(Richard Wagner) (1845) (Met, December 2015)
An old-fashioned, rollicking and surprise-free production, beautifully sung and shockingly acted (Johan Botha can’t even manage to convincingly strum the symbolic lyre) with James Levine leading the orchestra (James Jorden in The Observer rudely suggesting that he “flapped his baton like a wounded bird”).
Terrific early Wagner, with a stark and invariably crass look at a medieval gallant’s perennial struggle twixt sacred and profane love – the orgasmic overture leading on to the writhing, wriggling Venusberg – replete with smudged borders between high church and low conduct, and a fairly unsatisfying denouement. Leaves on a staff? Come off it!
The Maestro had yet to strike the total art he worked feverishly towards, and the Paris re-run was famously ruined by thugs from the Jockey Club – but this is still a stirring Met production with lots of highlights.