- The singing and acting of Stefan Vinke (Siegfried), Deborah Humble (Era), and Jud Arthur (Fafner). And the playing of the Melbourne Ring Orchestra – the reeds and horns were especially brilliant during the Forest Murmurs/Woodbird scenes in Act II and the Reawakening scene of Act III.
- The depiction of Fafner/the Dragon’s face via full-screen projections at the opening of Act II. It was a highly effective and economical way to convey in an abstract way Siegfried’s approach to the dragon’s lair. An excellent visual representation of what the music is ‘saying’ at this point.
- The emergence of the mortally wounded Fafner from his cavern and his final dialogue with Siegfried. This was especially powerful because the audience had been introduced to the dragon by the music and opening visuals at the beginning of the act.
- The Act I set. A shallow on-stage proscenium arch cluttered with a mini-fridge, microwave, bunk-bed and other domestic bits and bobs – apparently acquired by Mime at yard sales out beyond the forest’s edge. As if your favorite secondary college decided to do the Ring.
- Most of the stage action in Act I – apart from the re-forging of the sword, where the props served well enough. Harder to accept were Mime’s use of the microwave, Siegried’s pantomime with the bear outfit (where are those stuffed animals when you need them?), the climbing up and down from the bunk-bed, and the image of Wotan on that ratty couch.
- The wimpy blast of red confetti from the entrance to Fafner’s cavern was another descent into vaudeville. Used to suggest the moment when Siegfried administers the fatal wound – as if the music and libretto weren’t getting this across – this lame gesture of scenic ‘display’ undermines a moment of great gravitas and must, I can only surmise, have made it difficult for Jud Arthur to get the drama back on track as he prepared his entrance.
- The recycling of the first act’s proscenium arch as the fiery barrier Siegfried has to cross to reach Brünnhilde. Now instead of having to break through the fiery ring seen at the end of Walküre Siegfried has to use his sword to lift the scalloped gold-lamé curtain and duck through to the other side. It’s certainly more “stagey” in a burlesque sort of way, which may have been the intention. Sources claim that the proscenium used here was meant to emit actual flames, so maybe the curtain was a default solution for the final dress rehearsal. But still, why choose to displace the flames that surrounded Brünnhilde at the start of her nap? And why move her? And who moved her? Why introduce a new design element just because you can?
- What with Brünnhilde being strapped in a packing crate and the resultantly awkward stage business imposed on the singers, this Reawakening scene has to go down as one of the limpest in history. Thank God the orchestra soldiered on so brilliantly.