Die Walküre review – Jurowski's Wagner balances speed, pace and drama

Royal Festival Hall, London
Jurowski drew an intense, sinewy sound from the London Philharmonic, while Stuart Skelton’s anguished Siegmund was a highlight

VladimirJurowski and the London Philharmonic are working their way through a semi-staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle, presenting one opera each year until 2021, when Jurowski steps down as the orchestra’s principal conductor. He’s an accomplished, at times painstaking Wagnerian, and his Walküre, for the most part, revealed yet again his understanding of the crucial relationship between speed and pace in this music, and his careful judgment of cumulative momentum and the dramatic flux within it.

He brought lyrical warmth and genuine eroticism to the first act, and plenty of fine-tuned detail to the psychological fluctuations of the second, which he likens, in a programme interview, to “an Ibsen play put inside a Homer epic”. Act three opened with a high-voltage Ride of the Valkyries, though there was a brief, uncharacteristic dip in tension at the start of the Wotan-Brünnhilde duet. Sounding lean and sinewy throughout, the LPO played with scrupulous care and considerable intensity.

Momentum and dramatic flux... the Valkyries in the LPO’s semi-staged Die Walküre at the Royal Festival Hall.
Momentum and dramatic flux... the Valkyries in the LPO’s semi-staged Die Walküre at the Royal Festival Hall. Photograph: Simon Jay Price

The singing was uneven, though the best of it was impressive. Stuart Skelton made a formidable Siegmund, thrilling in his anguished cries of “Wälse! Wälse!” yet passionate, refined and almost bel canto in his scenes with Ruxandra Donose’s Sieglinde. A mezzo rather than the more usual soprano, she sounded taxed in places in act one, and was cautious rather than expressionistic in the delirium of act two, though Oh Hehrstes Wunder soared magnificently when she reached it in act three.

Wotan and Fricka were played by Markus Marquardt and Claudia Mahnke. His voice can fray in its upper registers, though he finely captured the self-deception and rage that lurks beneath Wotan’s authoritative reserve. A tremendous vocal actor, Mahnke, all wounded pride and hauteur, showered him with barely disguised contempt in their scene together. Svetlana Sozdateleva was the tireless, metallic-sounding Brünnhilde, Stephen Milling the chillingly brutal Hunding.

The semi-staging, for which no director was credited, was clean and clear in its treatment of the protagonists, though the indiscriminate use of video projections of foliage, storms, fire and smoke proved at times distracting.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Siegfried review – Jurowski showcases Wagner with wonder and excitement
Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO make the third part of Wagner’s Ring a thing of wonder, raising the bar with an astonishing performance

Tim Ashley

02, Feb, 2020 @4:07 PM

Article image
Das Rheingold review – superb Jurowski hits awesome anvils
Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO were superb in this anniversary semi-staging that marks the start of a new Ring Cycle

Tim Ashley

28, Jan, 2018 @11:20 AM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – war poetry Hollywood-style amid a sea of poppies
This short, left-field remembrance concert sidestepped cliche with Magnus Lindberg, Stravinsky and Janáček, but delivered little emotional heft

Flora Willson

11, Nov, 2018 @12:24 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – ingeniously celebrating Beethoven the revolutionary
The London Philharmonic’s fascinating new series began with irresistible Beethoven alongside Scriabin and Eötvös

Tim Ashley

11, Feb, 2020 @9:15 AM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – a performance of spiritual profundity and depth
Vladimir Jurowski’s Stravinsky series came to a close with readings of the composer’s late works Variations and Threni that captured their severe beauty and numinous quality

Tim Ashley

09, Dec, 2018 @12:26 PM

Article image
Prom 41: LPO/Jurowski review – Russian novelties surprise and delight
Turn of the century compositions by Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov make up a superbly played programme led by Vladimir Jurowski

Andrew Clements

19, Aug, 2019 @11:28 AM

Article image
The week in classical: Anthropocene; Die Walküre review – ice and fire
Tensions rise as an Arctic expedition becomes trapped in ice in Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh’s bold, chilling new opera

Fiona Maddocks

03, Feb, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Oedipe review – Jurowski makes case for Enescu's 'lost masterpiece'
The anti-Freudian Oedipus opera may not flawless, but this performance with the LPO was a superb and beautiful achievement

Tim Ashley

24, Sep, 2017 @2:15 PM

Article image
Zemlinsky: A Florentine Tragedy; Six Maeterlinck Songs review – thoughtful yet intense conducting
Jurowski’s belief in both works is never in doubt in these recordings from Festival Hall, writes Tim Ashley

Tim Ashley

09, Jul, 2014 @5:45 PM

Article image
LPO/Jurowski review – exemplary Mahler ends in a blaze of optimism
Sarah Wegener proved that she is a very a fine Straussian in a group of songs that ended this concert that also featured Wagner’s Tristan prelude and Mahler’s fifth symphony

Tim Ashley

14, Nov, 2019 @12:47 PM