Nearly a week has passed since I endured the finale of Phyllida Lloyd’s Ring for the English National Opera . I wrote up earlier episodes on CT, so I ought to complete the job. Kathleen Broderick was just amazingly good as Brunnhilde and the orchestra—under the direction of Paul Daniels—played very well. But producer Phyllida Lloyd should be shot, or worse.
Wagnerphobes are going to be mystified at the complaint that a production of the Ring was silly. “Isn’t it always?” Kieran might say. Well, up to a point. This production of Twilight of the Gods was really very silly indeed, but also trite, one-dimensional, incoherent and offensive. I have no objection to modern dress productions of opera or Shakespeare, to radical changes of location or period. That’s fine. If a producer can give us a new insight into a work of art, or make it come alive for a modern audience, that is ok by me. But this wasn’t anything like that.
It was gratuitous and exploitative. (This was signalled before the performance even started by the programme, which contained photographs of the Twin Towers burning, a severed hand amidst post-Tsunami debris, and cows being burnt in Britain’s last episode of foot-and-mouth disease.) The culmination of this urge to grab hold of any random news image or bit of popular culture for shock value was the portrayal of Brunnhilde as a suicide bomber in Act 3. In between we were treated to Siegfried as rhinestone cowboy and Brunnhilde as Judy Garland (opening of Act 1) and Hagen as game-show host (wedding in Act 2). Why does Judy Garland metamorphose into a Palestinian suicide bomber?! I have absolutely no idea.