The Rhinegold Reviews – English National Opera ★★★★

A reviews round-up for English National Opera’s production of The Rhinegold, which is now playing at the London Coliseum.

The Rhinegold (Das Rhinegold) is the first part of Richard Wagner’s epic four-opera Ring Cycle, performed by the ENO as part of a five-year collaboration bringing Wagner’s magnum opus to the London Coliseum.

Olivier award-winning director Richard Jones returns to ENO after his 2021 production of The Valkyrie, working alongside ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins, conducting the ENO Orchestra.

Wotan, played by John Relyea, is accompanied by Frederick Ballentine (Loge), former Harewood Artist, Madeleine Shaw (Fricka), Christine Rice (Erda), Leigh Melrose (Alberich) and James Cresswell (Fafner), amongst others. 

The Rhinegold is running at the London Coliseum until 10 March 2023.

Read reviews from the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Evening Standard and more.

Book tickets to The Rhinegold at the London Coliseum

Average Critics Rating

The Rhinegold reviews

The Times

"ENO’s Ring has lift-off in this witty, cheeky show"

"Yes, only one performance is world-class — Christine Rice’s magisterially sung Erda — and, though he accompanies the singers sensitively, conductor Martyn Brabbins still sounds like he’s learning how to paint Wagner’s textures. Yet this show has plenty of company spirit and, more importantly, it made me smile more than any Wagner I’ve seen."

"Jones’s staging, allied to John Deathridge’s mostly snappy translation, prioritises storytelling."

"The sets (Stewart Laing) and costumes are an austerity mish-mash. Where it counts, however, Jones makes witty stage magic. "

Neil Fisher, The Times
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The Guardian

"Witty and insightful, Jones’s production delivers an emphatic win for ENO"

"The Rhine shimmers, the gold dazzles and the gods posture – Richard Jones has by and large gone back to Wagnerian basics for his assured and cogent staging. In the pit, Martyn Brabbins and ENO’s orchestra add lustre"

"There is an awful lot riding on English National Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Rhinegold. Still reeling from funding cuts, the company needs an emphatic theatrical winner to prove its artistic health and direction. Mostly this new Rhinegold – the Ring cycle’s opening opera – delivers that, and then some."

"Jones’s characteristically fertile and witty treatment occasionally overreaches.... The aesthetic, though, is unmistakably Jones & Co."

"Brabbins conducts with a surer touch than he had in Valkyrie. The busy changes of Rhinegold make it feel more his piece, as they do with Jones. As the evening evolves, the ENO orchestra warm audibly to their work, achieving refinement in Erda’s scene and weight in the Valhalla entry that follows."

"The whole cast project John Deathridge’s idiomatic translation with such audibility that the surtitles often seem a needless intrusion."

Martin Kettle, The Guardian
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i News

"So damn good, it might just save the ENO"

"Richard Jones doesn’t do in-between productions: either it works or it doesn’t. This one really does"

"The director Richard Jones doesn’t seem to create in-between productions: either it works or it doesn’t. This one really does. Rest assured that the nudity warning covers, ahem, only a few seconds."

"Jones brings fresh air and biting pertinence to the opera. With designer Stewart Laing, he creates a broadly futuristic setting for Wotan – the oak-toned John Relyea – and his gaggle of indolent fellow gods (detailed performances from Madeleine Shaw, Julian Hubbard and Blake Denson). Dancers and puppeteers incarnate the Rhine, manipulating the Rhinemaidens (splendidly sung by Eleanor Dennis, Idunnu Münch and Katie Stevenson), an incel-like Alberich (the charismatic Leigh Melrose) and a scarily infantoid heap of gold."

"Bravo to John Deathridge’s English translation, perfectly preserving Wagner’s preference for persistent alliteration, and to the tremendous orchestra, though sometimes Martyn Brabbins’s well-balanced conducting needed a tad more electricity."

Jessica Duchen, i News
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The Telegraph

"Lycra and sequins: the ENO’s new Rhinegold is a cheap delight"

"The second part of the company’s Ring cycle is the first of the four operas, and its sumptuous singing atones for last year’s drab Valkyrie"

"There were mutterings last year about the drabness of Richard Jones’s Valkyrie. A grey box framed action that flirted with TV-realism... This Rhinegold, armed with more glitter than a drag convention, should allay some of the naysayers’ fears."

"Jones is good at puncturing reverence. His instinct for the grotesque, for comedy that catches in your throat, finds more fertile ground in this chapter, where venality and self-interest are skewered on every side."

"Canadian John Relyea is a luxurious Wotan, primal instincts contained by a business-suit, but still capable of being stirred – as by Christine Rice’s sumptuous Erda. His roomy bass finds a foil in Frederick Ballentine’s charismatic Loge, the demi-god of fire, all smiling prevarication and bright agility: he’s a welcome shot of energy in another chapter that glows, but lacks some galvanising propulsion from Martyn Brabbins’s pit."

Alexandra Coghlan, The Telegraph
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The Stage

"Sky-high musical standards"

"Wagnerian epic falls visually short, though the music is superb"

"Over several decades the director has given British companies some of their most rewarding productions, and there’s a lot about The Rhinegold that will make audiences think about the much-debated meaning of Wagner’s tetralogy set in a world of gods, giants, dwarves and dragons that, among other aims, clearly sets out to attack capitalism."

"Musical standards, though, are sky-high, with a set of individual performances that it would be hard to beat, notably from John Relyea’s vividly sung Wotan, Madeleine Shaw’s determined Fricka, Katie Lowe’s agitated Freia, Blake Denson’s vocally hefty Donner and Julian Hubbard’s vacuous Froh."

"ENO’s orchestra has a terrific evening, all departments demonstrating total command. A valuable asset to the company, conductor Martyn Brabbins superintends a thrilling account of Wagner’s endlessly inventive score."

George Hall, The Stage
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The Evening Standard

"A feast for the eyes but the flavours don’t quite add up"

"The blazing fusion of music and drama is only kindled in the closing stages"

"As though to compensate, in the curtain raiser to the tetralogy, The Rhinegold, designer Stewart Laing provides a feast for the eyes, with a shimmering curtain that serves as backdrop for all four scenes."

"There’s singing of considerable promise from Leigh Melrose as a psychopathic Alberich, Frederick Ballentine as an artful Loge, John Findon (Mime), Blake Denson (Donner) and Julian Hubbard (Froh). On this occasion, Christine Rice didn’t quite realise her full potential as Erda and some of the other singing was frankly disappointing."

"The best productions of Rhinegold teem with ideas and grip you from first to last. This one has some arresting inspirations but the blazing fusion of music and drama is only kindled in the closing stages."

Barry Millington, The Evening Standard
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📷 Main photo: The Rhinegold - English National Opera. Photo by Marc Brenner

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