**** Stars

By Carissa Shale

While many of us spent lockdown bingeing Netflix, the Melbourne Opera were busy preparing for this monumental project, culminating in the presentation of the entire four-part Ring cycle in 2023. Staged in the grandiose Regent Theatre, ‘Das Rheingold’ is the preliminary act of the Ring Cycle that will continue over the following years.

The 150-minute work follows the Niebelung dwarf, Alberich, who renounces love and steals gold from the depths of the Rhine, forging an all powerful ring. The narrative explores the power of the ring, and the burning desire of the gods and men who wish to possess it.

Your first glimpse of the production is through the translucent, silver-white dresses of acrobatic performers as they sway from side to side on suspended poles, bringing movement and life to the stage.

The costume design was quite dazzling as the female characters in particular were dressed to impress. With sparkly and flowy gowns, you couldn’t help but be drawn to the beauty of the costume design.

Directed by Suzanne Chaundy, this ambitious production is performed by an all-Australian cast who displayed the skilful, operatic talent Australia brings to the table. A standout performer was Simon Meadows as Alberich, who portrayed the character with a commanding and sinister air, and an effortless baritone.

While the orchestra, conducted by Anthony Negus, took a little time to warm up, they soon found their footing and shone as an ensemble, continuing to improve as the night went on. The musicians spilled out into the stalls in full view of the audience offering a second theatrical performance to observe. It was mesmerising to observe the string section as they seamlessly moved their bows in unison, creating a robust and dramatic sound. However, at times they tended to overpower the singers, and drown out their voices.

Andrew Bailey’s clever set design embraced transformation and used symbolism to represent the different worlds of the production, with the large circular platform in the centre of the stage acting as a portal between the world of the Gods, earth, and the underworld. The larger square drawbridge-like platform was a functional and creative way of swapping between sets, and clearly conveyed to the audience the different locations.

The simple, yet effective set is brought to life by Rob Sowinski’s lighting, which illuminates the set in a theatrical and magical manner. Sowinski’s clever lighting design created uplifting and joyful moods, while soon after brought a chill to your spine.

While there were areas for improvement, Melbourne Opera’s production of Das Rheingold invited the viewer back to the world of live opera with a bang, and left them wanting more.

Das Rheingold was performed at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne on 3, 5, and 7 February 2021, and will be performed at the Ulumbarra Theatre in Bendigo on 21 February 2021. The performance on February 7 was live streamed via Melbourne Digital Concert Hall. You can keep up to date with the next performances of the Ring Cycle via Melbourne Opera’s website.

Images: Robin Halls

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