Shades of Siegfried and great Gotterdammerung!! Anna Russell was off on one of her wildly improbable rides last night, filling the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with her hearty "ho-jo-to-jo's" and making her usual delirious Valhalla stop plus visits to such unlikely attractions as the hanging gardens of Babylon and the after-dinner musicales of pre-television Australia.
Irrepressibly irreverent, Russell shimmied onto the stage in ann orange dress, the layers of fringe on which formed an impudent counterpoint to her perpetual motion.
Following that peculiar logic of hers, she made the migration from national anthems, to an exposition of Verdi's "Nabucco," to the first opera singalong in history seem hysterically inevitable. The flow of talk and gestures and song never stopped. When she announced that it was opera time and people expecting Wagner's "Ring," began to clap wildly, she coolly launched into Verdi, saying "Not that one -- it comes later. We have to broaden our horizons, you know."
She returned in the second half in a dress of swirling blue chiffon, flapping its great winged sleeves like a Rhine maiden, foreshadowing the Wagnerian epic to come. Recollections of home entertainment in Australia became the excuse for an engaging series of portraits, in which Russell convincingly ran the musical gamut from deep-voiced uncles singing of the sea and drink to a fades music-hall queen sighing over her past glories.
And then, at last, it was time for the Russell classic, her singular guided tour of Wagner's "Ring" cycle. Mounting the piano bench like Brunnhilde climbing onto her steed, Russell launched into her summary of what she described as "the only grand opera in the world that comes in the giant, economy package."
It was, as always, glorious.