With the hegemony of the gods at its zenith at the close of THE RHINEGOLD and the gods ensconced in the castle of Valhalla, trouble is brewing in THE VALKYRIE. The mortals are power-crazed, mistrust and materialism rule and all that the gods can think about is enforcing the old codes rather than questioning their raison d’être. Siblings Siegmund and Sieglinde are condemned to death because there is no place for their special brand of love in society. Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie, is charmed by them and dares to defy her father Wotan’s sentence by taking the pair under her wing. In THE VALKYRIE Wagner makes it plain whose side he is on: in the big love scene between Siegmund and Sieglinde, in which the elemental force of love outpunches all social mores, and in the evolution of Brünnhilde’s character, whose conduct is at first motivated by intuitive sympathy but morphs into deliberate action as a protest against inhumanity and injustice.
Scandinavia has a nigh-on hundred-year-old tradition of turning out Wagnerian sopranos. Singers of the likes of Kirsten Flagstad, Birgit Nilsson and Catarina Ligendza are legends of the opera stage and have informed our image of Wagner’s female characters. The new production of the RING revolves around two female protagonists, who are keeping that tradition alive: Nina Stemme, recently seen as Isolde in the Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Lise Davidsen, who is now being feted as a new star in the Wagner firmament following her Bayreuth debut in 2019 as Elisabeth in TANNHÄUSER.