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Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelung ( Das Rheingold / Die Walküre / Siegfried / Götterdämmerung) (Boulez/Chereau Ring Cycle) (1980)

Gwyneth Jones , Donald McIntyre , Patrice Chéreau  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre, Peter Hofmann, Jeanine Altmeyer, Gwendolyn Killebrew
  • Directors: Patrice Chéreau
  • Writers: Richard Wagner
  • Format: Box set, Classical, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: German (DTS 5.1), German (PCM Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, German, French, Chinese
  • Dubbed: German
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 5
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Deutsche Grammophon
  • DVD Release Date: October 11, 2005
  • Run Time: 832 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0009F2EPU
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,568 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Wagner: The Ring of the Nibelung ( Das Rheingold / Die Walküre / Siegfried / Götterdämmerung) (Boulez/Chereau Ring Cycle)" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Sung in German with subtitles

Editorial Reviews

The first opera (the prologue) in Wagner's Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold, is a beautifully conducted and thoughtfully staged performance. As soon as the clouds of mist have dissipated, while the daring, long-held opening chord is still reverberating, the screen clears to show not only the River Rhine and the three maidens (dressed like prostitutes in this production) assigned to guard the gold hidden there. It also shows an enormous dam (not mentioned in Wagner's text). This is the underwater base of a hydroelectric plant, and its presence tells us two things immediately: that this production takes the story out of the vaguely medieval fantasy world in which Wagner had placed it, and that a basic theme of the four-opera cycle would be power. Alberich, the Nibelung, is willing to renounce the love of women, after stealing the gold from the Rhine, to become the ruler of the world. Another basic theme is greed. The cast is uniformly excellent. The approach of stage director Patrice Chereau carefully balances realism, symbolism, and fantasy. The two giants (Matti Salminen and Fritz Hübner) tower over the gods who are waiting to enter the newly constructed Valhalla; Loge (brilliantly played by Heinz Zednick) appears in a burst of flame; the subterranean lair of the Nibelungs looks something like a prison and something like a mass-production sweatshop. In contrast, the gods look like members of a rather aimless leisure class. Freia, the goddess of youth (Carmen Reppel), whose fate is one of the basic items in the plot, is presented as a lovely but helpless beauty queen. Pierre Boulez conducts this episode. like the entire cycle, with power and precision.

Wagner's ideas of "racial purity" reach a logical conclusion in Act I of Die Walküre. Siegfried, the tragic hero of the cycle, is begotten in an adulterous, incestuous mating of Siegmund (Peter Hoffmann) and Sieglinde (Jeanne Altmeyer), a twin brother and sister. No miscegenation here. Siegfried will not be seen until the next opera in the cycle. For now, the Valkyries (after their famous, musically spectacular ride) are asked to protect Sieglinde, his pregnant mother-to-be, until he can be born. His father is killed in a fight with Hunding, Sieglinde's brutish husband, with Wotan intervening against his will to help the wronged spouse. Wotan has been forced by his wife Fricka, who is the goddess of marriage, elegantly played by Hanna Schwartz. Her victory is a striking display of Wotan's diminishing powers. Brunnhilde, Wotan's daughter and leader of the Valkyries (Gwyneth Jones), disobeys a paternal prohibition, rescues Sieglinde and hides her in safety to wait out her pregnancy. For this, she is punished by losing her divine status and being left asleep for years, surrounded by a circle of magic fire, until a hero (Siegfried, who has not yet been born) will come to rescue her. This episode is extremely well-sung, with particularly notable work by Hoffmann, Altmeyer, Schwartz, Jones and Donald McIntyre as Wotan, while conductor Pierre Boulez and director Patrice Chéreau work smoothly together to define the opera's overall form and continuity.

Siegfried is the most eventful of the four Ring operas: the hero of the cycle grows to maturity, forges his father's broken sword Notung, kills the dragon Fafner and the dwarf Mime, takes the cursed ring, frees Brunnhilde from the spell that has kept her asleep, and falls in love with her. It is all presented, powerfully and as efficiently as the self-indulgent text will permit. Not seen in the cycle's previous operas are Manfred Jung (Siegfried) and Norma Sharp (the Forest Bird), the central figure of the cycle and one of the most peripheral. Sharp is lovely in her brief appearance. Jung is the most controversial bit of casting in the cycle; his voice and acting have been criticized, but they seem to be up to the standard for this role, Perhaps the criticism really applies to Siegfried, who is neither intelligent nor compassionate, but a naive youth who knows nothing of the world and has never seen a woman. Jung conveys these qualities effectively. Wagner's ideal hero turns out to be a bit of a proto-Nazi in his own naive way, swaggering arrogantly, killing the dragon Fafner and the dwarf Mime with hardly a second thought, and blithely assuming that he deserves all the good fortune that comes his way. Wagner may have thought he was inventing another sort of hero, but this Siegfried rather faithfully reflects his creator's personality. Jung's characterization faithfully follows the text of the opera and it is compelling for those who can take their Wagner without illusions, those who have come to terms, for example, with the self-centered, unsympathetic personality that emerges from his wife Cosima's voluminous and blindly adoring diaries.

According to director Patrice Chereau, "Götterdämmerung undoubtedly presents a world in which no values exist any more... a world in which it is difficult for anyone to believe in anything any longer." It is truly, as its title proclaims, "The twilight of the gods." Siegfried is tricked, drugged, and treacherously murdered by power-hungry humans, deceived into betraying Brunnhilde, who remains faithful without hope. An air of weariness and decadence pervades the action and much of the music (though the score includes two of Wagner's finest instrumental inventions: Siegfried's Rhine journey and his funeral music.) A new note is the introduction of a chorus of humans (effectively used by Chereau) for the first time in the cycle. The heyday of the gods is over; now, world domination is sought by a human family, the Gibichungs. The cursed ring is stolen from Brunnhilde, who has kept it as a token of Siegfried's love. Siegfried, who has taken the ring in disguise, has been drugged and deceived into wooing Gutrune, a Gibichung. Brunnhilde is forced to marry Gunther, another Gibichung, but still faithful to Siegfried she commits suicide on his funeral pyre. The fire spreads to destroy Valhalla. The ring, snatched from Siegfried's dead hand, is dropped into the Rhine, where it is restored to its rightful place, and the situation returns to the normality of the time before Das Rheingold. The Gibichungs, new to the cycle, are well-portrayed by Franz Mazura and Jeanne Altmeyer, and Fritz Hübner is impressive as the treacherous Hagen. Gwemdolyn Killibrew stands out as Brunnhilde's ally Waltraute. As always, Pierre Boulez conducts with a clear vision of the total work. --Joe McLellan

Product Description

Anello Del Nibelungo (L') / Der Ring Des Nibelungen (8 Dvd)

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Video Staging of Wagner's Ring March 13, 2006
As much as this production detracts from the teutonic tradition that Wagner designed the Ring for, this centenniary production of the Ring with Patrice Chereau as the director, Pierre Boulez as conductor, and Brian Large as the very talented producer, is possibly the best in the market. No, it doesn't have a cast that has the dimension and experience of the Solti or Karajan rings, but without a doubt, it is the most visually engaging and dramatically correct rendition of Wagner's tetralogy. Others would say that the Levine Ring provides the most traditional and faithful production with respect to Wagner's score, and I have no doubts that the sets used in the Met are very beautiful. This set, however, changes the concept from a legendary setting of mountains and god-palaces to a more French social hierarchy environment. The interpretation makes sense, but it isn't only this which makes this Ring come to life. It is the involvement of a very talented conductor and a cast of marvelous singers which make this Ring a most memorable moment.

Donald McIntyre may not have Hans Hotter's great voice or James Morris' great bel canto interpretation of Wotan's role, but it certainly exudes a nobility and a richness absent from other recordings. Gwyneth Jones is a marvelous Brunnhilde. For her alone would I see this Ring day after day. It is note perfect, powerful, and very dramatic. I'd say that she has the best Brunnhilde overall of the ones I've heard.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern staging that makes sense January 3, 2006
By Wouter
The first part of this Ring I owned was Gotterdammerung. In that production I noticed that the story, the impact of the drama, was made by the staging of Patrice Chereau and the acting prestations in the first place followed by the vocal performances of the singers. A kind of the other around considering the premise of opera. Having seen all four parts of the Boulez-Ring I stay with that first impression. Expecially Gwyneth Jones and Donald McIntyre are far better actors then they are singers. Their voices cannot bare the weight of the drama required in Die Walkure Act 3 (Brunnhilde and Wotan) and Gotterdammerung Act 3 (Brunnhilde)for example.

The staging, however, is superb. The great thing from this production is that Chereau, not just ripped Wagners Ring from the old German mythology, but replaced it with a world that looks like a combination of Jules Verne and ancient Greek in which an insight in the characters and their motives are given in a way that I did not see before. It is as accessible as an average arthouse movie. Many modern staging just seem to want to get away from the old bearskins and teuton heroism so much that nothing else is offered instead (except leaving the audience with Brunnhilde looking like Christiane F. for instance - Stuttgarter Opera). What I appreciated in the world of the Chereau Ring is it's own atmosphere and use of images and elements that are not just post-modern but also functional. The Wotan-monologue in Act 2 from Die Walkure and the love-duet from Act 3 between Siegfried and Brunnhilde are so cleverly directed that every line sung here is important instead of just asking time from the audience.

Another big plus for me is the conductorship of Pierre Boulez. Fast without rushing, modern with great insight, he lets the music do its work.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking production, but is it a classic? November 20, 2009
I remember watching this Boulez/Chéreau Ring when it was broadcast (!) on American tv (!!) around 1981 or 82. I was glued to the tv for 4 nights as this visually arresting and musically compelling cycle unfolded. This was before the era of video taping so I did not see this production again until it was released on commercial videos several years later. I was less smitten by this event than before, noticing a few flops in the production and being more critical of some of the singing, though I liked Boulez's conducting more than I had before. I have a set of recordings from the premiere season (1976) with a very different cast of singers and a very disgruntled orchestra which played pretty crudely for Boulez who they did not like at all.
The eruption of hissing and booing at the start of Act 3 of Götterdämmerung was really shocking to me. The audience was expressing HATRED for the hydroelectric dam appearing again, something they had expected to be finished with after the opening scene of Rheingold. It's reappearance was too much for them and they erupted.

Now it is all very mild. By the end of the run in this production was greeted with cheers of approval. How fickle public opinion is. It is refreshing to see new viewpoints expressed in telling Wagner's mythological epic but,sadly, things have gone off the rails with the ascendence of the 'Konzept' producers who are more interested in themselves than Wagner, or us.

Chéreau and Harry Kupfer were the granddaddies of Konzept productions. Whereas Kupfer slid into a rut of predictable imagery Chéreau has continued to grow in a more a imaginative fashion, note his 'From the House of the Dead' currently showing at the Met. It's modern and bleak but so is the story.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Remember to read ALL of the original Amazon customer reviews for this DVD set. This new DG release is merely a re-release of the first 2001 DVD release by UMVD Labels. Please enjoy the 50 excellent and thoughtful reviews of this Chereau/Boulez Ring before you make your purchase decisions: Wagner - Der Ring des Nibelungen / Patrice Chéreau - Pierre Boulez, Bayreuth Festival (Complete Ring Cycle).

All in all, I'd say this Chereau/Boulez Ring is an excellent Ring, even for complete newcomers. It takes characters/singers which look, sound, and act as they should, and tells a very relatable and human story that is easy to follow and super-easy to get wrapped-up in and mesmerized by.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I have to admit ... it's excellent
I saw this when it was broadcast on PBS and utterly hated it; now over 30 years later, it's not too bad. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Brent Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars best version i have come across
this is by far the best version of the ring i have encountered. gwyneth jones is marvelous. donald mcintyre is superb. siegmund, sielinde and siegfried are so-so. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Don V
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it.
A gift to my son. There's nothing he didn't like about it. Saw the production at Lincoln Center. Loved it.
Published 13 months ago by Jeanne Ceccolini
5.0 out of 5 stars A set of disks which I would not wish to be without.
I have these productions on both tape and laser disk, and have watched the lasers many times. Nonetheless laser disks can go bad with time, and this set may not always be... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Peter M. Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars A treasure... and yet...
I was thinking Hans Hotter, as well, but McIntyre was no slouch and I found him more than acceptable in the role. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Thistle Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars Not a Ring for the Ages
A strong cast is misserved by a weak production with odds and ends that distract without illuminating. Read more
Published on April 1, 2011 by Fred T. Isquith
5.0 out of 5 stars Achieving perfection
Every time I watch or listen to this production of the Ring, I feel comforted that I seemed to be one of the only voices praising it when it first was produced in Bayreuth. Read more
Published on March 26, 2011 by Montcler
5.0 out of 5 stars Game changer.
This Ring Cycle is well known to opera fans and scholars. I need not add anything in detail to the volumes aready written about the production's artistic merit. Read more
Published on November 7, 2010 by Rob
3.0 out of 5 stars A byegone age?
The rot set in when opera house managers realized that there was a profitable link between embracing "new" artistic concepts of staging and saving money. Read more
Published on October 28, 2009 by Rik Hardy
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad Review/Legendary Stage Production/Terrible Video Direction
This Bayreuth centennial production of Wagner's Ring is historically one of the most celebrated and scandalous in the entire history of the festival. Read more
Published on April 5, 2008 by Jim Player
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