The legendary Bayreuth Centenary production of Wagner's Ring is distinguished by Patrice Chéreau's once-shocking production, which has acquired the status of the most trenchant modern interpretation of the cycle. Die Walkü... more »re is the second of the four Ring operas, introducing Brünnhilde, daughter of the all-powerful god, Wotan. Brünnhilde's attempts to protect the siblings/lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde eventually lead Wotan to encircle his errant daughter with a protective ring of fire that only a hero will be able to penetrate. Die Walküre features the best-known excerpt from the Ring cycle, the Ride of the Valkyries. Pierre Boulez's penetrating interpretation supports a cast led by one of the great Brünnhildes of our time, Gwyneth Jones. Cast: Jeannine Altmeyer: Sieglinde
Katie Clarke: Helmwige
Elisabeth Glauser: Rossweisse
Ilse Gramatzki: Grimgerde
Peter Hofmann: Siegmund
Gwyneth Jones: Brünnhilde
Gwendolyn Killebrew: Schwertleite
Donald McIntyre: Wotan
Karen Middleton: Ortlinde
Carmen Reppel: Gerhilde
Matti Salminen: Hunding
Marga Schiml: Seigrune
Gabriele Schnaut: Waltraute
Hanna Schwarz: Fricka
The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez« less
David Glogower | Monroe, NY United States | 01/30/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We now have two Walkure DVDs on the market, the other being the reknowned Met production, conducted by James Levine. This version from Bayreuth is conducted more briskly, and less broadly, by Pierre Boulez. The production is much more abstract than the Met's realistic scenery and costumes, and it was quite controversial during its first incarnation in the 1970s. Patrice Chereau, the director, lets the eroticism of Act I flow freely. Jeanine Altmeyer and Peter Hoffmann sing beautifully as Sieglinde and Siegmund, and they certainly look their parts, young and beautiful. Hunding is presented as a truly violent and menacing presence, along with his henchmen, an innovative idea not seen in other productions. In Act II, Wotan and Brunnhilde are portrayed by Donald McIntyre and Gwyneth Jones. His singing is commendable, but he is eclipsed by the magestic James Morris of the Met's DVD. Jones has all guns blazing as Brunnhilde, perhaps too much vocal power, but she is a valiant warrior-maiden, perhaps falling short in the heroine's vulnerability, which Hildegard Behrens portrays so eloquently in the Met's DVD. By Act III, everyone's merits are a known quantity -- the father-daughter confrontation is more moving in the Met's version, but this DVD is also quite fine, with Altmeyer's superior Sieglinde vs Jessie Norman's diva-ish Sieglinde. If you're a fan of Wagner's Ring, you really need to have both."
A shining performance
David Glogower | 02/18/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is really a shining performance. The staging, though rather innovative at the time, serves the drama well. And this must be visually one of the most satisfying cast ever assembled for this opera. Hofmann and Altmeyer are just perfect as the Walsung twins, McIntyre is a commanding Wotan and Jones a magnificent and immensely likeable Brunnhilde. The other cast members are very fine, too. The singing is of almost the same high standards. Those who're of the view that Boulez's interpretation is "cool" should really listen to this recording, for his interpretation, a swift moving one, is full of drama, intensity and even sensual beauty. A very enjoyable viewing and listening experience indeed!"
Hugely entertaining production
Graham Sinclair | 09/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a hugely entertaining production. In fact, this is probably the most successful part of the Boulez/Chereau Ring cycle production for the centenary Bayreuth Festival. The vocal cast is the strongest in this opera and everybody acts convincingly. The Valkyries "rock" is an interesting piece of stage design, too. Brilliant!"
THE GREAT METAPHOR, PART TWO - DIE WALKURE
Josef Bush | Phoenix, AZ | 02/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Ring is so great a ception, so formidable a work of art, it is virtually impossible to cast perfectly: Too many characters, demanding of great acting skill, and great singing ability and stamina, certainly. Until very recently all one could do was to listen to and compare recorded performances -- if one couldn't get to Bayreuth -- but now we can actually visualize full productions not only of each of the Operas of The Ring, but of the entirety of the cycle. In this production, Boulez, Chereau and Wagner were fortunate to assemble an exceptionally balanced and skilled cast. This happy casting makes the Sigmund - Seglinda section of the opera, for me, not only plausible, as it never was before, but profoundly touching. Peter Hofmann and Jeanine Altmeyer not only sing beautifully, but they act convincingly, and, when they are close together, even head-to-head in love scenes, one is aware that they even look enough alike -- same height, build, skin and hair color, same skull size and type of facial features -- they actually could be not only brother and sister, but twins, and both equally beautiful. And where else in Grand Opera can one see an heroic lover nearly barechested, and not be somewhat embarassed for him? The effect in this production is electric! The contrast between Sigliinde and her captor/husband is dramatized by Matti Salminen appearance; dark, unsympathetic and powerful, he is so unlike the Volsung twins in appearance and body language, he could almost be another species. Which is to the point: Hunding and his goons (played by stolid, middle-aged types) are Frica's people; law-abiding and prosperous property owners (out of Albericht) and the twins are wild woodland folk, belonging to Wotan.
Salminen's acting and singing, like that of Hofmann and Altmeyer is absolutely terrific. The direction is superbe, and the story leaps off the screen with tragic power. Here, Richard Peduzzi's stage set adds to the dramatic effect by never detracting from the characters with a lot of cro-magnon decors.
DIE WALKURE begins with a hurried, almost frenzied overture, in the manner of operatic Hunt Music, familiar to a lot of 19th cenury operas, but far more intense, giving us the picture of a terrifying, implacable pursuit. And when Siegmund appears it is obvious that it is he who is being pursued. Immediately, the vision of the pageantry of new Valhalla that we first saw in DAS RHINEGOLD is driven from our minds and we are, or seem to be, in a new and perilous world, within the world of the old Germanic Saga. Wagner hit us with the unexpected.
Act Two begins with equally agitated music, but the situation is different. We find ourselves IN Valhalla, Wotan's new home. It's a wild mountaop, traditionally, of course, but Peduzzi in the intellectual and comprehensive view, has stripped all that away. Wotan's grandiose schloss is an enormous, black interior and has three elements: a tall, architectural door, open and showing a mirrored interior of corridors; a hanging pendulum that swings in time to the predominant rhythm of the scene; a tall pier glass; and a english-style club chair that functions as Wotan's throne. Wotan and Brunnhilde enter simultaneously, and her character conception is that of a young Walkure, just finishing her training, and ready to ride. Then, Hanna Schwarz appears as Frica. The scene is played in a very interesting way, and belongs primarily to Schwarz. Wotan is subdued, like an old lion, and Schwarz's Frica is like a lionesse, dominating her not not only with a wifely harrangue, but by rubbing her body against him (growling?) to remind him that now he has a 'Home' he need no longer wander the world engendeing illigitimate beings at random. (Sigmund and Siglende are mentioned specifically, but the Valkyres are implied.) Her ascendency over Wogan is symbolized when, as she badgers him into abandoning Sigmund and Siglende, the pendulum (the Time-Space Continum) is stilled. Furious with himself for having been out-manoeuvered by Fricka, and abandoning those he loves to death, he has a talk with himself in the mirror, and coms up lacking. Brunnhilde is given her marching orders. Sigmund must not survive.
Brunnhilde's attempt to save Siglende after Sigmund is killed is touching and human; and, it's agains her father's orders. She is the expression of Wotan's wishes, his paternal love, and not Fricka's daughter, and therefore is of necessity in oppositin to Fricka's cold-bloodedness. In this production, Gwyneth Jones introduces a new and unexpected aspect of Brunnhilde: aside from her fierce war cry, she plays the role with warmth, sweetness and femenine empathy. Her aproach is charming, naif and virginal, thus enhancing the father-daughter relationship that is at least half of this opera.
ACT THREE, Scene One finds us at the Valkyre rock. It is a striking, even an amazing creation and looks something like a half-ruined old volcanic caldera, but, under different and brighter lights, it displays signs of human work; a doorway, a pillar, steps. It's exactly right, forbidding, whatever it is, and we see that group of terrible armed females dragging corpses back and forth across the stage to savage music. The Valkyres are, after all uncivilized funary Harpies, revealed here, as never before, and without prejudice. The singing is as glorious as it is supposed to be, and the acting and characterizations exceptional, and it all fits into the drama.
Here, Brunnhilde will bring Siglinde and the three pieces of Sigmund's sword Necessity (Notung) and here Wotan will sieze his daughter, upbraid her for disobeying his orders, and deprive her of her immortality. Reluctantly, he will put her into a perpetual sleep, from which she will awake only when a man finds her. She begs her father not to allow her to be taken by just any man, and agrees to this and protects her sleeping body with a wall or ring of eternal fire. The scene is played with such emotional intensity it commands our pity and sympathy.
This most improbable, even fantastic sequence of events is presented here, in DIE WALKURE, with absolute confidence and authority. It is real and believable, thanks to Chereau's direction of the actors, and Boulez' rock-solid and perfect command of the orchestra. The cloud effects are integrated with the lighting of Manfried Voss so carefully and with such taste, that the effects called for by the libretto are those we see in this production, and they are convincing stagecraft, as are all the supportive elements of Wagner's magnificent, imaginative masterwork.
Whatever recordings or DVD productions you subsequenly watch, this excellent production sets the standard by which they will be judged.
An extremely moving Walkure
Joan Sutton | San Francisco, CA | 09/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this Bayreuth production on TV many years ago and was overwhelmed by its beauty. Fortunately, it is available on DVD. Altmeyer and Hofmann are an unforgettable Siegmund and Sieglinde, absolutely convincing and lovely to behold. Then Gwyneth Jones is an equally beautiful Brunnhilde. If you love the Ring, this is a must for your collection!"