Opera

Opera Australia: The Melbourne Ring Cycle 2013: Die Walkure

****Read Man in Chair’s 2016 review of Die Walküre.****

Sentimental favourite of the cycle, Die Walküre also features the most recognizable piece of Wagner’s music for the Ring. From the gloriously romantic love duets of act one to the thrilling entry of the Valkyries in act three, it is an evening of passion, high drama and heartbreak.

Spoiler alert: if you have a ticket to the Melbourne Ring, come back and look at the photos in this article after seeing the performance live at the State Theatre. Also, note that this is a preview/discussion of Die Walküre, not a review.

Many years after the Gods entered their new home in Valhalla at the end of Das Rheingold,  we meet Wotan’s child Siegmund struggling to find shelter during a heavy blizzard. The opera opens on a small cabin rotating on the revolve. A light is seen in the window, then the cabin is revealed open on one side. Set decoration is detailed and realistic. Siegmund staggers into the cabin, meeting, and enjoying instant chemistry with, Sieglinde. Her husband Hunding returns home and is unhappy to find a stranger present.

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Hunding, Sieglinde, Siegmund

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Siegmund and Sieglinde fall rapturously in love, also realising that they twin brother and sister. Siegmund is now able to pull out the sword Nothung, which was left embedded in the ground by The Wanderer (Wotan).

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund

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In their new home, Wotan and Fricka have built an even more impressive taxidermy gallery, with some twenty preserved animals hanging as exhibits within an enormous white triple-level ramp.

The Melbourne Ring Cycle Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Wotan, Fricka

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Fricka dominates her husband’s will, forcing him to allow Siegmund to die as punishment for incest and adultery.

Wotan explains to his beloved daughter Brünnhilde that he must allow Siegmund to die, as he is not to be the “free” hero that will defeat Fafner and regain the Ring.

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Brunnhilde, Wotan in Valhalla

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Terje Stensvold as Wotan, Susan Bullock as Brunnilde

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Sieglinde and Siegmund enter, exhausted. Brünnhilde explains to Siegmund that he is no longer protected.

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, Susan Bullock as Brunnilde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund

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Hunding enters looking for a fight. Siegmund’s sword is shattered by Wotan, who also angrily dispatches Hunding with a wave of his hand. Brünnhilde flees with Sieglinde and the pieces of the sword Nothung.

The Valkyries fly in on swings to the well known music “The Ride of the Valkyries.” There is a large number of people on the revolve, which turns to reveal the dead bodies from the battle against Alberich.

The Melbourne Ring Cycle Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure, The Valkyries

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The Valkyries place bodies on swings and they fly out. Brünnhilde flies in with Sieglinde, who is pregnant by Siegmund.

The Melbourne Ring Cycle Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure The Valkyries 2

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The Valkyries are too afraid of Wotan to help Brünnhilde.

The Melbourne Ring Cycle Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure Brunnhilde and Valkyries

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Wotan arrives and scatters The Valkyries. As punishment for her disobedience, Wotan leaves Brünnhilde to sleep, but protected by a (real!) ring of fire so that the man who rescues her will at least have to be a hero.

Melbourne Ring Cycle, Opera Australia 2013 Die Walkure

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Humans: Siegmund: Stuart Skelton; Sieglinde: Miriam Gordon-Stewart; Hunding: Jud Arthur

Gods: Wotan: Terje Stensvold, Fricka: Jacqueline Dark

Valkyries: Brunnhilde: Susan Bullock, Gerhilde: Anke Hoppner, Schwertleite: Dominica Matthews, Ortlinde: Merlyn Quaife, Waltraute: Deborah Humble, Helmwige: Hyeseoung Kwon, Siegrune: Sian Pendry, Grimgerde: Elizabeth Campbell, Rossweisse: Roxane Hislop

Conductor: Pietari Inkinen

Director: Neil Armfield

Set Designer: Robert Cousins

Costume Designer: Alice Babidge

Lighting Designer: Damien Cooper

Sound Designer: Jim Atkins

The Melbourne Ring Cycle is playing at State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne until 13 December 2013. Die Walküre plays 20 November, 29 November and 9 December 2013. Running time is six hours, including intervals of 75 minutes and 35 minutes. Details about final tickets can be found at the official Melbourne Ring Cycle website.

A large number of activities are occurring as part of The Melbourne Ring Festival, which runs concurrently with the opera cycle until 13 December 2013.

Photos: Jeff Busby

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