There's nothing like wrapping-up a series with a wedding (even if it's a double-wedding from Hell)

(Opera Australia, Melbourne, December 7, 2016) (Dir. Neil Armfield)

With Götterdämmerung, Wagner closes his monumental circle, and not in a particularly happy way.

Or does he?  Why, after their interminable love play concluding Siegfried, does Brünnhilde send her lover off to do good deeds, a la Lucy and Ricky?  Why are the Norns just catching-up with the imminent fall of Valhalla, which Wotan and Erda would have told them about already?  Why, after drinking a Brangäne-inspired potion that moves him to marry Gutrune and kidnap Brünnhilde for Gunther’s convenience (an infamous act that he compounds by slapping her around and stealing the Ring – shades of Rheingold), does he declare he has ‘wooed chastely’?  And why, ignoring the pleas of Waltraute to spurn the ring and return it to the Undines, does Brünnhilde claim her possession as an act of higher love, when we’ve been told for the past twenty hours that the little golden band is pure evil, cursed, and represents a renunciation of love?

It is pretty confusing, borderline perverse, encapsulating yet not resolving the two previous operas and prelude.  The lure and, indeed, the potential of the Ring itself remain elusive.  But most remarkably, the dominant theme of Love itself remains opaque, bearing out Wagner’s startling confession to friend August Röckel in a famous 1856 letter, wherein he wrote: “I had (unfortunately!) never really sorted out in my own mind what I meant by this “love” which, in the course of the myth, we saw as something utterly and completely destructive.”

That said, who cares?  As Abraham Lincoln said to an aide who pointed out that the U.S. Constitution recognized slavery, “Sometimes it doesn’t do to look at a thing too hard.”  And in any case, Götterdämmerung is so daring in its off-the-wall plotting (careering away from Gods and Heroes to Heroes and Cowards, turning new corners and wending back via a recap from the Norns and Siegfried’s ill-advised boasting on that fatal hunting trip), so true to its heroic protagonists and vile antagonists, so wonderful in overall design and so totally beautiful in its rich, complex and heady score, that quibbles become otiose.


‘What’s on your minds, girls?’










In a 2nd cycle in Melbourne remarkably free of clangers, on this final night The Varnished Culture couldn’t seriously fault anything.  The cast were beyond superlatives, balancing huge stamina with complete vocal control.

Occasionally, the bespoke Melbourne Ring Orchestra overpowered the singing, but this was rare and inconsequential – generally the superb ensemble under the wonderful Pietari Inkinen totally nailed the brief, their accompaniment, interludes and leitmotifs so seamless and smooth as to be almost creamy – and they were asked on stage at curtain, in a collective token of appreciation.  (The cast and musicians are listed below).

Nor could we mount our favourite hobby-horse concerning staging.  Mr. Armfield’s invariably sure hand showed here and went beyond the previous evenings’ efforts – the falling curtain of the Norns’; dusk on Brünnhilde’s rocky outcrop; the wedding marquee; Hagen, in turmoil, playfully pointing his impressive gleaming pistol at himself (and, occasionally, the audience), including at his own eye in homage to the original Niebelungen saga; the hunting party with its target shooting and raven flags; the final funeral pyre; accompanied by a clever use of  the revolving stage and deliberate pacing of various characters in the background – all gave the piece a cinematic, dynamic feel that enhanced the dramatics and approached (actually, at times reached) Wagner’s virtually impossible ideal of Total Art.  The Maestro would have approved.

‘Something tells me this tutting is all for nought…’











At the close, the cast and orchestra took a ten-minute ovation with the entire packed Melbourne Arts Theatre on its feet.

We can’t improve on that response, even on mature reflection, which is why we decided to give this production a perfect score.


‘Sonny, if you don’t got the ring, you don’t got no swing’












Lise Lindstrom (Brünnhilde) [Brilliant performance, throughout the Cycle.  As we left the theatre, an elderly gentleman commented, with approval, “Now we can say it ain’t over till the thin lady sings.”]

Stefan Vinke (Siegfried) [Perfect as Siegfried.  Has come a long way since the 2013 production.]

Daniel Sumegi (Hagen) [Terrific nuanced performance as the chief villain.]

Luke Gabbedy (Gunther) [Looks unnervingly a little like Cory Bernardi, but a confident and compelling turn as the flawed Gunther.]

Taryn Fiebig (Gutrune) [Lovely playing of a thankless role.  Up to the conspiracy against Siegfried, sort of redeemed by the last reel.]

Warwick Fyfe (Alberich) [Mr Fyfe is Alberich, in all his scheming, malign glory – even his long and acquisitive fingers seem Nosferatu-like.]

Sian Pendry (Waltraute) [Strong performance in her confrontation with Brünnhilde.]

Dominica Matthews (Flosshilde)

Lorina Gore (Woglinde)

Jane Ede (Wellgunde)

Tania Ferris (First Norn)

Jacqueline Dark (Second Norn)

Anna-Louise Cole (Third Norn)

As they say of a winning team, the cast ‘all played well.’


Roger Jonsson * (Das Rheingold, Siegfried)
Jun Yi Ma (Die Walküre, Götterdämmerung) (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra)

Yi Wang * Acting Co-Deputy Concertmaster
Erica Kennedy *  Acting Co-Deputy Concertmaster
Margaret Blades Principal
Tomomi Brennan * Associate Principal
Matthew Hassall  * Acting Associate Principal
Alyssa Conrau *
Binny Baik *
Rachel Gamer *
Rachael Hunt *
Mara Miller *
Philip Nixon *
John Noble *
Martin Reddington *
Christine Ruiter *
Rebecca Adler
Jo Beaumont
Shane Chen
Julien Dupont
Natalie Favaloro
Mark Fitzpatrick (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra)
Ingrid Homburg
Sophie Hudgell (BBC Philharmonic)
Edwina Kayser
Jenny Khafagi
Miranda Matheson
Ambra Nesa
Ruby Paskas
Lynette Rayner
Lisa Reynolds
Laura Senior
Wilma Smith
Roy Theaker
Olga Vakoussevitch
George Vi
Nick Waters

Paul McMillan * Co-Principal
Isabelle-Fleur Reber Co-Principal (Hamburg Philharmonic)
Caleb Wright Associate Principal
Catherine Bishop *
Jason Bunn *
Nadine Delbridge *
Suying Aw
Ceridwen Davies
Beth Hemming
Tom Higham
Helen Ireland
Matthew Laing
Cora Teeuwen
Shani Williams

Diane Froomes * Co-Principal
Samuli Peltonen Co-Principal (Helsinki Philharmonic)
Josephine Vains Associate Principal
Sarah Cuming *
Philippa Gardner *
Tania Hardy-Smith  *
Andrea Taylor *
Paul Ghica
Rosanne Hunt
Margaret Iddison (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra)
Charlotte Jacke
Molly Kadarauch
Adam Szabo
Zoe Wallace
Paul Zabrowarny

Damien Eckersley * Co-Principal
Matthias Weber Co-Principal (Bayreuth Festival Orchestra)
Dennis Vaughan * Associate Principal
Davin Holt *
Matthew Thorne *
Matthew Cave (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra)
Kylie Davies
Hugh Kluger
Emma Sullivan

Lisa-Maree Amos * Principal
Karen Schofield * Associate Principal
Dominique Chaseling
Rebecca Johnson

Melissa Doecke Principal

Stephen Robinson * Co-Principal
Nick Deutsch Co-Principal (Bayreuth Festival Orchestra)
Joshua de Graaf * Associate Principal
Rachel Curkpatrick
Jessica Foot

Cor Anglais
Dafydd Camp * Principal Cor Anglais
Amelia Coleman Associate Principal Cor Anglais

Paul Champion * Co-Principal
Peter Jenkin Co-Principal (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra)
Justin Beere

Bass Clarinets
Andrew Mitchell * Principal Bass Clarinet 
Robin Henry Associate Principal Bass Clarinet 

Matthew Ockenden Co-Principal (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra)
Lyndon Watts Co-Principal  
Hugh Ponnuthurai Principal Contrabassoon 
Alex Farrugia Associate Principal Contrabassoon

Jasen Moulton * Co-Principal
Sam Jacobs Co-Principal (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
Linda Hewett * Principal Third Horn
Heath Parkinson Principal Third Horn (Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra)
Rachel Shaw *
Andy Fletcher
Ben Messenger
Anton Schroeder

Wagner Tubas/Horns
Euan Harvey Principal (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)
Lee Wadenpfuhl Associate Principal
Sydney Braunfeld *
Roman Ponomariov

Mark Fitzpatrick * Principal
Michael Kirgan Associate Principal (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra)
Daniel Henderson
Tristan Rebien

Bass Trumpet
Matthew Allison Principal Bass Trumpet (New Zealand Symphony Orchestra)

Scott Evans * Principal
Richard Shirley Associate Principal

Bass Trombone
Robert Collins Associate Principal Bass Trombone 

Contrabass Trombone
Benjamin Anderson * Principal Bass Trombone 

Ian Bell Principal 
Chris Farrands
Alex Gilham

Jonathan Woods Principal

Guy du Blêt * Co-Principal
Tim Corkeron Co-Principal (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Richard Gleeson * Principal
Conrad Nilsson * Associate Principal
Evan Pritchard
Daniel Richardson
Scott Weatherson

Julie Raines Principal 
Delyth Stafford Associate Principal 
Alannah Guthrie-Jones Associate Principal 
Loni Fitzpatrick
Azumi Lehmann
Yi-Yun Loei (National Theatre Brno Orchestra)

Jasen Moulton * Co-Principal
Sam Jacobs Co-Principal (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra)
Heath Parkinson Principal Third Horn (Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra)
Rachel Shaw *
Andy Fletcher
Anton Schroeder

Ian Bell Principal 
Chris Farrands
Alex Gilham

Cor Anglais:
Jessica Foot

Richard Gleeson * Principal
Conrad Nilsson * Associate Principal
Evan Pritchard
Stephen Walter (OA Music Staff)
Tom Griffiths (OA Music Staff)
Paul Fitzsimon (OA Music Staff



  1. Reply

    Trevor Clarke

    December 8, 2016

    Very fine tribute and, as always, wonderful review.

    No doubt my wife and I conversed incoherently with you in the immediate aftermath of Götterdämmerung. Forgive us surviving mortals. Coherence struggles to reassert itself post-immolation.

    • Reply

      Lesley Jakobsen

      December 8, 2016

      Dear Trevor, not at all, but anyway, after 6.5 hours of sturm und drang, coherence is less required than a blood transfusion! Thanks Melbourne for a Wagnerian triumph, and the Richard Wagner Society in Victoria in particular.

  2. Reply

    Dr Susan Cumming

    December 9, 2016

    You two write and review exquisitely .....witty, clever, insightful. Yes this 2016 Melbourne Ring is one we will all reflect back was a wonderful experience. Extraordinary is the improvement from2013. Enjoyed meeting you two at RWS pre Rheingold Reception.
    Susan Cumming

Leave a comment...

While your email address is required to post a comment, it will NOT be published.

Leave a Reply

© Copyright 2014 The Varnished Culture All Rights Reserved. TVC Disclaimer. Site by KWD&D.