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Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray]

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Wagner's early opera 'Rienzi' is stylistically closer to Meyerbeer and bel canto than to Wagner's later masterworks. Yet even this early work especially as presented in this recording is 'so fantastically beautiful that it takes one's breath away' (Berliner Zeitung). And in this staging by Philipp Stölzl, who condensed the five-act opera into a little over two hours, 'Rienzi' becomes a startlingly powerful and timeless parable of power and abuse. Though the story of the rise and fall of a charismatic leader and his totalitarian regime takes place in 14th-century Rome, Stölzl sets it somewhere in the recent past. The topic 'anticipates the history of the 20th-century in a visionary way', says Stölzl, adding that 'one can make surprising analogies to many despots of this time: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Ceausescu...' Since film was a central propaganda tool of 20th-century totalitarian systems, Stölzl uses film projections to make the 'tribune' Rienzi tower above the masses or, in the style of old newsreels, to show a utopian 'New Rome'. It is, after all, with films that Stölzl began his career: directing video clips for Rammstein and Madonna, then directing feature films ('North Face', 'Goethe!') and staging operas at major venues, including the Salzburg Festival. Tenor Torsten Kerl, who has visibly studied the gestures of the 20th century's major dictators, gives a brilliant and eloquent Rienzi; his dutiful sister Irene, sung by Camilla Nylund with great lyrical intensity, is paired with a lover, Adriano, interpreted by the luminous mezzo Kate Aldrich, 'the discovery of the evening' (Süddeutsche Zeitung). Also worthy of lead-role status is the chorus, which masters its demanding part with stunning presence and accuracy. The orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin is led with exuberance and precision by young conductor Sebastian Lang-Lessing.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Torsten Kerl, Kate Aldrich, Camilla Nylund, Deutsche Oper Berlin
  • Directors: Philipp Stolzl
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Classical, NTSC, Surround Sound, Widescreen
  • Language: German (DTS-HD 5.1), German (PCM Stereo), Dutch (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: Dutch, German, French, English, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2010
  • Run Time: 182 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003X8597K
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,088 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

The sound quality is exceptional.
Giles Bernard J. Hall
The themes of Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini prevailed, forcing the entire opera into an entirely other interpretation.
K. Feucht
This will never be an opera I would be willing to say I love.
G. Miller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Richard on November 9, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
First off let me say that this cut Rienzi is not a desecration of Wagner, and I am a major Wagnerholic. If you have made it through the entire Rienzi (there is a CD available by the BBC) you know that it is a numbing work - chorus after chorus, ballets that never end: enough material for two operas. Do you really want 5 hours of second rate Meyerbeer? This is not mature Wagner, and anything that helps Rienzi work in the theater is welcome. This DVD delivers.
Yes, the work is brought up into the 20th century and casts Rienzi as a fascist dictator. But it works. Due to the cuts this streamlined Rienzi makes more of an impact than the sprawling original.
The musicians are quite good. The singers are effective actors. The conducting keeps the work moving. Don't hold your breath for a complete Rienzi. This production makes a good case for the opera. All Wagnerians should check it out.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Doug Urquhart VINE VOICE on October 4, 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is the first performance of Rienzi to be recorded on DVD. Any Wagnerite is going to jump at the chance of seeing it.

Fortunately, this is a very entertaining production. Admittedly, cuts have been profound and sweeping; out of the five hour original only 2.5 hours remain. I'm not familiar enough with the full version to comment on whether the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater, but to my ear, what was left was strongly Wagnerian, with none of the fluff described in many accounts of the original. Clearly, the scenes have been selected to match the premise, that Rienzi was a proto-Führer. Again, I don't know whether this is a distortion of the original.

The opening scene, where a somewhat acrobatic body double performed during the overture, was reminiscent of Obersaltzberg, complete with panoramic window and Mussolini fireplace, although the director, in the 'making of' interview, claimed that this wasn't intentional. Much use was made throughout of a bi-level stage, with the main action taking place above the lower section - a concrete bunker. There was also copious use of monochrome video, giving a strong flavour of Leni Riefenstahl.

Musically splendid, with some outstanding performances. Torsten Kerl was the perfect despot, incorporating many of the mannerisms of those chaps from the beginning of last century.
Kate Aldrich, as Adriano was amazing. Just amazing.

Strongly recommended.

On a second viewing, there was a particularly strong scene where the chorus removed their grotesque masks, and normal street clothes, and replaced them with uniforms, complete with stylized 'R' symbols. The individuals were now identifiable, but made anonymous by the costumes.

The more I watch this, the more I like it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Pelkonen on August 27, 2011
Format: DVD
This DVD presents a bold re-interpretation of this early opera by Richard Wagner. The title character is re-imagined as a 20th century dictator with a uniform fetish, who rises to power on the back of the common people, only to be killed in an underground bunker in the last act. (Sound like anyone you've heard of?) It's fitting that this brilliant staging by Philipp Stölzl was filmed at the Deutsches Oper Berlin in 2010. It's the first Rienzi on video, and the first essential Wagner DVD to be released in some time.

Rienzi is Wagner's third opera. It is his longest work: (five acts, six hours) a gigantic grand opera in the manner of Meyerbeer. Philipp Stölzl cut the score severely for this performance, chopping out ballets, finales, choruses, processions, and whole swaths to get it down to a lean two and a half hours. The truncation of the score is clever, if ruthless.

This music is very different from mature Wagner. He wrote it when he was 26, and by time the opera was premiered (eight years later) the ever-restless composer had moved on to Der Fliegende Höllander and was already planning Tannhäuser. The Deutsches Oper Berlin orchestra plays brilliantly under the baton of Stephen Lang-Lessing. The decision to retain Wagner's early (and sometimes clumsy) orchestrations intact gives the work charm and shows the care that went into this performance.

Heldentenor Torsten Kerl gives a moving performance in the title role, singing with a high, penetrating tone that blooms into moments of sweetness. This part has hellish difficulties written into it by the young, ambitious Wagner. Much declamatory singing is required, forcing the tenor to be heard over a heavy orchestra. Mr.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Waldteufel on February 23, 2011
Format: DVD
The fact that Hitler liked this opera does not make it an opera about Hitler and the nazis or Mussolini and his fascists. This is a director's 'take' on the opera completely changing the motivation and actions of the principals. As such it is a travesty though well sung, played and acted. But never believe this is Wagner's Rienzi - you only have to read the libretto to see how falsely this version represents the drama.
There is a wonderful and absolutely complete (not 9 hours) performance of the opera on cd conducted by Sir Edward Downes originally broadcast by the BBC in 1976 - well worth seeking out.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 13, 2010
Format: Blu-ray
Normally an abridged version of an opera would not be something one would find acceptable, particularly when the production itself has been updated and modernised, but Wagner's 1842 opera Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen) - almost forgotten but certainly eclipsed by the composer's next opera Der fliegende Holländer - is an opera in serious need of rehabilitation, not least because of the infamy of it supposedly being Hitler's favourite opera. Cut down in half from its original five hour running time, the five acts compressed into two parts, this 2010 Deutsche Oper Berlin production, conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing and directed by pop-video and film director Philipp Stölzl, does however manage to give a new lease of life to the opera, or at least bring out elements in it that suggest that, for all its flaws and its troubled history, it's time the opera were confronted to determine whether its worthy of reconsideration and re-evaluation.

As the story deals with the rise and fall of the 14th century Roman dictator Cola di Rienzo, it seems appropriate in this production to emphasise the uncanny parallels that the opera has with the rise of Hitler and his downfall. To not do so would be unthinkable, according to the director Philipp Stölzl, and indeed it's impossible not to see the remarkable coincidences in the common circumstances that give rise to a Rienzi here and those of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or Ceausescu. Accordingly, being a German production, the opening part of Rienzi with the struggles between the Orsini and the Colonna factions, is clearly set in Germany's interwar years.
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Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray]
This item: Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray]
Price: $39.99 $29.89
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