Town mouse on getting Wagner right

Wagner’s Die Walküre ends with a ring of fire. At last week’s Prom, the Royal Albert Hall felt so hot we might have been inside it. Heaven knows what it must have been like for the orchestra, or Daniel Barenboim, conducting without a score. Could there be a better ‘Ring’? It was enhanced, if anything, by being a concert performance, as the Staatskapelle Berlin staging appears, from the programme, to be accompanied by an intrusive ballet, which would be even more irritating than the idiosyncracies of the Covent Garden ‘Ring’. The new production at Bayreuth, set in Texas, looks alarming. Directors rarely seem to get it right.

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The next evening, we went to the new St James’s Theatre, near Buckingham Palace, elegantly rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous theatre 11 years ago. Having sweltered through our Prom, I wore a short-sleeved shirt and then felt distinctly frappe beneath the modern air-conditioning. But what acting!

The American Plan by Richard Greenberg has a cast of five. Led by Diana Quick, as a Jewish widow, and Emily Taaffe, as her quirky, highly strung daughter, each actor was perfect in his or her role, despite the demands of the accent, and the director David Grindley made their world vivid to us with beautiful economy. Couldn’t someone ask him to do Wagner?

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