RECENTLY, I NOTED, WATCHING Bergman’s The Virgin Spring reminded me of Wagner staging of medieval interiors. I was thinking especially of the Hunding residence built around a massive ash tree in Act 1 of Die Walküre. Further research brought me to Charles Osborne’s book The World Theatre of Wagner.
In his Preface, conductor Sir Colin Davis wrote, “Wagner was a composer with whom I could identify even as a child, whether because I liked the noises, or because the stories were about gods and dragons, I am uncertain; probably both.”
Here are tidbits about Wagnerian staging gleaned from this book, together with my usual Internet sleuthing.
Hunding’s Digs. The massive ash tree is a prominent element of this prosperous Neiding’s home. The sword Nothung embedded in the tree adds to the atmosphere, as do the inquisitive glances of Sieglinde (Hunding’s wife) and Siegmund (who turns out to be her twin brother).
Other Wagner operas were perhaps less wacko in their settings, but still noteworthy. The Flying Dutchman, for instance, takes place near Sandwike in southern Norway, with a ghosty ship commanded by an equally ghostly captain seeking redemption through love.
Sort of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, girl loses life for him.
Back to Hunding’s Digs: The Met’s most recent production of Wagner’s Ring employed Robert Lepage’s notorious stage set, The Machine. Hunding’s residence was artfully rendered among The Machine’s adjustable planks, many of them aligned vertically to surround it with other massive trees.
The Latest. Zachery Woolfe’s “Review: The Met Opera’s Next ‘Ring’ Will Be a Sea Change,”The New York Times, November 21, 2021, discussed a new production of Die Walküre. Woolfe wrote, “Richard Jones’s bleak staging of Wagner’s ‘Die Walküre’ in London offers a clean break from the extravagance of the Met’s most recent production.”
Dragonsand Rhinemaidens, Then and Now. Sir Colin Davis’s comments about his attraction to Wagner concur with mine. Who’s not to like dragons raging and Rhinemaidens seductively swimming around?
In the third of the Ring Cycle, Sieglinde and Siegmund’s kid Siegfried slays Fafner, one of the twin giants of Das Rheingold, who’s now a dragon.
The three Rhinemaidens recur throughout the cycle, protecting gold and complicating the lives of those stealingl it.
Over the years, this swimming trio has cavorted behind river-simulating scrims and sliding down Robert Lepage’s Machine. German opera and theatre director Götz Friedrich staged his first production of the Ring at Covent Garden in 1973 –1976; Sir Colin Davis conducted.