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Wagner: Die Walkure [Blu-ray]
Wagner Die Walkure
Blu-ray
Actor: Robert Gambill
Director: Stephane Braunschweig
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     4hr 0min

This Die Walkure from the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence features the second installment of what is both Simon Rattle's and the festival's first Ring Cycle. Filmed last year in the recently built Grand Theatre de Provence and ...  more »

     
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Movie Details

Actor: Robert Gambill
Director: Stephane Braunschweig
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: DTS, Classical
Studio: Bel Air Classiques
Format: Blu-ray - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/11/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 4hr 0min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: French, English, German, Spanish, Italian

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Movie Reviews

ORCHESTRAL TRIUMPH, VOCAL DISASTER
An opera lover | Rio de Janeiro, Brazil | 01/16/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra steal the show. The playing of the Berlin Orchestra under Simon Rattle is sumptuous. It is enormously helped by the high definition sound recording in DTS-HD 5.1. In orchestral performance, this may not be the best version of this opera, but it will certainly find a place among the best.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the singers. Only Eva-Marie Westbroek, as Sieglinde, is thoroughly convincing vocally. The other three main singers (Siegmund, Wotan and Brunnhilde) are completely unsatisfactory. Robert Gambill, as Siegmund has serious problems with the most dramatic moments, though he can sing delicately in some moments such as in the Wintersturme; Sir Willard White is more impressive physically than vocally. But the most serious problem in the cast is the Brunnhilde of Eva Johansson. To much strain in her voice, far from being a good Brunnhilde. How come that another better singer was not available? Her perforfance as actress is not entirely convincing, since she tries to compensate for her weak vocal performance by exaggerating facial expressions. Mikhail Petrenko is impressive as Hunding, but only physically. His voice, however, is too light to convey menace. It is difficult to forget Matti Salminen in this role. Lilli Paasikivi is OK as Fricka.
Part of the difficulty faced by the singers is due to their own limitations but part is due to the balance between orchestra and voice. In Bayreuth the orchestra is hidden, so that its sound does not cover the voices even in the most powerful tutti. But here, in Aix-en-Provence, the orchestra is completely exposed; therefore, its sound is much stronger, forcing the singers to their limits. In the Ride of the Valkyries, there is a moment when it is not possible to hear the voices of the 8 Valkyries singing together, so powerful is the orchestral playing.
I confess I do not like these modern stagings of Wagner's opera. This one is not one of the worst I have seen, but minimalist stagings of Wagner's opera are beginning to become repetitive.
Sound recording is wonderful in DTS-HD. I have not listened to the opera in LPCM Stereo, but I do not think it will be necessary. Image quality is also very good. This is one of the few classical music recordings in 1080p. Even in blu-ray, there has been a tendency for 1080i resolution in most classical music blu-rays. So we have to congratulate Bel-Air for their decision to release the opera with the best possible resolution. Another point in favor of this recording lies in the fact that it is in one blu-ray only, instead of the expected 2, and considering it is a 4 hour opera, we would expect to have 2 discs. Of course, there is the disadvantage of the inexistence of extras, such as interviews, making of, etc. But the main attraction - the opera itself - is there in one disc."
Wagner Turns Blu
Gandharva | 01/08/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It's curious, although perhaps fitting that Die Walküre would emerge as Wagner's first work to be released on Blu-ray. After all, this opera is about transitions. Rather than advancing the Ring narrative linearly, Die Walküre tells its own story and still stands as the turning point in the Ring cycle. It sets into motion a sequence of events whose effects become known by the later consequences revealed in Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Consequently, Die Walküre can stand on its own requiring nothing logically prior to it. But enough of that. Let's get to the Blu-ray.

Wagner in high definition. Let me just say that this is a home video medium that can finally begin to do justice to his work. The video on this disc, filled with numerous close-ups that draw the viewer in, is superb even while falling short of reference quality for the Blu-ray format. The audio, presented here in DTS HD 5.1 is crystal clear and fully dynamic in its range. Experiencing the 1080p image on a 100" home theater screen with high-end audio is like being in the opera house, but at the same time more intimate - sort of like being on stage with the performers and feeling their parts as they do. It is a very personal and profound experience. This is the way opera, and Wagner in particular, is meant to be experienced.

The performance is from the Aix-en-Provence Festival in 2007 and is part of a Ring cycle that will conclude in 2009. Reviews have been generally positive and there is optimism for continued success in the remaining operas. There has also been controversy, mostly over the production. So what else is new?

The minimalist staging of Stéphane Braunschweig will not appeal to everyone. In fact it may appeal to very few. The stark well-lit sets offer a confusing mixture of style that is imaginative, but dull and occasionally absurd (Wotan actually puts his daughter to sleep across three red French Louis XV parlor chairs). At the curtain call the audience was generous to Braunschweig with polite applause. He was lucky.

The costumes designed by Thibault Vancraenenbroeck are equally bizarre. Siegmund and Sieglinde don matching floor length white Victorian capelets as they run off together into the night. With his battered army fatigues underneath, Siegmund looks downright clownish in the attire. Wotan wears the same coat in black. Hunding looks like James Bond. Only Brünnhilde with traditional helmet and shield looks appropriate for her part.

Fortunately, the singing fares much better. The highlight of the performance is Eva-Marie Westbroek as Sieglinde. From unhappy housewife, to excited lover reunited with her brother, to horrified witness of a brutal killing to exalted mother-to-be, Westbroek covers the full range and captures every nuance both vocally and dramatically with great aplomb. When she sings O hehrstes Wunder, one expects all the angels in heaven to rally to her cause.

The oft-maligned Robert Gambill plays a weary, battle-scared Siegmund. It seems operagoers either love this guy or, well, they don't. In any case he usually delivers what one expects so generally he neither surprises nor disappoints. Depending on your view, Gambill is either fortunate or unfortunate (by means of comparison) to be paired with Westbroek. Physically they are a believable couple with considerable onscreen chemistry. Vocally, however, Gambill is no match for Westbroek. Nonetheless, any fair and balanced criticism of his performance should not be overly harsh. He is able to sing with great tenderness in Winterstüme wichen dem Wonnemond.

Mikhail Petrenko plays Hunding not as a burley woodsman, but as a coldhearted KGB assassin. Right from his opening line to Sieglinde, Du labtest ihn? (Did you help him?), we know he is lethal. When he took a brief bow with the others at the close of act one, he remained in character and gave the audience the same icy stare that made Sieglinde tremble at the very sight of him. His singing was adequate, perhaps even more than that, but all I remember about him was the menacing look of a born killer.

We first see Wotan as the silent observer of Siegmund and Sieglinde in Act 1. Dressed in a gray suit, he stands and sometimes sits off to the side in one of the aforementioned red chairs where he looks the part of a business manager watching rehearsal. When he appears at the beginning of Act 2, Wotan is seated at a table playing war games with toy figures. Really. Fortunately Sir Willard White - made all the more fearful and imposing by wearing a glass eye - has the stage presence to quickly overcome this childish and misguided start. He delivers a powerful portrayal of Wotan although his stage presence is at times more impressive than his singing.

Brünnhilde is played with a slight wobble by Eva Johansson. Still, she demonstrates fine vocal range. She was forceful without too much strain when required and still capable of poignancy and subtlety in her third act duet with Wotan. Dramatically, Johansson can be prone to some exaggerated movements and facial expressions that are not flattering in a Blu-ray close-up; this is a shame because she is otherwise attractive and a welcome addition to the Wagnerian sopranos corps.

The mountaintop gathering of the Valkyries is staged on a platform of steep steps where the girls are carrying fallen heroes (dummies dressed in battle gear) up to Valhalla. It's not as bad as it the image may convey and some clever lighting effects that create snow peaked mountains at least make the scene appear outdoors. Hojotoho is meaningfully delivered and Rattle has the Berlin Philharmonic in full splendor for this big orchestral moment.

It would be hard to imagine the BPO giving a more inspired performance under the baton of another conductor. I would not have thought that beforehand. Rattle is in full command and intuitively seems to know just where to add the right dramatic musical punch to bolster the narrative. The BPO really delivers the goods here. This is playing of a very high caliber that is ideally suited to the advanced audio capabilities of Blu-ray. It makes one even more eager to hear the next installment.

No one will declare this a definitive Walküre even for home video. The production value is far too weak and some of the vocal performances are uneven. On the other hand, Westbroek is magnificent and probably unequaled on any home video format. Rattle and the BPO are similarly hard to beat. Those two things alone would make this performance worth viewing. When you throw in the real star, Blu-ray, it becomes essential viewing. This presentation is far and away the best that a Wagner opera has ever looked and sounded outside of the opera hall itself."
Great and enjoyable version
Ortega Matas Josep | Sant JuliÓ de L˛ria, Andorra | 08/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I am no professional musician or critic, but I have hearing different versions of Die Walküre for at least 40 years, including Karajan's, Solti's, Furtwangler's, Levine's, Boulez's, and others. So my first comment is that I enjoyed this version very much and was emotionally moved by it, which in the end is most important.

I specially like Rattle's direction and the great performance of the Berlin Philharmonic, which seems at times to sound like a chamber orchestra.

The setting is a moder one, rather minimalistic, but for once I found it acceptable. Still, I found Wotan going under the table when Brünnhilde tells him Fricka is coming absurd and out of character.

As to the singers, I liked Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde, she manages to sing and act convincingly. Robert Gambill sings with no fault that I can discern, but acts more like he was drunk than tired. Sir Willard White and Wotan is a bit more solemn than tormented, and Eva Johansson as Brünnhilde is excellent, but a bit too defiant in the final scenes. I loved Mikhail Petrenko as Hunding, he managed to scare me off, so I can imagine his tyranny over Sieglinde. Good Fricka by Lilli Paasiviki.

I highly recommend this recording."
Visual disaster made in France
Eckehart | 05/05/2010
(2 out of 5 stars)

"if the french could simply refrain from laying their hands on Teutonic arts, they would have made contributions to the civilization, and everyone would have thanked them...but as in this case, they totally ruined wagner's die walkure by some of the stupidest stage arrangements. the singing is so so, but the stage setting is unpleasant visually,not to mention some of the singers sweated like pigs, ehhwww... that's french's sophisticated wagner interpretation... and my $50 down the toilet."