The first in Wagner’s four-part oeuvre entitled “Der Ring des Nibelungen” or “The Ring of the Nibelung”,
Das Rheingold tells the tale of the forging of an accursed ring that will corrupt all who possess it. The
opera opens with the three Rhine maidens, charged by their father with protecting the Rhinegold,
playfully mocking Alberich (Nathan Berg, Bass-Baritone), who is seeking their affection. Spurned by the
sisters, he renounces all love, and steals the gold with the intent of forging the ring that will bring him
Meanwhile, Wotan (Ryan McKinny, Bass-Baritone), chief of the gods, is grappling with his decision to give
his sister-in-law, Freia (Caroline Bleau, Soprano), as payment to the giants for building Valhalla, the new
home to the gods.
His wife, Fricka (Aidan Ferguson, Soprano) pleads with him to show her sister mercy, and so the decision is made that Loge (Roger Honeywell, Tenor) will accompany Wotan to Nibelheim to seize the gold from Alberich and use it to appease the giants and liberate Freia.
Does the story of a golden ring that corrupts its possessor sound familiar? You got it! It is said that this
work was a source of inspiration for J.R.R.Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. As you watch this two-and-a-half hour
opera (without an intermission!), you may find that there is something else that seems familiar.
Wagner drew from Norse mythology in the development of his libretto. So, for those of you as likely to
spend Saturday night at the opera as you are to see a Marvel movie on opening weekend, you will recognize this cast of characters from the Thor comics. In fact, though it precedes it, Brian Staufenbiel’s
set design and direction is very reminiscent of the most recent cinematic foray, Thor: Ragnarok.
The set design is, in fact, quite something to behold. The beautiful use of video projections onto
transparent screens lets you see the the stage through the lense of projection designer, David
Murakami. The orchestra pit is utilized in an innovative way to represent both the depths of the river of
the Rhine maidens and the land of Nibelheim. I know you are now wondering how they could have
access to such a space for storytelling, well that is because the entire orchestra is positioned onstage! A
first in all my time attending L’Opéra de Montréal’s offerings, and a delightful treat. What a wonder to
see the work of those that are only ever heard.
Das Rheingold suffers from certain drawbacks, the animation onscreen does seems dated, a perception
only heightened by the steampunk aesthetic of the production. A curious mélange of Around the World
in 80 days and Tron. In fact, certain technological devices did garner giggles from my fellow patrons. The
cast was well-rounded, with a stand-out performance by Nathan Berg, who’s voice rumbled through the
room. Unfortunately, with a rich cast of basses/baritones and an 81-piece orchestra by their side, Roger Honeywell’s voice was not quite able to carry the load.
All in all, this restaging of the Wagner classic is sure to grip newcomers and challenge season ticket
Photos by Yves Renaud