Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Der Ring Des Nibelungen|
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Studio: Wea-des Moines Video Release Date: 12/04/2007 Run time: 917 minutes
Superb Ring DVD; Highly Recommended
John DeWald | London, England | 12/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Creating a filmed version of a work that was intended to be experienced in the theatre is never an easy task, and even the best recordings often disappoint on at least some (even if nonessential) levels. This recording of the 1991 and 1992 Kupfer and Barenboim Ring Cycle is, without a doubt, among the best recorded versions of an opera I have ever seen, and one of the undisputed highlights of my dvd collection. Whether because of the wonderful cast, superb orchestra and conducting, or (largely, if not always) enlightening design and direction, this production simply works. Despite being rather a traditionalist myself, I found the design of this production to be mostly remarkable, visually arresting and intellectually stimulating more often than not. The costumes and staging have a distinctly modern, largely minimalist feel, yet they nevertheless manage by and large to do justice to the sense of timelessness that keeps Wagner's masterpiece relevant almost 150 years after it was first performed. There is enough of tradition here to retain the sense of historicity that should be a fundamental part of any good Ring Cycle, respecting its foundation in ancient myth as well as looking simultaneously to the future. Having said that, there are moments when the production looks to the future in ways that I don't find particularly enlightening. The whole post-nuclear destruction premise jars in my opinion with what the focus of the Ring ought to be, and the interjection in the final minute of what is purely the director's fancy is in my view completely wrongheaded and distracting. Nevertheless, new productions wouldn't be worth seeing if they all attempted to merely copy the romantic traditionalism of, say, Otto Schenk's Ring for the Met (which is, as far as traditional productions go, as good as they come. In that vein, the production is just about perfect, featuring scene after scene of picture-perfect romantic imagery the way the Ring was meant to be performed. However, I tend to tip my hat to the Kupfer production, as it is, I think, more dynamic and exciting overall. But both are excellent), and to the most part, Kupfer strikes new ground in ways that are interesting. And of course, while qualities of a production are important to note in order to differentiate it from others (and on the whole, I do think this one of the best, and certainly my favorite of the 'modern' Rings), any version of the Ring must stand or fall by the virtue of its cast, conductor, and orchestra; and the music itself is marvelous. I personally love John Tomlinson's Wotan, and he is beyond a doubt among the recording's greatest virtues. It should be noted that his voice is not one that everyone loves equally in the role; for sheer beauty and elegance of phrasing, one would do better to seek out James Morris in the Met's recording. However, I cannot imagine anyone portraying Wotan more powerfully on the stage, imbuing him with a stronger sense of the admixture of pride, power, and ultimate world-weariness that exemplifies the character, and I would recommend anyone interested in the Ring at least witness his wonderful performance. The rest of the cast is of a similarly high quality, with other highlights including Siegfried Jerusalem's excellent Siegfried and Anne Evans's brilliant and heartrendingly poignant Brunnhilde. The interplay between Tomlinson and Evans is especially striking; one really had the sense of two operatic giants on the stage--theatric spectacle at its best, and alongside Barenboim's lush orchestration, its most profound. This is, overall, one of the most dynamic Rings, well-acted and quite often thoroughly riveting--which is, ultimately, one of the main reasons I would choose it as probably my favorite despite quirks in the production.
In summary, a masterful production of one of opera's most difficult works to conceptualize and stage well. Ideally, one would want to own this as well as the Schenk production to pair the best of the traditional with the best of the new; however, for a single recording, one can't do wrong with this one. Highly recommended indeed."
I DOUBT YOU COULD GET A BETTER 'RING' ON DVD
Bryan Leech | Melbourne, VIC, Australia | 09/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John deWald has given an excellent review, but I think a couple of additions could be made. I would suggest you read this in conjunction with his review.
By the time he had reached the Ring, Wagner had passed the bounds of opera. The Ring is more correctly described as music-drama, for in this work (and Parsifal) the dramatic element is as important as the musical element, an aspect that is hard to recognize from CDs. After years of listening to the work on CD, I finally saw this work via this performance (I was lucky enough to see it on a 100" screen and hear it through an excellent surround system; all of which helps give an impression of "you are there"). And it was at that point I realized I was experiencing something greater than what we normally class as opera.
Although this production had four different directors, they revealed a similar conception in understanding the work. And the performers and conductor tied it all together so that you are not really aware different directors were involved.
The presentation is abstract, and once you become aware of the nature of the work, you realize that is the only legitimate treatment for it. I have seen advice that for your first DVD Ring, the Met production might be easier as it is a more traditional staging. This statement suggests the director was apparently trying to treat the Ring as a traditional opera and did not properly understand what he was directing. Let me add, I normally dislike abstract settings, but in this case it is the only option and really works.
This production is justifiably famous. It has a cast of outstanding singers, with no weak link (and Wagner is very demanding on his cast). But they are all outstanding actors as well - essential for a production true to Wagner's intentions. The acting has strong focus on the emotional interactions between the cast and this is where DVD makes all the difference. Add a conductor like Barenboim who shows complete understanding and mastery of the work and there is little more you could ask for.
And that little more is the technical side of things. Apart from outstanding lighting, camera work and video direction, there is no sign of the age of this performance. It dates from 1991-2, but the 16:9 image is crystal clear with perfect color, and the 5.1 DTS sound is of demonstration quality. Balance between orchestra and singers is perfect as well. The impact of this production was of an intensity I have never experienced in a long life of exposure to music. I could only cope with one part a week.
In summary, if you want to understand and gain the full experience The Ring can provide, and in a virtually perfect performance, this set is the perfect choice."
Bigger than life!
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 01/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sorry for such a long review, but Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen is bigger than life.
Don't let the Rheinmaidens' 1980s punk-rock look put you off. Their costume style works well with the yellow-green laser lights that set the stage for the Rhein scenes. To handle the difficult staging of Wotan's and Loge's travel to and from Nibelheim, there are endless industrial-stlye stairways. Likewise, in the closing scene of Rheingold, where Wotan and the other gods enter Valhalla, instead of a rainbow bridge, they use a well-lighted, pyramidal elevator.
So with all these unconventional staging surprises, why is this such a great DVD set? The widescreen format and surround sound help us focus on the great singing and acting in this performance.
John Tomlinson is a convincing, energetic Wotan. Alberich is sung (and acted!) at his very best by Gunter von Kannen. Fasolt and Fafner are, as you would expect them, bigger than life. Eva Johansson is a younger than the usual, and very appealing Freia.
Perhaps conductor Daniel Barenboim and director Harry Kupfer chose such a "modernistic" way of staging the opera in order to direct our attention to the exceptional singing and acting of the cast, which I should add is matched by the superb quality of the sound that Barenboim gets from the Bayreuth Festspiele Orchestra.
If I could have only one DVD set of Rheingold, this would be my choice.
Paul Elming and Nadine Secunde are the best Siegfried/Sieglinde couple I have seen. They bring youth, vitality and joy to their discovery of love scene that Ring viewers have come to love. At the same time, Barenboim's exquisite control of the orchestra's intensity allows us to hear Wagner's leitmotifs--signature tunes--one after another, in a dazzling way that adds another dimension to the scene on stage.
Just when you think that the highlight of this Walkure will be Siegmund/Sieglinde, along come John Tomlinson and Anne Evans with a Wotan/Brunnhilde that is electrifying. Near the end of Die Walkure, along with the touching love between Wotan and his daughter, who disobeyed him in order to try to please him, we are treated to perhaps the best-ever introduction of the Siegfried/Redemption theme that we will hear later in Gotterdammerung.
The laser light show used by director Harry Kupfer seems especially effective, augmented by lots of clouds of smoke for the closing scene featuring the Magic Fire music.
You should find this a very memorable Die Walkure, both for the unique stage effects and the superb singing and acting.
If you are familiar with Richard Wagner, then you probably know of the leitmotifs, or signature tunes for which he is well-known. This technique is showcased here, as Barenboim helps the themes come through during the conversation between Mime and the Wanderer, as Wotan describes all the things that he has encountered in the world.
The acting adds immensely to the power of this performance, as is illustrated by the way the Wanderer casually notices the broken pieces of Notung, Siegmund's sword, during his conversation with the evil dwarf. What could top fine acting, singing, and a conductor who makes sure we hear the leitmotifs?: Siegfried's sword forging. Siegfried Jerusalem excels in this supremely challenging role. It's difficulty lies in requiring a combination of singing and acting ability, AND ability as a percussionist. Siegfried's hammer has to tap out the hammer blows in synchronization with the orchestra--not an easy thing to do while you're concentrating on your singing and convincingness as an actor.
Graham Clark joins the ranks of the most brilliant portrayals of Mime. A hero is amplified when the villain is convincing. Graham Clark is one of the most wily and agile Mimes.
Want more reasons why this is such a great Siegfried?: Anne Evans whose Brunnhilde joins Siegfried to really heat up the stage in the Magic Fire music. Really--no one has sung "Sei Mein!" (Be Mine!) so passionately, and with all the leitmotifs swirling around you will be dizzied by the heat of their love.
Most productions of Gotterdammerung tend to drag until the exciting finale where Brunnhilde returns the Ring to the Rhein. Because of Barenboim's diligence in ensuring that all the leitmotif "signature tunes" come through, this Gotterdammerung is less susceptible to the dragging periods. Siegfried's and Gunther's swearing Blutbrudershaft is punctuated by leitmotifs recalling Alberich's curse and the doom that clouds this brotherhood. It is a reverse image of Wotan and Loge as they bargain with Alberich, way back in Das Rheingold. Barenboim sees that Wagner's leitmotif reminds us of that.
Just as Siegfried Jerusalem seemed born for the role of Siegfried (at least namesake wise), so Waltraud Meier makes an exceptional Waltraute. Her admonitions to Brunnhilde remind us of why Gotterdammmerung is taking place: the gold must be returned to the Rhein.
Gotterdammerung is only as powerful as its Brunnhilde. Anne Evans delivers that power, maintaining a stage presence and seizing Hagen's spear, even breaking it in two.
Perhaps it's Wagner's reminder to take a look at mankind's history of destruction, but in the bonus section, Daniel Barenboim explains how the final scene was filmed before the terrorist attack in New York on September 11th. Much as the world watched this horrible destruction on their tv sets, Gotterdammerung ends with "the cocktail set" watching the action on tv sets on stage. Wagner seems to have wanted us to watch and reflect on what we had just witnessed.
Beware false English subtitles
Redrick | 05/07/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is IMHO the best sounding Ring since Solti. Barenboim's conducting is wonderfully engaging throughout and the cast, especially Tomlinson as Wotan, equals or bests any other.
One big warning: the Wagner haters who seem to be in charge of all things Wagner, including Bayreuth, other than the actual poems and music, have here taken one small step further in their campaign to de-Wagnerize Wagner. The English subtitles do not always honestly portray Wagner's poem as being sung by the characters. Sometimes this is just to fit in some cheesy, unfunny double-entendre. But elsewhere they actually interfere with the plot and time-line of Wagner's drama. So be warned.
Kupfer's production is typical Euro-silliness that for the most part doesn't get too much in the way of the music. But the video director- one Horant H. Hohlfeld- seems to take delight in distracting us at some of the most sublime moments to cut to a close-up of some Kupfer silliness or other. For example, in Act I of Siegfried just when Tomlinson reaches the climax of the gorgeous "Auf wolkigen Hoehn wohnen die Goetter" we cut to a close-up of Mime mouthing the word "Wotan". Wagner makes it clear a few minutes later that Mime has identified the "Wanderer" so we really don't need all this childishly over-clever clutter.
And Kupfer often has the characters behave in a way that is the direct opposite of the way Wagner is portraying them musically. For example, in Rheingold the gods are being portrayed musically as noble and dignified while Kupfer has them ineffectually running back and forth on the stage with no motive either in the Wagner-drama or the Kupfer-drama. This kind of thing forces the singers to make some choices vocally and interpretively that they would not otherwise, and explains some of the oddities if you've listened to the CD set or the DVD one without watching (not a bad choice).
To show what this is bringing us to, when at the end of the tetrology (or trilogy-plus, if you like) Kupfer does some little schtick with a little boy escorting a little girl across the stage and off I found myself thinking, "That's kind of touching." The thing is, Wagner's original was more than a little "touching".
Still, this is the DVD set to get. The music is superior and all the other productions are even worse- including the Met's, which by at first appearing to follow Wagner's intentions and then failing to do so becomes a fraud as well as a travesty."