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Eminent Wagnerian conductor Daniel Barenboim has been receiving critical plaudits for his ground breaking Proms premiere of Der Ring des Nibelungen but London’s unexpected heatwave seems to be causing more than just the audience to lose their cool.
As musicians battled soaring temperatures at Wednesday night’s performance of Die Walküre, observers in the front boxes were witness to the Maestro’s dissatisfaction with members of his elite Berlin Staatskapelle.
According to The Times reporter, "A thunderous Daniel Barenboim startled the Prommers at the second instalment of his Proms Ring by giving the concertmaster of the Staatskapelle Berlin a visible tongue-lashing at the end of Act II.” The Telegraph agreed observing, “during the applause after the second act, Barenboim had a visibly ugly altercation with the orchestra’s leader.” Speculation appears to suggest that something had gone awry in the double-basses and the concertmaster was the nearest at hand to receive the rough edge of the conductor’s tongue.
Regardless of any tantrums, the clutch of five-star reviews have been incandescent. Bryn Terfel “simply was Wotan”, raved The Times, also praising “Brünnhilde, sung by Nina Stemme with majestically rolling plenitude and emotional sincerity.” The Guardian wrote that “even in a swelteringly sticky Albert Hall, not a note was out of place”, and that the cast “was very close to being as good as any that could be assembled from singers today. With Barenboim there is always the sense of the whole and not just of the passing moment, and it is a precious quality in Wagner.”
Das Rheingold, which lasted nearly three hours, was performed on Monday, when London temperatures reached 33.5C. “It was hot as Hades,” tweeted one audience member, adding that it was “crazy to see the orchestra in tails and ties.” Another twitter user wrote, “I wouldn’t have minded if they’d been wearing t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops”.
The general consensus among audience members suggests that they would support a move to make the musicians more comfortable on stage. “I was dripping in the circle, must have been awful on stage,” tweeted Tiffany Hore. “I like white tie and tails, but pragmatism is good too!”
A spokesman for the 1871 Grade I listed concert hall informed the BBC that plans are in place to upgrade the Victorian heating and ventilation systems. Sadly not in time to help Maestro Barenboim who will have to sweat through four hours of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung next week.
Australian audiences have five days to listen to Die Walküre on the BBC Radio 3 iPlayer.