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on January 5, 2003
I found this DVD production of Wagner's epic Ring Cyle to be hugely enjoyable. It's in many ways a splendid production which keeps the viewer riveted to the drama. On the whole, it's exceedingly well directed, too, even though there're a few minor flaws (which is unavoidable for any production on such a scale). The acting deserves special mention because this production boasts some of the best acting that I've ever seen on the operatic stage, whether in the opera house or on video. The singing is generally very good and every one seems to have given his or her all.
I have slight reservations on Boulez's conducting, which is comparatively lightweight when compared with performances by other seasoned Wagnerian conductors. Yet, such an interpretation somehow fits in with the production concept, which is finely realised in the Bayreuth Festival Hall. It all makes an unforgettable viewing/listening experience.
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on November 1, 2002
This wonderful production makes magnificent home-viewing. Brian Large video direction is excellent, and although both the sound and the picture reveals the original video's age, both have been enhanced in this new DVD format.
It's difficult to describe in a few words the production style of such a mammoth opera cycle. While Chereau's direction has been considered iconoclastic in the seventies, it now seems to be (mostly) intelligent and dramatically appropriate. The same can be said for the sets and costumes. In fact, this production has already become a sort of classic in opera production, and it's therefore wonderful to have it on DVD.
The standard of acting at Bayreuth is always high. But it reached lofty heights for this centenial production. No one disappoints and their acting skills often rival those who ply their trade in theatres. As regards the singing, while it may not rival the best in history, with hindsight, it's much better that what we're treated to these days. And there're some transcendent performances, too.
While playing a video of an opera performance at home cannot be compared with experiencing the work live in the opera house, such is the powerful of this production that one can't help but be thrilled from time to time when watching it.
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on April 10, 2003
This is not a flawless performance or production. However, what makes it so fascinating is the innovative (but never too wild) production concept as well as the dedication of the entire cast.
Although this production strips the drama of a certain degree of heroism (and in this production, the central character of Siegfried is quite an unlovable one), it does provide an interesting angle to view the epic drama. The dramaturgy works well most of the time, and the stage direction is generally very good, with a few very imaginative and dramatically compelling touches.
I don't quite like Boulez's interpretation of the music. However, to be fair, his reading is concentrated and surprisingly (for Boulez) passionate. It serves the production well enough. As I've said above, the entire cast deserve great praise, even though they may not be the greatest Wagnerian singers of all time. Their acting is of an extremely high standard and the singing is often good or more than good. They make a very fine ensemble indeed.
Brian Large's videography is superb, which makes this DVD set an item to treasure.
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on March 6, 2003
I'm not a very enthusiastic opera-goer. Yet, viewing this DVD recording is a revelation for me - I never imagine that the acting in classical opera to be so 'life-like' and that the singing and staging can match the drama to form such a cohesive whole. I suppose that this is the kind of production that, despite its arousing some controversy, can keep the genre thriving in the modern age. It surely makes me reassess my own views (and perhaps prejudicies) of performances of classical opera! I'm no connoisseur of classical singing, but I found the singing here to be thrilling most of the time. It's a very enjoyable viewing/listening experience.
I'll certainly try to catch a performance of Wagner's complete Ring in the opera house when I next come across it. In the meantime, I'm sure that this excellent DVD recording will give me many hours of viewing/listening pleasure at home.
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on November 2, 2001
Okay - I feel a bit foolish (see my previous "Buyer Beware"). I have a friend, who has the laser disc, and said this performance is great and worth it. So, I took a chance.
I think Rudolph Sabor was a bit misleading on his comments, especially concerning the orchestral and vocal performances. He gives bows to Wotan, Hunding, and Fricka, and completely fails to mention Jones. Her performance, as Brunnhilde, is nothing short of incredible. On par with Nilsson, IMHO! The cast as a whole is great. Both Sigmund and Siegfried are incredible, and the final duet in Siegfried is glorious - completely rivaling Nilsson and Windgassen!
Sabor seemed to insinuate that Wotan wears a treach coat instead of carrying a spear. Maybe I miss interpreted what he was saying but Wotan, who does wear an overcoat, does indeed carry a spear.
"Wotan's Farewell" and "Magic Fire Music" are sensational. The special effects here are stunning - as they are in the "Immolation Scene". "The Ride of the Valkyries" is very interesting and performed wonderfully. "Wintersturme" is Walkure is wonderful. You can't help but question yourself. Here I am entranced by Siegmund and Sieglinde and then I would remember "they are twins" and question, should I be moved here or grossed out? Same with the ending duet in Siegfried. However the beautiful singing and glorious staging prevents me from feeling anything but entranced. The Dragon is Siegfried is cheesy - but hey - it was the 70's.
Yes, this is a more modern approach, but I like it. I could go on and on. Of course, being that I just got it yesterday - I have not seen the whole thing - but I've seen a good six hours of it.
Great DVD. It's so great to see this wonderful characters and this fantastic story come to life.
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VINE VOICEon April 24, 2002
This is an excellent film version of the famous Bayreuth production that premiered for the Ring's centennial. It certainly is an unusual production, straying far from the naturalistic production seen at the Met in recent years. Most of the time, the visual images work well and are quite striking -- the opening of Rheingold, for example, takes place in front of what looks to be some sort of hydoelectric dam for example.
The highlight of this Ring is the acting -- Film director Patrice Chereau designed this Ring and really set it up so that the singers actually act and are expressive. I feel that the Ring operas more than any other opera(s) are really helped by having subtitles to follow the opera -- here the combination of expressive singers and a clear understanding of what is being sung really captures the drama of the works.
There are complaints that this Ring is not well sung, though I think most of the singers were more than adequate (certainly compared to those at recent Bayreuth Rings!). Some would say that Boulez leads an underpowered performance, which is probably true relative to (say) teh drive of a Solti performance. Again, this is perfectly fine for this Ring, in part because the somewhat quieter and clearer orchestral texture helps to bring out the themes of the music and highlight the drama. The conductor's approach makes this a relatively fast moving Ring rather than a weighty Ring.
The DVD picture quality is excellent, camera work is good as our views move around the stage, and the sound is also excellent with little if any audience and stage noise.
This is an excellent Ring to have in any case and would nicely complement the Levine Ring from the Met if and when it is ever fully released on DVD (only Walkure is out now).

It is a definite buy.
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on December 19, 2002
I previously owned a set of this production on VHS. It is, by all counts, an extraordinary production. Even if some of the production concepts look a little gimmicky (but most of them are valid under Chereau's concept), the performace as a whole is so convincing that one can readily overlook the small defects, which are bound to occur in any staging or performance of this momumental work. I'm therefore extremely pleased that the picture and sound qualities have been significantly improved in this newest DVD incarnation. In fact, I've never found the Ring more enjoyable than when watching this marvellous production in this new medium.
The cast is pretty first rate (for these times) and the acting is superb. I do find Boulez's interpretation to be slightly less heroic than I would have liked. That said, he gives a very energetic reading of the score and propels the drama forward with considerable power.
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on March 23, 2002
A great set to own. Some technical information that people may want to know about: 7 discs in total. The Rhine Gold is on one disc only and the others span over 2 discs each. The booklets for each of the four operas in the set are informative and concise, there are notes on the director's stage directions also - an essential ingredient I think in appreciating the production.
The quality of the DVD is not great (it is OK), but one must understand that the recording is a quarter of a century old. Just don't compare it to any movie DVD that you've purchased recently.
An additional extras DVD on 'the making of' this Ring Cycle performance would have been a BIG improvement to the set. And also some more subtitles (there are English and French subtitles only). Nonetheless, it deserves 5 stars.
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on January 20, 2002
This is a superb release in many ways. Although one can still see its age (after all, it was taped in 1979 and 1980), the DVD picture and sound qualities are extremely good. Looking at the production now, it's not at all provocative. Instead, it has become almost a sort of classic and it serves the drama and the music very well. The cast here is a strong one, in particular the emotionally riveting Brunnhilde of Gwyneth Jones, the vocally commanding Wotan of Donald McIntyre, and the youthful pair of Walsungs in the like of Peter Hofmann and Jeanine Altmeyer. As many have observed, the standard of acting is impressive. A remarkable achievement that has happily been preserved and released in this new format. What a joy!
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on October 23, 2003
This DVD recording has given me so much pleasure! Although it is often said that the standard of Wagnerian singing has declined a lot over the years, what I heard on this recording is still quite admirable for most of the time. Besides, what a high standard of acting the singers are able to present here!
The production, though having its eccentricities, work very well for most of the time. In fact, I found the production dramatically as riveting as anything I've ever seen in the theatre. Obviously a great production. The videography is excellent, too.
My love for opera has advanced by leaps and bounds after watching this production. I would recommend this marvellous set to all.
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