Where Das Rheingold introduces us to the gods, underworld denizens, and giants who inhabit the world of Wagner's Ring cycle, the second of the four operas, Die Walküre, focuses on the interaction of men and gods. The turb... more »ulent orchestra brings Siegmund, Wotan's earthly son, into the home of his vicious enemy, Hunding, whose wife Sieglinde turns out to be Siegmund's newfound lover and twin sister. The gods meddle in their showdown battle, with Wotan bowing to his wife Fricka's demand that he uphold the sanctity of marriage by allowing Hunding to win. Wotan's favorite daughter, Brunnhilde, sides with Siegmund, earning Wotan's unbridled anger. She manages to shelter the now-pregnant Sieglinde, though, before being banished forever from Valhalla to a mountaintop ringed by fire. Like its predecessor, producer Harry Kupfer's Barcelona production of Die Walküre is spare and symbolic, the darkened stage dominated by the ash tree from which Siegmund extracts the sword planted by Wotan years earlier. Lighting transforms the stage with brilliant effects, creating striking images like the screen backdrop upon which light bars symbolize the ring of fire with which Wotan surrounds the mountaintop upon which Brunnhilde sleeps until a brave hero will wake her. Such bold strokes are sometimes sabotaged by scenes of the Valkyre sisters wandering around the stage aimlessly or of Brunnhilde painting Siegmund's face with white paint, transforming him into a warrior in a Noh play. Falk Struckmann's Wotan is more petulant than commanding, with a bleat sometimes infecting sustained high notes. The great confrontation between Wotan and Brunnhilde features an intense Deborah Polaski, who captures the pathos of the valkyrie's plight. Her Brunnhilde cheerfully struts as the aggressive warrior, displays troubled anxiety as the disobedient daughter, and her final dialogue with Wotan is sung with tonal warmth, moving in her plea to modify her punishment. But where the great Wotans of the past infuse their voices with tenderness and make palpable the character's regret at cutting off his favorite daughter, Struckmann seems more comfortable in a hectoring mode. He's also the loser in another great confrontation scene, where he's out-sung and out-acted by Lioba Braun's Fricka. Eric Halfvarson is a black-voiced, nasty Hunding, while the ill-starred lovers, tenor Richard Berkeley-Steele as Siegmund and soprano Linda Watson as Sieglinde, sing well and act with feeling. Bertrand de Billy conducts with an understanding of the ebb and flow of Wagnerian structure, but tension sometimes slackens, as in the last scene's fire music and the tame "Ride of the Valkyries." --Dan Davis« less
"The first Ring production by Harry Kupfer was created for the Bayreuth festival of 1988 as perhaps a response to the famous Chereau Centennial Ring. This DVD is not the Bayreuth production, but a version updated by Kupfer in the 1990's and comes originally from the Berlin Opera Unter den Linden, now performed in Barcelona on these discs. Kupfer's post industrial setting has now become an end-of-the world vision dominated by dark colors and an ever present world ash cut into pieces. Unfortunately the original Bayreuth Walkure is almost completely unobtainable, but I do know that it was conducted by Barenboim and featured the great John Tomlinson as Wotan. Neither of them are present here and they are sorely missed. Starting on a positive note, this is a stunning production. Although the same set is used throughout , it is ever changing due to multilayering of transparencies and fantastic lighting effects. The transformation of Hunding's hut is particularly beautiful and the final Magic fire scene is truly memorable. In the Ride of the Walkyries the Director has a novel idea of resurrecting the corpses of heroes one by one - this probably brings the concept of the "warrior maidens" closer to the original myth. Singers are nearly all very competent and some are outstanding. The American soprano, Deborah Polasky is probably one of the reigning Brunnhildes of today and she is in top form. Linda Watson,also American, is a passionate, strong Sieglinde, beautiful to look at. Hunding of Eric Halfvarson is a descendant of a long line of awe-inspiring Finnish bassos with a stentorian voice, a great credit to the production. Fricka,(Lioba Braun) has great presence and acts creditably, but her voice is somewhat underpowered. The American tenor, Richard Berkeley-Steele creates a virile and sympathetic Siegmund with a fine, heroic voice. Wotan of Falk Struckmann is a question mark to me, he has great power and drama but I never felt comfortable as his voice sometimes felt ill-focused in Act 2. He however made up for this splendidly in the 3rd act, especially at Wotan's Farewell. But still, as I said earlier, he is no comparison to John Tomlinson. The conducting of Bertrand de Billy is generally competent sometimes even inspired, but lacking the originality and concept of Daniel Barenboim. The orchestra I rate only average. To sum up: an imaginative, serious conception with no directorial self-indulgences (eg. The Stuttgart Ring). Best of modern day versions, comes with handsome booklet and many extras. Highly recommended. "
Three Hojotohos and a Heiaha
Molly | Berlin, Germany | 10/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Hello. Do you have a copy of the Walküre DVD from Barcelona in store?" Brief hesitation at the other end, much typing and ruffling. "The Polanski version?" Brief hesitation at my end. "Uh...that's it, I s'pose." *** So, I now own this shiny new 3 DVD set of Harry Kupfer's Die Walküre (the Berlin, not the Bayreuth version, which was later sold to Barcelona) and do not regret a single penny spent on it. Contrary to the call center agent's belief, the part of Brünnhilde is not sung by Roman Polanski, which is all the better because, as many a viewer would no doubt agree, the bluish "Walhall's Angels" gear looks a lot better on Deborah Polaski.
Who delivers a fabulous show. Big voice, powerful stage presence, fine acting--as far as Brünnhildes go, she is a class of her own. I've heard a few not-so-enthusiastic comments about Falk Struckmann, but I adore the interaction between the dad who just can't do anything right and his darling tomboy daughter. Lioba Braun as well is a believable Fricka, with a bit of nice Impedimenta-style facial expression. Richard Berkeley-Steele left me somewhat indifferent, but Linda Watson is a wonderful Sieglinde, feminine but not girlish, vulnerable but not whingey.
I heard the same production live under Barenboim's baton, which means I am probably a little biased when it comes to the orchestra, but no complaints about de Billy's conducting from here. The production itself, of course, is Kupfer at his best. Timeless, restrained, stripped of all visual excesses, with beautiful texture in stage design and costumes, and a moving solution for the final scene. You don't have to be a fan of light pipes to love it.
The only disappointing bit: the extras. A synopsis in English is fine, but what's the point of a cast gallery when you can look at them for five hours in full motion and with sound? Also, while the whole thing might be a tad too long for a running commentary, would it have been so difficult to collect a few statements from the protagonists? "
An almost contender
Richard | Minneapolis, Mongolia | 12/29/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If Kupher I with its primal image of the highway gave us a barren stage, the World Ash in Kupher II gives us clutter. Kupher did better with less. The Walsungs are pretty pathetic vocally and physically. Struckman is all right. Polaski is the real article. i wondered where Act I was going, if anywhere. There is no real spark between the twins here. Act 2 picks up and by the end of the scene with Fricka the energy is high. Wotan's narrative is well done and the crashing of the branch of the World Ash at "Das Ende" is a fine touch. This is a varaition on the caving in of the highway in Kupher I. The end of the act is a mess with Brunnhilde hanging around so she can wave the broken sword in the air. The Ride is also a failure. But the scene between Brunnhilde and Wotan is quite well done. Unfortunately God knows what they are doing at the main climax of the drama. Kupher does the same thing in Kupher I and it makes more sense there. The magic fire is done with the ever present magic squares and Wotan lays Brunnhilde on a log (part of the World Ash?) that appears out of nowhere. I went back and watched a couple excerpts from Kupher I and there is no comparison in terms of singing, acting, fitting the part physcially, tension between the characters and above the Bayreuth Orchestra and Barenboim. This is nice for a look at Kupher's second thought. But this Ring is definitely a case of "First thought, best thought.""
If you hate Wagner, this will conform to your expectations
Ludwig | Milford, New Hampshire | 06/26/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD edition does have advantages. Both audio and video are extremely well recorded and mastered, and from a purely technical point of view this disc is a pleasure to watch and listen to. There are also outstanding performances, both vocally and dramatically, from Deborah Polaski and Linda Watson. The orchestra sounds a bit undermanned, but for that is capable of a welcome agility and precision that Wagner-sized orchestras often fail to deliver. Unfortunately, the production is marred by any number of silly directorial decisions. In particular, Falk Struckmann's Wotan, costumed as Ming the Merciless, is continually bouncing around the stage in a constant, agitated rap strut that's hardly the appropriate body language for the most thoughtful character in the cycle, or for the opera of the cycle that should most emphasize that thoughtfulness. The effect of this is to tend to turn Wagner's extended meditation on freedom and slavery into the kind of empty bombast that Wagner-haters always thought it was. There's more of this ilk. In deciding how to present the dead heroes the director seems to have been channeling George Romero: one can only surmise that what gets served up on the trenchers in this director's very personal Valhalla are brains. One could go on -- I couldn't fathom, for example, why Brünnhilde smears Siegmund's face & scalp with what looks like cold cream before the fight with Hunding (is this some detail of the Edda that I'm not familiar with or is it just important to condition before battle?). All in all, this is yet another of those "modern" productions that's best seen with your eyes closed."
Ryan Morris | Chicago, IL | 09/20/2007
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is still good, but about as close to being bad as possible. All the singers are generally competent while none shine(like Loge in Das Rheingold). From the first we here breaks in both Wotan and Brunnhilde-a horrendous Heotaha- but she warms up and by the Brunnhilde\Siegmunde exchange is in much better voice. Wotan is alright-his voice\power is more like Theo Adam than Hotter(that is not a comparison to the actual singers but a guide as to the kind of voice)-Stuckmans voice tends to break at times-though it is usually not to obstructive but is noticable. As other viewers have mentioned-the horns are really not very good-from the outset this is apparent, especially the tubas. There are some good moments here-the actions are at times identical to the earlier Kupfer set with Barenboim-such as the initial Hoyotiha. Some stupid things-Brunnhilde smears shaving cream over Siegmundes face during their exchange-way too distracting during this pivotal moment. Overall-musically this doesnt come close to the Barenboim Die Walkure by Kupfer-actually for the most part I would have loved to see those singers in this staging, but what can you do. I would recommend the first Die Walkure\Barenboim over this one, along with the Levine, Haenchen, and even the Boulez, but do recommend this over Zagrosek(dont ever go there), or Pappano. The Das Rheingold is much better, stagewise preferable o the earlier Barenboim, but musically it has even worse issues with the exceptions of Loge(Graham Clark is pretty good and Fafner."