Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Copenhagen Ring The Complete DVD Set|
Actors: Stig Andersen, Irenie Theorin, Gitta-Maria Sjoberg, Johan Reuter, Stephen Milling
Director: Kasper Bech Holten
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
First release of the acclaimed recent Ring Cycle production at the Royal Danish Opera. Striking, memorable and controversial staging by Kasper Bech Holten. The action, experienced as an extended flashback, presents Wagner ... more »
The best DVD production of the Ring
Chyron | Antwerp, Flanders, Europe | 09/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This Ring is different from all other Rings on DVD and is mostly successful in what it aims to bring. It is wonderful to have this pinnacle of operatic spectacles in a staging worthy of the subject, a stage with `actors who can sing' as Wagner wished it. The singers do act as if in a movie and the DVD has been filmed as a dramatic movie, not as a static stage performance though a live stage performance it of course is. This may at times be a bit tiresome as images and image angles may seem to switch a bit too often but most of the time by far this cinematographic approach pays off well and enhances the drama without disturbing the operatic enjoyment. The result is an experience unlike the live experience in the opera house itself but I'm inclined to say the choice was well made. After all, a film on DVD is not a stage performance even if it is based on one.
Staging and acting, all of the visuals are evidently extremely important in a DVD release and the Copenhagen Ring gives you decors to relish and acting on a very high and convincing level indeed. As in the Boulez Ring, the acting closely follows the music and specifically the text though it may sometimes appear to stretch the imagination a little too far. The film quality in itself is superb and so is the sound.
Speaking of sound, the orchestra is more than up to the task. No one I think expects this orchestra and this conductor to give the best-ever performance of Wagner's Ring on record. It is however more than adequate to deliver a good reading that never disappoints and often impresses.
There are moments when the singing (never less than adequate, often quite good) struggles without really succeeding to rise above the orchestra. It is noticeable and thus it is a blemish albeit a small one and more forgivable in a live performance than in a studio recording.
A few remarks on the side : Hagen acted splendidly but his voice was less impressive. Siegfried in Götterdämmerung was not that strong either. Brünnhilde was great.
There was one scene that I thoroughly disliked : the Norns in the introduction to Götterdämmerung really knew how to irritate me, making by exaggerated playacting a parody out of what could have been an original idea (casting the Norns as members of the audience), it simply does not fit in the whole and to me it stands out as a black spot on this otherwise quite excellently directed Ring.
I feared for even worse when the curtain rose on Siegfried and Brünnhilde's farewell scene and uncovered a sight that awakened horrified memories of Konwitschny's Götterdämmerung (for those who watched it in the Stuttgart Ring) : you will see Siegfried donning an apron to start doing the washing-up (à la Konwitschny) but then Brünnhilde gestures him not to be silly and to take it off again, and the story starts at last to unfold again in a Wagnerian mould. So was this only a director's joke ? If so, I find it out of place in a production such as this one.
In short, this is a very good production and a very good DVD release with some weak moments that do not fundamentally alter the overall impression of a rewarding experience. If it weren't for the Norns, I'd give it overall five stars despite of a number of imperfections here and there. The first three parts of the cycle deserve five stars, the fourth only four (without counting the Norns) or three (when counting the Norns).
Should you watch this Ring ? Yes, absolutely.
John Converse | 08/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Royal Danish Opera clearly wanted to create for itself some international prestige, and went all out with a Ring production to compare to any other. There is a ton of scenery, a superb cast even without a single Big Star, wonderful conducting, and an intriguing director's concept. Even the most jaded Ring veteran will find many a detail to ponder--the Rhine gold as a naked swimming youth, or the way the ring leaves physical scars on those who wear it. By comparison, the Harry Kupfer Bayreuth staging is cheap and ponderous, with a kind of "I'm Bayreuth, I don't have to have scenery" feeling to it. Cheap, I call it. This one is elaborate and fascinating."
Blood, Booze, Brutality
harmless drudge | Philadelphia, PA | 12/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Reactions to this Ring production have been varied; see other posted reviews. As with most "modern" productions, there are liberties taken with the settings, costumes, and interactions among the characters that may be stimulating or irritating to the viewer. Rheingold takes place in the early 20th century (1920s?). The maidens cavort about dressed as "flappers" in a nightclub; Alberich drinks like a fish; the gold is personified as a young adult male swimming in a lobster tank. The first scene introduces three motifs that recur throughout this production: booze (all the major male characters drink frequently -- no doubt a comment on their weakness), blood and brutality (besides the scripted deaths additional characters are bumped off, always in a graphic, brutal manner). This is not a "PG" Ring. As a Ring lover, I found most of this production entertaining and often provocative. One effect of living in our time with video and audio recordings readily available is that a performance of the Ring is not a particularly unusual event. To be special productions have to introduce novel interpretations. So far, thankfully, the music and libretto have not often been violated; that leaves the setting, costumes, and stage action as the domains for creative directors. The major conceit in the Copenhagen production is the the idea that Brunnhilde seeks out the history of her predicament between Acts 2 and 3 of Gott. The earlier operas become something of a flashback; she appears periodically (often during scene changes in the earlier operas) pouring over diaries and souvenirs (from Valhalla's library?) that recount the history of the ring. Although great effort went into achieving this effect, for me all of this effort doesn't add or subtract much from the production. And it certainly doesn't make the production a "feminist" Ring cycle. The power relations are the same as any traditional production. (How could they be otherwise without changing the libretto?) The men are clueless (Siegfried), short-sighted (Wotan), and evil (Hagan) as they make the decisions and wield power; wisdom rests with the women (Erda, Fricka, and eventually Brunnhilde) -- but that's just as true in traditional productions because that's what Wagner wrote. There are a few touches that suggest a "feminist take" such as the sword pulling scene in Act1 of Walkure. Brunnshilde's discovery of the history of the ring hardly makes the production a feminist one. I have focused on this point because several reviewers suggest some radical feminist interpretation; by and large I didn't see it. In addition, Brunnhilde is not so ignorant of the ring's history as this production implies; she gets much of the story from Wotan in the Act 2 monologue (Walkure) as well as from Waltraute in Act 1 of Gott.
Normally, I would not reveal a surprise ending but other reviewers already have; Brunnhilde appears at the beginning of Gott. visibly pregnant and delivers the child during the immolation scene; this makes for an uplifting, warm conclusion but hardly fits with Wagner's intent that the race of gods are destroyed at the end of the cycle (Brunnhilde and Siegfried are not "pure" humans)
Each succeeding opera in the series moves the action closer to the present era. For example, in Gott. Siegfried returns from wooing Brunnhilde for Gunther in a Mercedes. For the most part, modernizing the production works and the similarity between the brutality displaced by Hagan and his minions to that we have observed in recent years in Bosnia, Iraq, and so forth is striking and can be unsettling (that's a compliment). For me the most chilling scenes were the theft of the ring from Alberich in Rheingold and Hagan's watch in Gott. Speaking of Hagan, many reviewers have applauded his acting but found his voice a bit weak. Nevertheless, the evil 3 (Hagan, Alberich, Mime) were among the best singing actors in the production. Most of the cast did a fine job; not as brilliant as some of the classic audio Rings, but certainly more than competent. Altough old timers like myself often wax nostalgic about Nilsson, Traubel, Varnay, or Flagstad, none of the aforementioned grand ladies (or comparable grand men of the past) could act (or more accurately were required to act) like the singers in this production. I thought all the singers did a great job of acting and a very good job (more variable here) of singing. The cast and production was worthy of any of the "great" opera houses.
The quality of the film is excellent; sharp images; vivid colors. My only complaint is that because it is shot like a movie with multiple cameras and perspectives, the camera often jumps around excessively and there are too many way-too-close closeups. Wny film makers think viewers enjoy seeing the pores of the actors and the fillings of open mouthed singers is beyond me.
Before closing, I want to single out the production of Siegfried. Often, this opera is considered the most difficult to bring off successfully. In this production, the set was great and, for once, the opera moved along without dragging.
I've rambled too long, so to close, I recommend this Ring along with the recently released, but quite different, Amsterdam Ring to stand along with the Barenboim, Boulez, and Levine efforts. It certainly may not "click" with some viewers (hence the wide range of opinions posted here), but it is never less than entertaining and thought provoking.
A Ring that makes you think
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 10/06/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"People are calling the Copenhagen Ring the feminist Ring and that is certainly true. The meta-structure is Brunnhilde discovering her heritage at the end of Act II of Gotterdamerung. That is certainly true. But it is also a relational Ring. I have seldom seen the level of interaction between characters in an opera. The video helps (or hurts depending on your prejudices) by its close ups especially of other characters than the one singing. For example in Rheingold Woman and Loge are casing Alberich's realm while Mime whines about his life.
It is also an extremely violent Ring. Many more characters die than in Wagner's libretto. Only Brunnhilde makes it out alive. The death of Siegfried is especially gruesome. But then so are all the deaths.
And finally it is an alcoholic Ring. Alberich gets staggering drunk in the first scene of Rheingold. Woman carries around a liquor flask from which he swigs frequently. Siegfried passes up liquor in the first act. Bit by Gotterdamerung he has developed quite a taste for booze.
The violence and the drink help to make the case for the brutality of patriarchy. Again and again the production team (and this is a team effort) delivers a shock. And then upon reflection you realize that although not in Wagner's libretto it is not against the plot or the music. Indeed some of the actions seem right on.
This is the most exciting Ring I have seen. You can't wait to see what they will do next. And for me most of the things they do add to my understanding of the work. Setting it in the 20th century brings home what it is about. They have taken Wagner's original as archetypes and then enfleshed them in concrete 20th century characters and situations. I feel it works very well. I'm not sure someone with no knowledge of the Ring would make of it, but for this confirmed Wagnerholic was an eye opener.
So what about the cast - the singing and acting. It is not the best sung on DVD. But it is damn good. The only flaw in the cast is Hunding who simply does not have the weight in his voice for the role. This is too bad since they have a great bass in Hunding who is truly menacing in this production. All the singer appear to be Danish or Scandinavian. The only one I know is Stig Anderson and I feel he delivers the finest Siegfried I have ever seen. He manages to incarnate a teenager wonderfully even though his face is a few decades older than Siegfried's 18 years. Then in Gotterdamerung he becomes the oaf: even before the magic potion he is cruising Gutrune. Someone has said that they find this Ring cold. I believe it is the first time I have actually shed tears a Siegfried's death. Brunnhilde almost matches him growing from girl to woman. Above all they can sing.
Approaching the end of Gotterdamerung every one wonders how they will bring it off, if they will bring it off. They bring it off, but before the transform the Immolation scene beautifully. This is usually a stand and deliver scene. Not here. When Brunnhilde addresses Woman she really does so. He is seated in a huge chair with this back to the audience waiting to die. Before Brunnhilde has addressed Siegfried's corpse. As Siegfried dies Brunnhilde is with him. Put these two scenes together and you have a final love duet - each singing to the silent partner. It you love the Ring you owe it to yourself to see this magical production from Copenhagen."