricka standing head and shoulders above Wotan indicated superiority of some kind. There were occasional interactions — Alberich physically bullied Mime, Loge sat nonchalantly on the organ’s keyboard, Wotan ripped the non-existent Ring from Alberich’s finger, Fafner beat up Fasolt until he rolled out of sight — but they were haphazard, and the drama consisted, for me, mainly in seeing what would be semi-acted and what wouldn’t be. Mostly the singers sang straight out to the audience, so that the characters’ brilliantly intricate reactions to one another went for nothing.