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SAF 2012: Very Wagnerian Night

May 27, 2012
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Photo credit: Mats Bäcker

Event: ‘Very Wagnerian Night’ by Charlotte Engelkes (as part of Singapore Arts Festival 2012)
Venue: SOTA Drama Theatre
Run: 19 & 20 May 2012
Main cast: Charlotte Engelkes and Lindy Larsson

I should have known. It was Wagner after all and, with no disrespect to the composer, this felt just like how I would feel about Wagner’s pieces – a tad too long. Well, that’s another thing altogether because I don’t think his music was featured much anyway.

It was a play, or rather, storytelling in 3 parts, as part of Engelkes’ Wagner project The Very Ring, which, I believe, is essentially making reference to Wagner’s 4-opera ring cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen among other works. I’m not familiar with Wagner’s  operas, but at least I did recognise one story, which was “Tristan und Isolde“. And it was really a collage of more text than song.

The first segment was “Miss Very Wagner” and has Charlotte going on as being the different heroines in the operas in the role of a (Greek) soprano who has a semi-god mother. The storytelling was rather narrative, and she relates what a good soprano would be and the heroine’s (usual) struggles. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as engaged as I hoped I would be as snippets here and there from the heroic stories were talked about. There were the occasional slight jokes, but you soon realise that the stories were relatively the same, or maybe that’s the whole point. Well, in a way, maybe that’s how stories in operas work. So it goes on and on.
However, despite not getting into the show much, I must admit Charlotte did have a good voice and my, how she worked the props. The pulleys, the sails, the many other hanging props which she moved and tugged around the stage at will as she spoke, and her versatile dress. That’s a lot of manual hard work.

The second segment of the trilogy “Siegfried – The Very Wagner Hero Hour”, was almost similar in style, but now with the focus on the hero played by Lindy Larsson (Charlotte plays the character’s mother). The segment is loosely based on Wagner’s third Ring opera Siegfried. In a similar style, though with less working of props, Lindy plays the hero who did not fear anything until he found love. Good voice too, but the way it was performed somehow reminded me a little of a child’s role-playing game with Siegfried constantly plagued by his mother’s shadow.

Segment three was the preview of “All Is Divine“, the final part of The Very Ring, and a result of a workshop with Singaporean artists that included familiar faces like Darius Tan and Celina Rosa Tan. It’s actually tied to Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, which is essentially a continuation of Siegfried‘s story. Unfortunately, by the time I reached this segment I was already quite tired and trying my best to stay focused on the show, which was slightly a bit more abstract I believe. I must apologise I can’t comment much on this segment as it just slipped past me due to my tiredness.

I guess this wasn’t really my kind of show or I was simply tired out at the end of the day. I did hear some of the audience enjoying it more than me though. That’s the end of the night for me.

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