In Joachim Schlömer's production, we don't start out in the River Rhine, but rather in Valhalla, which is an elegant Gilded Age mansion. The entire cast is on stage for the opening chords, which in this atmosphere seem ominous. They gradually melt away during the overture, but characters are often on stage when they aren't "supposed" to be, creating unexpected interactions or observations which transform or highlight relationships. Fasolt's attraction to Freia, for instance, is established before the giants' "first" entrance. (My interpretation was that it had also been spurned; according to the notes in the booklet, however, Freia reciprocates Fasolt's affection and they are cruelly kept apart by politics. I did not get this at all.) The production as a whole reads Rheingold as a drama of intrafamilial and social conflict, rather than a fate-of-the-world myth. Alberich, in an ill-fitting suit, is subjected to cruel and crude bullying at the hands of the Rhinemaidens and Wotan and Loge. The social status of Donner and Froh is uncertain; Froh could be a tennis pro. Freia has to wear high heels of oppression, while Michaela Schuster is Fricka as a businesswoman of near-caricaturish ruthlessness, intelligent and manipulative. (The element of caricature came from her aggressively unsuitable suit, not her expressive singing.) The giants are businessmen with briefcases. I'm not sure of the Rhinemaidens' social status, either--they seemed awfully pert and entitled if they were intended to be the gods' servants--but they were well-sung and fun to watch, with Margarete Joswig a wonderfully vivid Flosshilde.