About Me

I ramble about a number of things - but travel experiences, movies and music feature prominently. See my label cloud for a better idea. All comnments and opinions on this blog are my own, and do not in any way reflect the opinions/position of my employer (past/current/future).

16 March 2012

Wagner's Die Walküre

The Bayerische Staatsoper is one of the top opera companies in the world; and their theater, the National Theater, is in the heart of Munich's Altstadt. While walking around earlier this afternoon, I discovered that Wagner's famous Ring Cycle is being performed in the first half of 2012; and they had just started with Die Walküre, probably the most famous of the lot.

I took a chance and decided to see if there were any tickets left. There were; some of the best seats - center seats in the balcony, and damn expensive too. Ignoring the impact on my credit card bills; I took the plunge - the combination was hard to resist (and this is where Die Walküre had its debut performance to boot). It was close - the opera was scheduled to start in 75 minutes.

The National Theatre is beautifully ornate, but then it is the theater of kings. It is smaller than I thought it would be (given how big it is on the outside); but it still holds a lot of people. The audience was mostly older, and very formally dressed - almost every man had a tie, and they were all fully suited up. Ladies were very much dressed in their evening finery. I was very much out of place!

This production has a very modern feel, and is quite minimalistic in set design. That is not to say that the sets themselves were not interesting with a lot of moving parts to simulate the passage between scenes. The orchestra was conducted by the Japanese-American maestro Kent Nagano, who is also the music director of the Bayerische Staatsoper.

The modern bent did seem to split the audience, especially a little "gumboot" dance at the beginning of Act 3 (before the famous Ride of the Valkyrie music starts) which got both boos and applause. Notable for me, was the vast gulf in the depiction of Wagner's gothic/medieval world in Neuschwanstein and the modern costumes used in the opera. For example, Wotan, the king of the gods, wears a coat of tails and not a full blown Norse god costume.

Although I was aware of the basic outline of the story, I didn't know the details. Being a German opera in Germany, there was no translation either. The action does help in deciphering the story, but the minimalist approach does detract in conveying certain parts. I took the opportunity in one of the two breaks (the total performance is over 5 hours long) to go to the nearby Starbucks and load up on information! The Wikipedia article was particularly useful.

At the end of the opera, there is an interesting fire animation projection on the opera house. It is quite cool to watch as it takes form on the building facade.

I am glad that I did go to see the opera, it was an amazing performance at an amazing venue. Click on photos for a slight enlargement.

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