Need Wagner have made Siegfried quite so objectionable? Thomas Mann called him a “buffoon, god of light, and anarchistic social revolutionary all at once”, but it’s not just simply buffoonery, rather innocence tarnished with insolence and the petulance of an overgrown child who’s a bully. Yet in Longborough Festival Opera’s new production, the third stage of its Ring Cycle, directed by Amy Lane, the suggestion is that, brought up by the appalling Mime (Adrian Dwyer), he couldn’t be otherwise. A case of nurture contaminating the nature-boy, who learns better things when out on his own in the wild.
All of this can make the first act an attempt at reconciling disparate elements, while at the same time wondering whether Siegfried has a voice which will last the night. Bradley Daley had the requisite stamina and heft, and, appropriately, seemed to achieve his most convincingly impassioned sound when forging the magic sword and fired with the idea of finding Brünnhilde. Julieth Lozano’s delightful Woodbird – drawing on some of the vibrancy of last year’s Cunning Little Vixen and with a streak of rusty red in her hair to boot – is a talisman for Siegfried and, as the first female voice in a long haul, also for the listener. This relationship is nicely handled, notably by conductor Anthony Negus bringing out delicacies in the score, played with finesse by Longborough Festival Orchestra. A special shoutout for the player of Siegfried’s horn-call.
For all that it’s Siegfried’s journey and his opera, it’s the role of the Wanderer – Wotan in self-imposed exile from his Valhalla home and in disguise – whose presence is key. Paul Carey Jones, silver-maned and bearded, moving with a dignified grace unimpeded by a heavy floor-length overcoat, was in most impressive form. His clear and expressive projection of the words brought significance to every twist and turn of the Wanderer’s reasoning – with himself as much as those he questions – and the burnished tone was often glorious, particularly in the third act scene with Mae Heydorn’s Erda.
In terms of the production, the moments when the background visuals – of the rushing Rhine or the woods – are in tandem with the music work better than the rather ramshackle stage set and props. But the singing and acting, including Mark Stone as Alberich and Simon Wilding as the dragon Fafner, helped overcome reservations. And in the turmoil and ecstasy of Brünnhilde’s awakening by the enlightened Siegfried, with Lee Bisset’s rich soprano soaring, Longborough’s reputation – and with it that of Negus – for honouring Wagner was once more underlined.
• Siegfried is at New Banks Fee, Longborough, on 1, 3, 5 and 7 June.