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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely complete. Get it now.
Richard Wagner's third opera, Rienzi, der Letzte Tribun, was never given complete in the composer's lifetime. Even the overture has three sections that never made it into print. This performance includes the first of those cuts, and absolutely everything else from the rise of the curtain on. That's why it is 4 cds at a more than reasonable price.

Past...
Published on March 2, 2006 by Alan Montgomery

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy, interesting, and beautifully performed - but is it really that good?
Reading between the lines in previous reviews, you might be forgiven for wondering, as I do, whether the high quality of this recorded broadcast is to some degree masking a certain paucity of invention in the music itself. I adore Wagner and bought this as clearly preferable to the Sawallisch studio recording (with Kollo heading a variable cast) and Wagner "completists"...
Published on October 8, 2008 by Ralph Moore


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely complete. Get it now., March 2, 2006
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
Richard Wagner's third opera, Rienzi, der Letzte Tribun, was never given complete in the composer's lifetime. Even the overture has three sections that never made it into print. This performance includes the first of those cuts, and absolutely everything else from the rise of the curtain on. That's why it is 4 cds at a more than reasonable price.

Past recordings have either been composites of two or more performances or the EMI recording. There aren't others to choose from. EMI had Rene Kollo as Rienzi. He's in good form, as are all of the other singers (except Siv Wennberg, who tries but ultimately ends up painfully sliding through some high tessitura). The performance "sounds" good, but it is just too studio bound. Everyone was giving a good recital of what they had learned, but they don't have much of a clue as to what is going on dramatically. Hollreiser is the conductor of that, and it's on his shoulders that the problem lies. Everyone needed a stronger hand because the opera is, frankly, never given. The recording follows the Eulenberg score. That score may be long, but it has many cuts, and the recording made a couple of more besides.

That recording was already passe when it came out because this performance had already taken place. It includes so much more music! And it is delivered with so much more understanding and panache! John Mitchinson is incredible as Rienzi - and the role makes Siegfried look desirable. He is noble, angry, loving and, ultimately fatalistic. He is surrounded by singers who, if less well known than those on the EMI, have done their homework. They shape phrases to great effect and the whole builds to a great fifth act. Act one runs over an hour, act two just at 90 minutes, act three and four at 50 minutes each, and act five tags in at around 15 minutes. This is Wagner trying to outdo Meyerbeer. Heard cut, the opera does this in the most banal way. Heard uncut, as here, the opera unfolds with some indication of the powerful music Wagner would write soon - Flying Dutchman was next. All Wagner lovers should be standing in line for this one.

(This review is based on an earlier, pirated tape copy. A few minor sound problems encountered on that tape are presumably rectified here.)
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Terrific Surprise!, September 10, 2007
By 
Ronald F. Payne (Alexandria, VA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
Many years back curiosity got the better of me and I purchased the Hollreiser recording of "Rienzi" with Rene Kollo. It was so boring that, try as I might, I couldn't slog my way through it. I eventually donated it the the local library. I was slow to buy this Ponto recording, in spite of the good reviews I'd read, because I thought the opera itself was a dud. Just goes to show how a good performance can totally change your mind about a work. Not only did I not have trouble getting through it, I was engrossed from the first note of disc 1 all the way to the end of disc 4. Unlike with Hollreiser, Downes performance actually sounded like real Wagner, and not like the work of some plodding Meyerbeer wannabe. I won't be giving this one to the library--it's a keeper. It's so inexprensive that I would recommend it as a must to those folks who have a more than passing interest in Wagner. Good sound, great conducting, very good singing (not a frayed voice in the cast--rare for any Wagner recording)...and (surprise!) a darned enjoyable opera in it's own right!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The place to start, October 30, 2008
By 
Mike Leone (Houston, TX, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
For many years, Rienzi was the most popular of Wagner's operas, but in recent years (decades) has been neglected. Wagner himself no doubt has had something to do with this neglect because he repudiated the opera in later life and forbade it ever to be presented at Bayreuth.

Like many others, I first got to know Rienzi through the EMI recording with René Kollo. Unlike other reviewers here, I enjoy the recording quite a bit, despite problematic performances from some of the principals, and have listened to it many times. I think the EMI recording served as a valuable stopgap for the many years that we didn't have all that much more. Going back farther still, listeners of a certain age may remember the pirate recording on the wonderfully named Penzance label that used the 1957 Stuttgart performance starring Wolfgang Windgassen under Lovro von Matacic as a basis and then dropped in excerpts from other performances (even a couple of excerpts with Giuseppe di Stefano, in another performance that is now available complete) to cover for places where the music was cut in the Stuttgart performance.

Ponto has also issued the BBC performances of Wagner's first two operas, Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot. These two were available on LP on the MRF label. MRF did not issue the Rienzi, probably because the EMI recording was already available at the time it issued the others, and it was probably thought that to issue the Rienzi would have been redundant. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, as the BBC performance, unlike the EMI, was as complete as could be at this remove. The original manuscript last belonged to Adolf Hitler and has disappeared.

Once I became aware of this performance, I, already being a Rienzi fan, began to seek it out. Eventually I found a pirate tape of it that had so-so sound, good enough to at least let me know what the performance was like. Later still, a better sounding but mono recording surfaced on a CD-ROM that was devoted to all the operas of Richard Wagner. Besides offering some interesting performances, it gave me a chance to hear the 13 operas as a continuum, and I realized that the jump between Rienzi and Der fliegende Holländer was not as great as I had once thought. That CD-ROM by the way is, I believe, still available at a very low price from [...] for those who want to hear this performance while saving some pennies.

Still, this recording, in stereo and with a wider dynamic range, is a must for anyone wanting to really get acquainted with the early Wagner score. The singing is on a consistently high level, with dark-voiced John Mitchinson an especially excellent Rienzi. Lorna Haywood and the little known Lois McDonnall are likewise very good as Adriano and Irene, respectively. Among the other soloists is David Ward who recorded Hunding for Leinsdorf in the RCA Victor recording of Die Walküre.

The completeness of the score is a constant revelation. Even those who only know the overture will find that there is additional music in that old chestnut that is not usually performed.

My particular favorite part is the ballet. This 40-minute piece falls neatly into two halves that last exactly 20 minutes apiece, each of which tells a different story. The EMI recording, in contrast, only has about 15 minutes of the ballet, all of it from the second half. The Orfeo d'Or recording, also starring René Kollo, only has about six minutes of the ballet.

This recording also includes the legendary "Silbergroschen" section from the Act III finale. At the suggestion of the original Rienzi, Joseph Aloys Tichatschek (later the first Tannhäuser), the performers paid Wagner each time they rehearsed this music. Nevertheless, Wagner eventually cut this section and it is missing from the EMI set, although the notes in at least the LP edition make reference to it.

I always enjoy hearing recordings of Rienzi and don't plan on giving away any of the versions I have. And the aforementioned Orfeo d'Or version is a must-hear if for no other reason than that it contains the overture that Wagner wrote for Act III when Rienzi was temporarily divided over two nights (Rienzi remains the longest of Wagner's operas), although for some reason conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch moves it to the beginning of Act II. Still, when I want to hear the version that is closest to what Wagner originally conceived, this is the one I head for. There may well be a studio recording of this edition someday, although I can't imagine that it will be any better than this one. This recording will not be available forever so grab it while you can.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A supportive supplement to previous reviews, May 2, 2009
By 
Bryan Leech "Bryan" (Melbourne, VIC, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
There seems little point in writing a review that just repeats what has already been said. So I offer a few words of support, some odd corrections and comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the work.
This is the first opera Wagner wrote that was successful, a truly Grand Opera, and was performed with reasonable regularity up until a few decades ago. Now, all that is heard is the overture, - performances of the complete work are rare.
Authorities generally regard this as an uneven and derivative work. It's fun to listen to it, guessing who inspired each section, although Meyerbeer and Spontini are his principal sources of inspiration. But despite choruses that are often trivial, his orchestration very noisy and crude(I think he had just discovered trumpets: they feature prominently and often), his verse carelessly handled (a problem he never really overcame), but his skill at rising to dramatic demands was already in evidence, making the results more successful than the foregoing might suggest.
With a few arias, duets and choruses linked with recitative, this is a very different work to those which would follow later, and anybody who claims to clearly recognize the voice of Wagner has a good imagination. There is some indication of the Wagner to come: sections of long, unbroken melodic line and a good dramatic sense, but not the adventurous harmonies that lay in the future.
All of which sounds a negative review.
Now I am a Wagner fanatic, but I believe I can be impartial and recognize his weaknesses, (even the Ring has its flaws, yet I believe it to be one of the the greatest musical creations in existence - along with Parsifal, Tristan and Meistersinger). Despite its many weaknesses, there is much to enjoy in Rienzi - I wouldn't be without it. It's simple melodies make it easy to listen to, and the excessive orchestration can be fun.
As for performances, I doubt you will find very much better in the principal roles that are quite demanding, especially on endurance. Despite a claim above, this is not complete, as some of the score has been lost forever. However, it is the most complete version available. As well as principals, chorus and orchestra are also excellent. The only flaw in the 1976 recording is that the sound has a slightly harsh edge, although it has good clarity and the balance between soloists, chorus and orchestra is perfect.
No Wagner collection is complete without it as an illustration of his beginnings. Many non-Wagnerians will find this a pleasant diversion despite its 4 hrs 40 min, as well.
So in summation, a quite good although slightly imperfect, recording of a very good performance of Wagner's first successful opera, which I recommend despite its compositional weaknesses. The best choice from the available offerings.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthy, interesting, and beautifully performed - but is it really that good?, October 8, 2008
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
Reading between the lines in previous reviews, you might be forgiven for wondering, as I do, whether the high quality of this recorded broadcast is to some degree masking a certain paucity of invention in the music itself. I adore Wagner and bought this as clearly preferable to the Sawallisch studio recording (with Kollo heading a variable cast) and Wagner "completists" should indeed also go for this one in preference. The soloists are first rate - I have never heard John Mitchinson sound better and the role fits his sturdy, ringing heldentenor voice like a glove - and the orchestral playing is superb, under Downes' flexible, sensitive direction. Having said that, I wonder how often I shall really want to play it; there must surely be some reason why, even in its revised, shortened and "rationalised" 1843 version, the piece has fallen out of favour and is hardly ever performed - presumably Wagner's more mature works always take precedence. Many other operas have suffered a similar fate, and while I enjoy ferreting out more obscure pieces by great composers (such as Cilea's and Mascagni's "other" stage works), I suspect that there is too much rather stolid, four-square composing in this blockbuster. There are, of course, some deservedly famous highlights - the overture and Rienzi's prayer,for example - and the standard of performance can convince you that it's all very fine, but some of it is not so memorable compared with Wagner's real masterworks. So a qualified endorsement; it is certainly of great interest and suggests that those who disparage it - including Wagner himself - are too hard on what was a popular repertoire piece for sixty years - but I cannot, in all fairness, call it indispensable.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A real surprise, January 22, 2008
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This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
I didn't believe that this could be such an enjoyable experience. As noted elsewhere this is not anything like his later works but the music is bright and fun to listen to. I'm very surprised that it has never been presented at Bayreuth. No, it is not great but it is entertaining. The principals, orchestra and director are fine and so is the sound and of course the overture is superb. I do wish there had been a libretto included though.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, Its been withdrawn, May 10, 2014
By 
John Fowler (urbana, illinois) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rienzi (Audio CD)
At its Dresden premiere in 1842, "Rienzi" lasted about six hours.
Much of this music has been lost in the past 170 years.

The most complete performance in modern times was conducted by Edward Downes on the BBC in 1976.
It timed in at 4 hours, 40 minutes.

First runner-up is Heinrich Hollreiser/Dresden Staatskapelle on EMI : 3 hours, 38 minutes.

The Downes/BBC "Rienzi" was issued on the Italian label Ponto in 2005.
Yeah!
Unfortunately they forgot to tell the BBC.
Boo!
It has been withdrawn.

The Ponto version of the Downes/BBC Rienzi is available as a download (6 euros) on opera-club.net
Recommended as a stopgap until we get an official CD release authorised by the BBC.
And if the BBC does decide to release it, I hope they don't forget the libretto and translation
(now that I'm at it, I wouldn't sneeze at a new uncut recording conducted by Barenboim, Janowski or Thielemann).

There have been nine different recordings of "Rienzi".
For the sorry recorded history of this opera, see my review of Wagner: Rienzi - ("Wagner's Rienzi: Discography", dated May 5, 2014).

P.S. I have also prepared discographies of Wagner: Die Feen - and - Wagner: Liebesverbot [Michael Nagy, Charles Reid, Franz Meyer] [Oehms Classics: OC942]
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Rienzi
Rienzi by R. Wagner (Audio CD - 2006)
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