qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

Our Tune

"Absolute" music can be turned into "Programme" music (by publishers, or by other subsequent accidental associations); it's possible that Strauss waltzes are an example of programme music turning into absolute music, which is a rarer event. Another thing that happens to programme music is that its programme can be changed. For example, does The Ride of the Valkyries conjure up images of the Daughters of Wotan on horseback, or a fleet of helicopters? For me, the image is more surreal: in the midst of a thunderstorm, from over the horizon, emerges a fleet of black Morris Minors. This dates from the time when uitlander owned such a car, which was not entirely waterproof.

On Monday kharin and I set off as soon as the off-peak train tickets would permit, in the hope that we would get into the Proms queue before it became pointless after all the publicity about Placido Domingo's Proms debut. In the event, arriving at about 11am, the queue was surprisingly small - I got ticket number 50, and so we were quite far forward in the arena.

The atmosphere in the queue was serious; perhaps partly the nature of the work to be performed, perhaps partly the current tension in London and the notion that this must be one of the most high profile concerts of the season, perhaps partly that queueing for six hours is not something to be done lightly. The Wagnerphiles discussed whose Ring they preferred, which Glyndebourne performances they had seen, dusted off their libretti and catalogued their record collections.

The extended nature of the work makes it all the more remarkable for the small number of characters on stage at any one time: mostly Wagner's writing is for only two or three characters - Siegmund, Sieglinde and Hunding in Act I; Wotan and Fricka, then Brünnhilde and Sieglinde in Act II; and finally Wotan and Brünnhilde in Act III. Only in relatively small sections is the stage more crowded. I struggled to remain attentive towards the end of Act II, which was a shame, but fortunately the long interval between Acts II and III was sufficient recuperation.

The Valkyries were an odd bunch and did look rather like the identity parade from Never Mind the Buzzcocks, but they could certainly sing. From the raucous Ride of the Valkyries at the start through to the sublime Magic Fire Music at the end, Act III contains so much of the action as to make the opera a little unbalanced, but perhaps not so unbalanced as the oddball in the audience who was determined to conduct much of the opera himself.

At the end of each act, the audience erupted into the most exuberant applause and cheering I have ever heard. For me, this was not the best Prom concert I have ever attended, but that is down to taste rather than any technical criteria. I didn't go specifically to see Domingo, but he was excellent and deserves his reputation. Bryn Terfel and Lisa Gasteen were superb, as were all the other singers. Due to Proms overload, I missed Rattle's Das Rheingold last year (though I listened to it on the radio). I don't know how they can better these performances: the Proms for 2006 and 2007 have a lot to live up to for Siegfried and Gotterdämerung.
Tags: music
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