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The Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires commissioned Cord Garben to distil Der Ring des Nibelungen to seven hours of music so that the four operas could be performed in one day. Garben completed the brief using Wagner’s own notes, give or take a few minor alterations to aid musical flow, and Katharina Wagner agreed to direct. Great in theory, until she arrived a few weeks before the premiere to find that very little was ready to rehearse with, at which point she leftthe production and the Argentinian Valentina Carrasco took the job on – was she brave, foolhardy or just mad?

Maybe all three, but the ensuing weeks of slog and panic created a truly magical production. Carrasco’s concept is that Alberich steals not gold but a baby from the Rhinemaidens, and it becomes clear that this is a reference to the ‘children of the disappeared’, those born to people who vanished in the military dictatorship in Argentina in the 1970s. This develops into a complex and multi-layered interpretation and Carrasco is quite unflinching in her direction. Sets are simple but mobile and inventive, the lighting (Peter van Praet) exemplary. The conductor, Roberto Paternostro, keeps things on the move, the tempi are swiftand the two orchestras play their hearts out.

The cast works unbelievably hard and with a great spirit of collaboration. Linda Watson is on her best form as Brünnhilde and Jukka Rasilainen is an intelligent Wotan. I particularly liked Marion Ammann’s radiant Sieglinde, Kevin Conner’s ambiguous Mime and Leonid Zakhozhaev’s shaggy Siegfried. The musical cuts are sometimes jolting but do emphasise the narrative. If you are investigating the Ring for the first time, or would like to view it in one sitting then this is a wonderful opportunity; if you are a purist, or find the cuts intrusive, it may enrage. I chose to watch it in one go and was overwhelmed. The accompanying documentary is unflinchingly honest in outlining the twists and turns of the production’s development and is fascinating to watch. Highly recommended.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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