Why are there no Valkyries

Premiere at the Deutsche Oper : First "Walküre", at the end "Rheingold"

Opera premieres rarely make it into the “topics of the day”, in which the endless debacle over the car toll naturally resonates more strongly than the ride of the Valkyries. The fact that the Deutsche Oper Berlin is now appearing on the television news is not thanks to artistically explosive statements on current affairs.

It's about the persistence with which the capital's largest music theater stage stuck to the plan to present a new “ring”.

The troubles that this means in times of the pandemic are great and easily make you dizzy when you think about it right. Every morning at 8 a.m., take swabs from everyone involved, then take them to the laboratory, at 1 p.m. the test results decide whether the samples should start at 2 p.m., which can extend into the night.

That means living every day with the fear: What if someone in the narrow orchestra pit actually becomes infected? Then the giant wheels, which were set in motion for 770 spectators, suddenly come to a standstill.

In its own way, Corona brings culture back to where it belongs - on a knife's edge. The virus makes Wagner's gigantic “Ring” tetralogy what it was originally: not entirely manageable. It's just a shame that Stefan Herheim's director can't say anything about all of this, because the concept for the long-awaited replacement of the legendary Zeittunnel ring by Götz Friedrich was submitted to the Deutsche Oper years ago. Apparently nobody read it there.

It's hard to come into play with so much unventilated baggage.

Otherwise it should have been noticed that the dream staging director, a Friedrich pupil on top of that, wanted to say goodbye to his infectious and exuberant power of association on the giant stage on Bismarckstrasse.

To do this, he creates a scenery that strings the imagination in chains from the start. Mountains of old suitcases do not open any rooms on German stages, they are too closely connected to the horror that will forever remain incomprehensible, the Holocaust. Even if a dubious squint succeeds, one cannot get through to the metaphysical homelessness postulated in the virus-free online program booklet.

There are simply too many people in this world on the run for that, every day. Over the course of weeks, Herheim had just under three dozen extras specially tested so that they could carry suitcases and silently marvel at the marital quarrel in the Wotan household.

It's hard to get into the game with so much unventilated baggage. Even if the director fears that references may not be understood, because his "ring" is Corona-related with the "Valkyrie" (further performances: October 1st, 4th, 8th and 11th) and not with the one at the end of the season The “Rheingold” that was delivered later begins - unfortunately, his suitcase theater is not that full of riddles. Herheim's enthusiasm for theater machinery is exhausted this time in a grand piano from which the Nibelungen drama is to be born, which is why this silent instrument can rise up like a tower or carry personnel up from the sub-floor.

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Otherwise, white cloths are hoisted and projections poured over them, as in a gigantic handkerchief trick whose punch line has unfortunately been lost. In addition to the porters, there is a child left behind from the forced union of Hunding and Sieglinde, who kills them in order to go to the laundry with her brother Siegmund.

Fittingly, Wotan crawls laboriously out of the prompter's box in his panties onto the stage after his love spell has descended on the supposedly omniscient Erda himself. The grinning Valkyries clumsily handle the spears, while the dead heroes they collect turn out to be intrusive zombies.

Actors are finally allowed to touch, but sensuality remains hell. At two times 45 minutes, the pauses are longer than the shaking of the head at this visually and mentally desolate representation, but the hall has to be ventilated extensively between the files. If you want to take off the mask, which is mandatory for the entire evening, you can drink a glass at a table that has been booked in advance or stroke the opera house with your collar turned up.

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The kebab stall sells its stock of sparkling wine piccolos, and the leaves are floating over the little place named after Götz Friedrich. His “ring” ran for over 30 years. Then the set had deep cracks, but not the core of its conception. How long does a production actually have to last today? In any case, concentrated obsolescence creates a very autumnal feeling.

Of course, this “Valkyrie” also has a musical side, but it's not strong enough to get away with it. Music director Donald Runnicles, whose liaison with the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper began with the Friedrich “Ring”, chooses a tone that initially promises intimacy. There is no pointless muscle play, no musical fantasies of omnipotence, which disappoints part of the Wagner community. The other then becomes nervous when it becomes apparent that Runnicles conducting is not as singer-friendly as the controlled volume would lead you to believe.

The curiosity about Herheim's “Ring” suffered with this “Valkyrie”.

In the first act, Brandon Jovanovich's Siegmund is caught. When he has to get pithy again before the lyrical meltdown, the strength is suddenly gone. Not because the Heldentenor had to yell at the orchestra for an hour, but because the tempos drag themselves and the muted volume alone does not guarantee any real transparency.

Creeping emaciation is the result. Runnicles also urgently needs to help the murmuring-delayed singing of Nina Stemme's statuesque Brünnhilde. As Wotan, John Lundgren could have shimmered more with his portrait of an audibly counted deity, if everything in the trench had not been directed towards supposed security.

The orchestra has to work its way through the routine in the large line-up audibly. Runnicles goes to work so deliberately that one wonders when the musical Corona bonus will be used up. Then you really want to hear Lise Davidsen again.

In her role debut as Sieglinde, the young Norwegian shows a fine, still slightly flickering glow. The house ensemble contributes further vocal assets: Andrew Harris as the no-frills hunter Hunding and Annika Schlicht as the furiously demanding Wotan wife Fricka.

The curiosity about Herheim's “Ring” interpretation suffered severely with this “Valkyrie”. Even the final volt can hardly counteract: Sieglinde gives birth to Siegfried, while a little man crouches between her thighs. It cuts the umbilical cord with the remains of Siegmund's sword and disappears with the newborn. If one had to describe the figure, a grotesquely crooked nose and a red velvet cap would be remembered. The child kidnapper looks like Wagner's anti-Semitic caricature that never existed. A contradiction, after all.

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