The opening bars of Die Walküre immediately establish the danger and excitement in the tale to follow. Zubin Mehta's first downbeat conjures up that tempestuous, ferocious flight, as stage projections show running wolves, passing trees, the legs of a man fleeing whom we eventually see stumbling into Hunding's dwelling. Peter Seifert is the Siegmund, Petra Maria Schnitzer Sieglinde, Matti Salminen Hunding. The stage is dominated with the liveliest tree I have ever seen in a Ring production, always changing hues, and importing an alphabet when Sieglinde gives the name Siegmund to her beloved brother. Costumes are eloquently primitive, Siegliende appearing bound by a rope around her neck, clearly Hunding's chattel that must not get away. The imaginative vision of La Fura des Baus with which we first got acquainted in Rheingold continues and grows in this Walküre. The second act brings back the strong, riveting Wotan of Juha Usitalo and the Fricka of Ana Larsson. It also introduces the powerful Brünhilde of Jennifer Wilson, and without reservations one can honestly say: at last, a Brünhilde! One of the joys of this ring is that the voices are firm, secure, in all cases fresh and young (well, we know Salminen is mature, but the voice is rock-solid and overwhelming, as if the years hadn't passed). The singing is always musical, subtle when called upon by the text, and soaring when they need be. The ride of the Walkyres is as close to a ride as one has ever seen (symbolically achieved)..... with an element of terror in their stride. It is all quite astounding. The final Wotan-Brünhilde scene is eloquent and powerful, with the scenic background, always dynamic, reflecting the momentous parting of father-god and human-to-be daughter. The music, the staging, the singing indeed embody the momentuous rupture of the old order, as indeed from this moment on the demise of the old gods becomes inevitable. Twilight really begins here, with Brünhilde's disobedience and embrace of humanity, which is why Wagner treated Walküre as the first opera in the cycle. The long dénouement of Götterdammerung is the final catastrophe for the gods and the rise of humankind, with Siegliende's soaring phrase for her son in the third act of Walküre, sealing the cycle.
This production is a treat. If one doesn't like what one sees, one can close the eyes and see with the ears as the singing and playing are stupenduous. The sound on blu ray is sumptuous, demonstration quality if you have surround; it's true high-definition sound. And, by the way, there is real fire on stage when the Fire Music plays. I can hardly wait for the remaining two operas, particularly with the much praised young Canadian Lance Ryan as Siegfried whom I've never heard except in YouTube. One is looking forward to much pleasure.