Thursday July 4th
We have just returned from a week at Longborough, a small village in the beautiful Cotswolds where we have attended what we consider to be the ultimate artistic experience, namely a complete, professional performance of Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner. This seventeen hour epic was staged in its entirety over four alternate nights at a small private opera house converted from a barn which originally housed chickens.
Needless to say the size of the house, with an audience of 500, necessitated a smaller staging and a three quarter size orchestra, 70 players as opposed to 110 in a major house. Nonetheless the intimacy of the ambience more than compensated for this and we experienced playing and singing of international standard. Particular mention should be made of the Brunnhilde, Rachel Nicholls. In her first complete realisation of the role she was outstanding, superb voice and completely inhabiting the part. The Siegfried of Jonathan Stoughton, again his first, was superb and both are destined for great careers in the Wagner repertory.
This is another venue where black tie and smart picnic is the norm and the weather was moderately kind giving us two beautiful evenings to enjoy the rolling English countryside during the long intervals.
We attended with about ten other Australians and were privileged to host the conductor, Anthony Negus and his wife, Carmen Jakobi the Assitant Director, on two occasions plus other members of the cast in the cottage which we shared in the village of Longborough less than a kilometre from the Opera House.
Sadly the Melbourne Ring has recently imploded with the sudden departure of the conductor, Richard Mills. We were hoping that Anthony Negus, who has prepared and conducted this Ring so superbly over the last seven years would be invited to rescue the production. It appears, however, that they have picked a 33 year old Finn who has never conducted a complete Ring. We await the results with some trepidation.