Part I of this review ended with the First Act of "The Valkyrie". Act II was startling in a negative way: Cord Garben eliminated both the few lines where Wotan summons Brünnhilde, and her famous War Chant "Hojotoho". And he cut the whole of the basic Wotan-Fricka duet in which she wins her essential point: Siegmund must die. She does say a few words to Brünnhilde, preparing her for the news. Brünnhilde looks unkempt and unattractive. The setting: a stepped platform and a stairway. Wotan´s narration to Brünnhilde, though with internal cuts, still infringes one of Garben´s sayings: it tells the audience something we already know. The solemn "Todesverkündigung" ("Death announcement"), in which Brünnhilde tells Siegmund that he will die like a hero and be transported to the Walhalla, is heavily cut, but at least we get to hear that Siegmund is ready to sacrifice his sister-lover and commit suicide so that both will be together, which decides Brünnhilde to save him in his duel with Hunding.
The final scene is poorly solved. In those times warriors fought clean, one against the other, but Hunding comes with a group of supporters ( La Fura dels Baus´ mania with filling up scenes with superfluous people; Valentina Carrasco remains a member of the company). The few lines in which Brünnhilde convinces Sieglinde to follow her are cut (silly thing to do) so what is in itself a strong, compact section lost focus.
Oh my, the Ride of the Valkyries! (beginning the Third Act). What a mishmash. The girls are supposed to come from a battlefield whence they will lead heroes to Walhalla. The confused, messy staging was hard to fathom, but seemed to involve (I may be wrong) Gurkhas and Argentines. The music was cut by half. Brünnhilde and Sieglinde come in, the latter flees into the woods. Then Wotan comes in, always in military costume (well, he is the Lord of Battles, but in a different context). Several opinions around me in the intervals and after the ordeal seemed to think that Wotan was Perón and Fricka, either Isabelita or Evita. Freaky. I prefer Wotan.
This was the most heavily cut of the Ring: 1 h 10' out of close to 3 h 50' . Logical, for it is the relatively weakest, but still some of the cuts were grievous. The First Act began with the final bit of the Prelude and showed Mime (Alberich´s brother), who has raised Siegfried after Sieglinde´s demise in childbirth. Supposedly we are in a miserable cavern, but no: same basic decor, an ugly big modern building, this time with indeterminate things hanging around. Siegfried bursts in and behaves as an arrogant bully throughout. Enormous cuts, including the whole Mime-Wanderer scene. (Wanderer is Wotan psychologically transformed; now almost powerless, he wanders about the world, waiting for the inevitable destruction of the Gods, the penalty for having broken sacred pacts guaranteed by runes). The Forge Scene is reduced to half, in a clumsy staging, whereas Wagner is painstaking in describing the whole process of forging the sword Notung out of the fragments broken by Wotan.
Act II. The cuts are phenomenal: everything from the start up to the battle against Fafner (the former Giant is now a dragon in custody of the Nibelungs´ gold hoard). So, no dialogue between Wotan and Alberich, no venomous exchange between the two dwarves (Alberich and Mime), no warning to the dragon; but unpardonably, no "Wood murmurings", the intensely poetic scene in which Siegfried shows his other side of close connexion with Nature. And when the battle comes, ridicule rises to unbeatable heights: the dragon is a group of people led by Fafner in a wheelchair (as in "The Rhinegold"). Another terribly clumsy staging, the "dragon" dies. Then Siegfried kills Mime. Following the instructions of a little bird, Siegfried scampers off, full of desire for the woman that sleeps on the top of a mountain.
DIE GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG (THE TWILIGHT OF THE GODS)
The longest opera, 4 h 40', was reduced to 1 h 57', and again fundamental passages were omitted. Garben mentions "coherence" as his goal, but I don´t think he approached it. The Prelude and the Norns were cut, no big deal. The brilliant duet of Brünnhilde and Siegfried, "Zu neuen Taten", was included. The bare rock was instead a two-story modern house. The marvelous "Siegfried´s Rhine journey" was shortened, and incongruous images of a big modern boat sailing were mixed ahead of the action with the "palace" of the Gibich brothers, just another modern house. After the Prologue, we now have the sad remains of Act One, terribly cut, without the solemn oath of brotherhood between Gunther and Siegfried promoted by Hagen, Gunther´s half-brother and the son of Alberich, essential information that we are not given. And the whole Second Tableau is cut: in it, Siegfried, looking like Gunther due to the magic helmet, abducts Brünnhilde. Waltraute´s essential narrative telling Brünnhilde about the Gods´ decline is thus obliterated.
Second Act. Big cut in the initial minutes. It avoids the Alberich-Hagen dialogue. Blissfully the only choral scene in the whole Ring is retained. When Brünnhilde thinks that she is betrayed seeing Siegfried with Gutrune, an absurdly damaging cut eliminated the dramatic Oath between Brünnhilde and Siegfried. At least the terrible Vengeance Trio is in, though not the final pages of the Act.
Third Act. The dialogue between the Rhine Daughters and Siegfried is cut. Hagen, Gunther and other people join Siegfried, who with a new Hagen-provided drink
is no longer amnesiac and tells (with some cuts) the story of his life until in ecstasy he recalls waking Brünnhilde. Gunther now understands Hagen´s felony. The son of Alberich kills Siegfried (can you believe it?) with a golf club!
THE MUSICAL SIDE
Perforce I must be brief. The Colón´s Orquesta Estable was augmented: the normal 99 had an additional 86 under contract, and these uneasy blends alternated (what a waste of money: why not use the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, who has been idle these weeks?). They put in a brave effort with mostly good results apart from notorious fluffs, and they were well conducted by Roberto Paternostro (debut) who showed stamina and knowledge in his hard job. Professional work from the Choir under Peter Burian.
Singers: all made their debut except Stig Andersen (Siegmund) who had sung Siegfried here in 1997. Unnecessary imports: the Rhine Daughters and the Valkyries; another waste of money for roles that could be covered by local singers; but they were disciplined and correct. Best singers: Linda Watson (Brünnhilde), a strong voice with a long line; the excellent Loge of Stefan Heibach; the very musical Andersen; Simone Schröder (Fricka); Kevin Conners (Mime); Gary Jankowski (Fafner). Leonid Zakhozhaev (Siegfried) was firm and agile though not subtle; Jukka Rasilainen (Wotan) gave little expression to a plum of a role, though he has a serviceable voice; Daniel Sumegi is big-voiced but woolly (Hagen, Fasolt, Hunding); Marion Ammann was a communicative but vibratoed Sieglinde; Andrew Shore acts well as Alberich but lacks the black force the part requires. Sonja Mühlbeck-Witte was a correct Freia and Silja Schneider a too fluttery Bird. Gérard Kim was an adequate Gunther and Sabine Hogrefe a dull and dowdy Gutrune.