Reviews of opera premieres usually start with the director. But when the musical qualities of a performance – which, by the way, can be clearly seen in the audience’s reaction – are more captivating than the rest, it is worth turning the tables. This was also the case with the “Third Day” of “The Ring of the Nibelung” at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, which became a celebration of Wagnerian sound magic under the musical direction of Axel Kober. On this day GMD Kober once again emphatically laid down his calling card as a Wagner conductor beyond all doubt. The musical dimension of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung lives above all from a feeling for the changes of scene inherent in the work, the undertones, transitions and above all a simultaneously dense and powerful sound. And sinister gloom, especially when the Alb’s son Hagen dominates the scene. The Düsseldorf premiere united the best of the performance tradition. Robert’s attentive conducting blazed powerfully and incorruptibly, like the Boehm Ring, was as agile and audible as Boulez in his day, as unmistakably emotional as Solti. Such comparisons are limping, but here they hit the core. Kober and the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra pick up where they left off and spice up Wagner with infallible intuition. Their gripping Siegfried Funeral March or Hagen’s vigil.
Christian Oscar Gazsi Laki
One must definitely mention Axel Kober, the general music director, a conductor with a great deal of experience with Wagner, and I believe that at the end of this long journey one realizes that […] there is a great homogeneity, a great sonority and a wonderful discipline with each other. So that’s what I admired most about Axel Kober’s ability to unleash these great masses of sound, but also to hold back and contain them very quickly in order to make the singers on stage be heard. That’s probably the biggest problem you can experience with this enormous music, that the orchestra flattens everybody and you can’t experience anything more of the story. This danger is brilliantly avoided and in return you are presented with a lot of wonderful, full late romantic orchestral magic.
So let’s talk about the singers and the orchestra. Axel Kober led the latter with an energetic symphonic creative will, especially in the interludes. In the funeral march one heard a pulling and stretching and not only the representative bombast of the brass. The transition from the Norn scene to Brünnhilde’s exclamation „Zu neuen Taten” was formed slowly and contemplatively, Siegfried’s Rhine journey in the precisely tuned mezzoforte, happily jumping articulated like chamber music and again and again the horn calls unfolded a spatial panorama with close and distant effects.
The Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra under the very carefully coordinating and encouraging Axel Kober shows time and again where Wagner’s hammer hangs: in the undulating symphonic progressions, in the bleating comments from the teeth of danger, but also in the intimate atmosphere of fear and ghostly premonitions.
The music for this, on the other hand, cooks on a high flame. Axel Kober lets it glow, while at the same time paying attention to the differentiation of Wagnerian timbres. The conductor proves to be a singer’s accompanist with sensitive fine tuning, is emotional and, where necessary, gripping.
This does not apply to the musical side. The Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra under Axel Kober does a lot of good. Power and snappy aggression are just as convincing as pale threats and chamber-musical timbres in Wagner’s leitmotif cosmos.
The music to it, on the other hand, cooks on a high flame. Axel Kober lets it glow, while at the same time paying attention to the differentiation of Wagnerian timbres. The conductor proves to be a singer’s accompanist with sensitive fine tuning, is emotional and, where necessary, gripping.
It hits a pretty good, always captivating, “narrative” tone, less symphonic but more flexibly reacting to the scene, never fat, yet grippingly dramatic and cuttingly sharp when it counts. What happens on stage finds its counterpart in the orchestra pit – and vice versa. There the ring closes on a musically remarkable level.
In addition to a transparent, homogeneous choir, the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Axel Kober once again shone with its exciting, differentiated and expressive design.
In the course of the Düsseldorf “Ring” Axel Kober has increasingly distinguished himself as a Wagner exegete of distinction. The Bayreuth-experienced Rheinoper-GMD is not a structure-obsessed analyst. But he has mastered Wagner’s unique art of transition. He celebrates it with due verve. No wonder that the premiere audience is overflowing with ovations for him and his orchestra.
Musically, the entire Ring is in any case a force with which the Oper am Rhein scores. General musician Axel Kober presents a grandiose finale here with a lot of deep brass. Enthusiastic applause for him as soon as he stands in front of his Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra in the pit. Also for the singers after each act. And then the never ending applause at the end! Standing ovations! Again special applause for Kober.
The fact that the evening will be such a musical event is certainly thanks to Düsseldorf’s GMD Axel Kober. He confidently guides his orchestra through all passages of Wagnerian music, and the Düsseldorf Symphony Orchestra and their boss begin a stirring, highly musical ride through Wagner’s score. Everything is actually right here […]. Balanced tempi, lyrical subtleties in contrast to the monstrousness of the score: this is how Wagner must sound.