Wagner: Das Rheingold
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In the words of the prestigious German weekly 'Die Zeit,' the stage production of Wagner's 'Rheingold' and 'Walkure' by La Fura dels Baus 'quite possibly shows us the path that musical theater will be taking in the future.' There's no doubt about it: the Catalan city of Valencia is setting new accents in 21st-century opera not only with its spectacular new theater designed by Santiago Calatrava, but also with its visually transfixing production of Wagner's 'Ring' staged by Carlos Padrissa and his theater group La Fura dels Baus. The Barcelona-based Fura blends music, dance, acrobatics and technology into unforgettable stage events of sometimes raw but always captivating power. The Fura made its breakthrough in the classical establishment with its production of Berlioz's 'La damnation de Faust' at the 1999 Salzburg Festival. The Fura's fertile visual fantasy and endless combinations of savvy video technology, lighting and props (often formed of human beings) are predestined for Wagner's visionary expressive world. Wagner's dream of a Gesamtkunstwerk becomes reality as this shape-shifting sequence of tableaux unfolds before our eyes: 3D computer projections that evoke computer games, organic structures built of athletic performers that recall the 'Cirque du soleil,' and much more. In this production, 'the visual codes of the digital era become elemental and dazzlingly employed means of narration' (Opernwelt). Musically, the first two parts of Wagner's tetralogy 'Das Rheingold' and 'Die Walkure' are on a par with productions from historically more prestigious opera houses. Part Three, 'Siegfried,' is scheduled for June 2008, and Part Four, 'Götterdammerung,' for June 2009. Legendary conductor Zubin Mehta leads world-class Wagner singers such as Peter Seiffert, Petra-Maria Schnitzer and Matti Salminen, and promising young talents that include Jennifer Wilson (Brunnhilde), John Daszak (Loge) and Juha Uusitalo (Wotan), whom the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung hailed as a new 'Number One among the opera gods.' Equally outstanding is the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, an ensemble of top musicians hand-picked by Music Director Lorin Maazel.
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Top customer reviews
The singers are all competent, though none struck me as delivering a truly standout performance, with the possible exception of Ilya Bannik's Donner, who delivers the "He da! He do!" incantation with astonishing power.
The production, heavily steeped in post-apocalyptic dystopian tropes, walks the line between brilliance and ridiculousness. Across the board, though, it is truly fascinating. I would not recommend this for anyone who has never seen Das Rheingold before, since it might end up being confusing. But if you're an aficionado, this is definitely one to add to your collection if for no other reason than it will blow your mind...or at least cause it to perk up.
I did not care for one or two special effects, particularly from the Rhein maidens, or the net over Wotan's first entry, or Maestro Mehta's appearance here and there, but for 90%+ the production is brilliant. A little tweaking next time and it might even be perfect! One point to note is that for Blu ray watchers this plays like a movie. One rarely sees the whole stage and special effects appear on screen as selected by the editors. Anyone in the audience would not get this close up edition and would see quite a different perspective. On balance the Blu ray version is very good and probably the best way to view it but I would like to see it from the audience perspective as well one day.
Overall this is a stunning release, which must be seen by any lover of the Ring, just a pity the musical direction and playing was not quite up to the highest mark. If you plan to own just one Ring on disc then this must be it although I shall not chuck out my much loved Boulez and the old Solti and I still like the Dutch release. Highly recommended despite the reservations.
Most recent customer reviews
The Orchestra and the Conducting: One must view it from a different perspective.Read more
Apart from a few lovely voices, this production has nothing to recommend...Read more
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