The first and possibly best installment in the Staatsoper’s newly forged Ring Cycle, a co-production between the Staatsoper and La Scala from the Belgian director Guy Cassiers. The sparse yet versatile set (the work of the director along with Enrico Bagnoli) features shallow pools for the Rhine maidens to splash about it, a brick wall and a reproduction of Belgian sculptor Jef Lambeaux’s bas-relief “The Human Passion,” onto which are projected a variety of videos, images and shadows. The moment when the giants threaten of cart Freia off is described by a shadow play from behind the set in which the human-sized Freia interact with the giants’ elongated shadows.
Much of the staging concept is developed by the Toneelhuis, a theater known for blending elements of drama, music, video and dance, an insistently multimedia approach that is a good match for Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk. Much of the video is simultaneously filmed and projected during the performance, yet technology never threatens to overwhelm. It is rare for dance to be so well deployed in the service of the story. The expressive dancers of the Eastman Company (the resident dance company at the Toneelhuis, under the leadership of choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui) leap, slither and contort themselves to become the undulating Rhine, the Tarnhelm’s sorcery or Albericht’s throne.