Der Ring des Nibelungen, presented by Opera Australia three years after its première in Melbourne, was a great success, mostly because of the excellence of the singing. Several local singers retained their principal roles, but we had a new Siegmund, Wotan, Loge, Sieglinde, and Brünnhilde, all but the first from overseas. How refreshing to attend a Ring without a single dud individual performance. Four of the main roles – Brünnhilde, Sieglinde, Alberich, Siegfried – were sung about as well as we mortals have a right to expect. Let us hope that Opera Australia – with support from government and patrons – is able to mount a new Ring in the future. Clearly, there is a committed Wagner audience in Melbourne. Rarely has Arts Update been part of such a silent, respectful, avid, and ultimately demonstrative Ring audience. Economists and governments should exult, not just Wagnerites.
Although minor changes were introduced, Neil Armfield’s original production was largely unaltered. Clearly, the singers – many of them engaged and compelling actors – had responded to his close direction. Overall, however, the flaws in Armfield’s production were still manifest, as was the absence of any overarching or identifiable concept. The first and last operas were marred by the pointless introduction and hapless manipulation of otiose supernumeraries. Other effects were jarring. The Ride of the Valkyries resembled a public service drill, and the puny barbecue that encircled Brünnhilde was risible. The Immolation scene was spoiled by a pitch invasion.