It's no surprise that the second opera in Wagner's epic Ring cycle, Die Walküre, is the one Deutsche Grammophon released first on DVD: it's by far the most popular of the four parts of The Ring, from the thrilling Act I l... more »ove duet for its brother and sister lovers, Siegmund and Sieglinde, to the spectacular finale of the "Magic Fire Music," as the god Wotan puts his beloved but disobedient daughter Brünnhilde into a deep sleep (no jokes, please!), over four hours later. This 1990 Metropolitan Opera production, originally broadcast on PBS to great acclaim, has been stunningly transferred to digital disc. Musically, of course, is where any worthy Ring earns its keep, and under James Levine, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra makes the most sumptuous Wagnerian sounds of any current orchestra, as the dazzlingly fresh-sounding "Ride of the Valkyries" makes abundantly clear. The ravishing music is not solely instrumental, of course; the principal cast--Gary Lakes (Siegmund), Jessye Norman (Sieglinde), Hildegard Behrens (Brünnhilde), and especially James Morris (Wotan)--more than handles the vocal and acting demands, even those long stretches of unbelievably difficult singing passages that Wagner demands. This Otto Schenk production has taken its lumps for its conventional approach to Wagner's mythic music-drama. But it's an easy first approach for newcomers, and it's actually a rarity nowadays--among countless deconstructionist approaches--that many Ring-lovers will enjoy Die Walküre in its original setting and context. --Kevin Filipski« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 10/14/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When opera moves me to tears, it truly is grand, and the ending of this version is soul-stirring and thoroughly captivating.
The highlight of this fabulous production for me is James Morris' Wotan. It's a riveting, emotional performance, with vocal passages of pure gold.
Act 3, Scene 3, the parting of Wotan and Brunhilde, magnificently played by Hildegard Behrens..."Farewell, my brave and splendid child"...so tender and passionate, so full of beauty, the music soars and takes my heart with it.Another performance of power and presence is Jessye Norman's Sieglinde, Christa Ludwig is perfect as Fricka, and James Levine keeps it all together masterfully.
Just over 4 hours long, this tape set has a booklet with an excellent synopsis, and the sets (the final fire effect is great), lighting, costumes and direction are wonderful, but it's James Morris that makes it a triumph, and one to enjoy again and again."
James Morris is my favorite Wotan
David E. Levine | Peekskill , NY USA | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was privileged to see James Morris perform the role of Wotan in another of the Ring operas, Das Rheingold. In this DVD, filmed over a decade before I saw him live, he is absolutely fabulous. He is a tall, imposingly built individual and with his great baritone/bass voice, he is made for this role. Hildegard Behrens (who I have also seen live many years ago) sings the role of Brunnhilde. She sings it well and does an enthusiastic job of acting. Of course, in a DVD the camera can pan in and therefore, the viewer can see that she was much older than the character Brunnhilde would have been. This is not a real drawback, however since this is inevitable in opera. There just don't happen to be 18 or 20 year old divas so, the role will naturally be played by someone a decade or two older. But when you see it live, your eyes cannot zoom in for a closeup as can a camera.
The highlight of Die walkure, for me, is the third act when Brunnhilde desparately tries to escape the wrath of her father, Wotan, for having defied him in her failure to cause Siegmund's death. She is unable to evade him for long and must take her punishment. I once read a description of this opera in which it is said that the fire of Wotan's anger goes away but not the steel. Brunnhilde's punishment is that she is to lose her godly powers and be put into a deep sleep to be awakened by the first man who finds her. She then must submit to this man as his wife.
The furious Wotan is bent upon carrying out the punsihment, however Brunnhilde's pleas weigh on his heart. Despite his anger, he loves her dearly. He cannot, however, go back on what he sees as his duty to carry out the punishment. But, as I said, the fire is now gone from his anger and he softens the blow. She pleads that she at least be claimed by a man who is a great hero, not some run of the mill mortal. Therefore, Wotan calls upon Loge, the god of fire to build a ring of fire around her as she sleeps so only a hero will be able to break through to claim her. The fact that Brunnhilde wants only to be claimed by a great hero is moving in an interesting way. Obviously, if anyone can find and awaken her, she will not be lost in a deep sleep for long. The first passerby, even if he is a total coward, will be able to claim her. However, she is willing to be lost in a deep slumber for decades or centuries, maybe forever, if a great enough hero never finds her. To her, the worse of the two fates would be to have to submit to a coward.
In all of the arts, this may be the most moving and emotional tear jerker of a scene. Wotan has granted her wish to be rescued only by a hero. Morris is so beautifully cast as a loving, fatherly Wotan. This powerful figure tenderly embraces his daughter as they say their emotional faiwells. The juxtoposition of his deep, tender love with his resolve to carry out the punishment is heart rending. I have seen this role sung by two other Wotans and to me, Morris is the best. By the way, I will see another Wotan in a few weeks since I have tickets to a performance at the Met."
First rate in every way
George Nadur | Valsayn Park South Trinidad and Tobago | 09/09/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is what DVD is all about!The best seats in the house - not just front and centre, but in various other positions. And you are taken on stage so close that you feel you can touch the singers. And what superb singers they are! The first part belongs to Gary Lakes as Siegmund, and Jesse Norman as Sieglinde, ably supported by Kurt Moll as Hunding. The second part is dominated by James Morris as Wotan, and the beauteous Hildegard Behrens as Brunhilde, with Christa Ludwig playing a smaller, but nonetheless dramatic part, as Fricka.Wagner's operas are not for the faint of heart, or stamina - hence the expression "with the build of a Wagnerian singer". There are not many tuneful arias that you can sing afterward, as is the case with the operas by such other masters as Verdi and Puccini, but the music is stunning and powerful, and in this presentation, the performers do Wagner's score full justice. The drama is in the singing and in the story line.This is just one of the four operas in The Ring Of The Nibelung series, and it takes all of four hours. A live performance would add another hour, with the various breaks. I did cheat a bit, in that I viewed it over two nights, in my comfortable recliner, with copious draughts of rum and coconut water (milk), but I was totally absorbed until the very end.The staging was superb, with a haunting blue light pervading many scenes, but the spotlights were clear enough, to do justice to the singers' faces, and the rich costumes. This is in line with what you would expect of a Metropolitan Opera production, with a seemingly unlimited financial budget. The orchestra fully supported the singers, and the effect in surround sound, makes an investment in such equipment, worth every dollar.The enclosed booklet was very informative, unlike other DVD productions, where one is forced to take out the booklet that accompanies most CD music versions (assuming one already owns such), to provide an occasional synopsis of the scenes.A well staged, dramatic opera, magnificently sung - what else can one ask for?I just can't wait for other releases in The Ring series."
Good "Traditional" Production
David M. Pickering | Pittsburgh, PA United States | 02/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The highlights here are the performances of Jessye Norman as Sieglinde, Christa Ludwig and Fricka and James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, overall this is a fine performance. Gary Lakes' Siegmund is overwhelmed at times by the orchestra but overall he does a nice job--the first act is the highlight of this performance and it receives a thundering ovation at its conclusion.The production by Otto Schenk is probably the most traditional staging of the "Ring" cycle one is likely to see nowadays--however since modern productions have included such things as bungee-jumping Rhine Maidens and Valkyries riding motorcycles that may not be such a bad thing."
Perfect? heavens no... but a valuable contribution
Scott Chamberlain | Minneapolis, MN United States | 10/25/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Well, this is the kind of DVD that will inspire hot passions, either pro or con. The legendary vocalists that used to take on these roles are no longer singing, and many of the singers on this disc are a clear step below them. Even some of the brightest stars (Ludwig, for example) are past their prime. Still, do those here make a convincing production? In my opinion, yes. Behrens, for example, is good at using her instument to good effect, and certainly brings other positives to the role... coming off as an active young woman rather than a large, static matron. Morris is commanding in the role of Wotan. The others are good, if not overwhelming. What will probably be the most important factor for casual opera viewers (and particularly to newcomers) is that the staging is visually gripping and comprehensible. Some more experienced viewers have savaged the production as being too simple, traditional or "easy." This is not may opinion. To me, many of the visual daring "concept" productions are perhaps interesting once, but become cliche immediately thereafter -- their "newness" is their only selling point, and once its no longer new, well.... The Met's Walkure provides a world where magic can take place, focuses on mythic elements, and lets the undercurrents of subtext remain undercurrents. Is this the only approach? No, and certainly some more "modern" productions help bring out important elements of the story. But for those looking to jump into Wagner for the first time, the Met's production should make the plunge easier."