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Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Gran Teatre del Liceu

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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(Jun 30, 2009)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Opus Arte presents Harry Kupfer's stunning production of Wagner's colossal masterpiece Der Ring des Nibelungen from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona as a complete box set. Deborah Polaski, Matti Salminen, Falk Struckmann, John Treleaven and Eric Halfvarson lead a splendid cast in this epic cycle which runs for over 15 hours. Bertrand de Billy conducts the superb Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu. This cycle is considered to be among the greatest productions of modern times and is recorded in sumptuous surround sound. A Ring Cycle not to be missed!

'...the best small-screen realisation of a Ring opera I have seen'. International Record Review

Falk Struckmann, Graham Clark, Günter von Kannen, Lioba Braun, Kwanchul Youn
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu / Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin / Bertrand de Billy

Richard Berkeley-Steele, Eric Halfvarson, Falk Struckmann, Linda Watson, Deborah Polaski, Lioba Braun
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu / Bertrand de Billy

John Treleaven, Graham Clark, Falk Struckmann, Günter von Kannen, Eric Halfvarson, Andrea Bönig, Deborah Polaski, Cristina Obregón
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu / Bertrand de Billy

John Treleaven, Falk Struckmann, Günter von Kannen, Matti Salminen, Deborah Polaski, Elisabete Matos, Julia Juon, Leandra Overmann, Cristina Obregón, María Rodríguez, Francisca Beaumont
Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu / Bertrand de Billy

Sung in German with English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan and Italian subtitles

This 11-DVD set documents the 2004 staging of Wagner's Ring cycle at Barcelona's beautiful Gran Teatre del Liceu, a production first seen at the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin. The producer, eminent Wagnerian Harry Kupfer, sees the cycle as a parable of man's destructive greed and Nature ravaged by man's technology. Kupfer's vision is realized in the stark, semi-abstract sets and direction. The World ash-tree from which the god Wotan wrenches the spear that symbolizes his mastery of the world dominates the stage picture in the early operas, withering in the later ones. Kupfer uses the theatre's advanced stage machinery to effortlessly move among the Valhalla of the gods, the earth, and the Nibelung's underworld realm. A grid screen backdrop changes to suit the action, with projections and Franz Peter David's lighting reflecting off the mirror-like stage surface. So the bridge the gods traverse to reach their new castle in Valhalla in Das Rheingold is indicated here by vertical lights on the backdrop, while the ring of fire that protects the sleeping Brunnhilde on her mountaintop in Die Walküre is accomplished by red bands of light whose glow is reflected onto the stage itself.

In Siegfried and Götterdämmerung the sets become more industrial-looking, with forests of pipes, a propeller-like object at center stage, and other symbolic elements that make Kupfer's connection with his theme of rampant technology. Costume designer Reinhard Heinrich clothes the singers in nondescript, non-specific garb for the most part, although the Gibichung siblings of Götterdämmerung seem dressed for a 1930s cocktail party. The bad guys tend to favor black raincoats and jackets, the giants in outfits reminiscent of those of hockey goalies. The ring itself is a large, brass-knuckle affair that can be seen from the top balcony. Most of the time sets, costumes, and lighting design make a positive impact, most impressively in the final scene of Götterdämmerung, which packs visual and emotional punch. Sometimes, though, the filming itself fails to do justice to the staging, making the screen murky, at times ill-focused.

From a musical standpoint this is a worthy Ring cycle, ranking somewhat below those of Boulez, Barenboim, and Levine. Bertrand de Billy conducts competent performances, but without the authority, overall consistent vision, or intensity of the above-named trio. His orchestra is competent, but prone to occasional horn fluffs and scrawny string sound. The cast includes some outstanding Wagner singers. Deborah Polaski has some iffy moments but rises to the big scenes, such as the closing duet in Die Walküre and the final scene of Götterdämmerung. The Wotan is Falk Struckmann, who's a petulant, one-dimensional god. By the time we come to the last two operas of the cycle (he also sings Gunther in Götterdämmerung) his voice is worn and unsteady. The Siegfried, John Treleaven, encounters similar vocal problems though he brings considerable energy to the role. The most impressive of the singers are Graham Clark, the cynical Loge of Das Rheingold and the hyperactive Mime of Siegfried, and Matti Salminen, who's riveting as Hagen in Götterdämmerung. The experienced Günter von Kannen is a forceful presence as Alberich, and the Fricka, Lioba Braun, is outstanding too. Die Walküre's twin lovers, Siegmund and Sieglinde, Richard Berkeley-Steele and Linda Watson, sing and act well. Other worthy portrayals include those of bass Kwanchul Youn as the giant, Fasolt, and Elisabete Matos as Gutrune. The Valkyries, Rhinemaidens, and Norns are well-matched, neatly sung contributors too. Wagnerians will want this set for its provocative well-crafted view of Wagner's great cycle. --Dan Davis

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Deborah Polaski, Eric Halfvarson, John Treleaven
  • Directors: Harry Kupfer
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Box set, Classical, Color, DTS Surround Sound, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 11
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: KULTUR VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: June 30, 2009
  • Run Time: 939 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00265T7QA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,230 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
In evaluating this Ring cycle I am using the Barenboim/Bayreuth, Boulez/Bayreuth, and Levine/New York cycles as references. (I have also seen the Walkure from the Stuttgart cycle, but that one falls into an entirely different genre, closer to parody/comedy.) Turning to the Amsterdam cycle:
Visual/Lighting -- The Amsterdam cycle is consistently well lit with bright, primary colors usually in agreement with what the text suggests. I found that to be highly enjoyable and a refreshing change from the dismal, everyone put on Nilsson's mining helmet, lighting of the Barenboim Bayreuth cycle.
Visual/Sets -- The most distinctive feature of the Amsterdam cycle is the staging. Overall, the stage looks smaller than the Met and certainly shallower than Bayreuth; what's unique is that the main stage is extended out and circles the orchestra with a narrow walkway. That has two consequences: 1. the orchestra is in view for all full stage scenes (only disappearing for close ups of the singers) and 2. action as well as entrances can be spread with some singers behind the orchestra and others in front. This unique staging sometimes leads to vocal imbalances, and some may object to the presence of the orchestra. I thought it was a stroke of genius and made the orchestra a visual as well as vocal partner to the events on stage. In addition, some of the scenes have multi-layered platforms canted or suspended over the main stage. As for the settings, there is no obvious time period, sort of like Barenboim rather than Boulez's industrial revolution cycle or Levine's more realistic Norse mythology.
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As a previous reviewer has done I have also used the Levine, Barenboim and Boulez films of the Ring as comparisons. The Levine is really not truly comparable to these other three as it is a very traditional production by Otto Schenk. And it's a very good traditional production. My enjoyment of that filmed cycle was muted by some bad casting, notably the ponderous physical presences of Gary Lakes and Jessye Norman as Siegmund and Sielinde. She sounds glorious but is not as impassioned as she is on the older Janowski recording from the 1980s. Lakes is not bad but he's huge, and the two of them together make for a highly stodgy-looking first act of 'Walküre'. And Christa Ludwig's Fricka is well past her great prime and looks and sounds more like Wotan's old auntie than his young wife. Levine's conducting can be very turgid as well which doesn't help. The great pluses of his version are the wonderful performances by Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried) and Matti Salminen (Hagen). Hildegard Behrens was a good Brünnhilde but she always looked to me like her head was going to explode when she sang full tilt, a bit disconcerting to watch over long stretches.

The Boulez and Barenboim productions (Chéreau and Kupfer respectively) are a mixed bag in the same way as Levine's.
The Chéreau production is beautiful and interesting to watch with very few scenic flops (notably, the Giants and their dead-weight totally fake looking arms). The cast is mostly excellent, though Siegfried Jerusalem (both the Levine and Barenboim films) is far preferable to Manfred Jung. Gwyneth Jones is very exciting to watch and her singing was under better control than it is on some other recordings, and she's a formidable, magnetic actress.
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This 1999 Amsterdam 'Ring' is well directed by Pierre Audi, and features colourful Japanese-inspired costumes, but is a huge let-down as far as the singing is concerned. The worst soloist here is Altmeyer, miscast at this point of her career as Brunnhilde - no match for her 'Ring' roles under Boulez (Sieglinde and Gutrune), Janowski (Brunnhilde) and Karajan (Freia): in addition to a more-or-less acceptable wobble, most of the top notes are simply beyond her, as when she sounds so tired towards the end of the 'Gotterdammerung' duet that she quickly runs out of breath and even chokes on the final 'Heil!', which her partner sustains superbly; other no less embarrassing moments recur throughout this opera, as well as in 'Siegfried' (to some extent tolerable, given the role's brevity) and 'Walkure', where the beginning of each of the repeated verse of the battle cry is delivered hoarsely (you'll cringe on hearing 2.54 and 4.16 on DVD 2 of the opera); when she just manages to hold a top note, her body begins to convulse (extremely painful to watch and hear); she looks rather astonished during her thunderous curtain calls at the end of the cycle, as if saying: 'I'm glad the ignorant applauding bunch didn't notice anything out of the ordinary'. (I cannot believe that these passages were left intact: the least that could have been done was to re-record them in sound to cover up the defects.Read more ›
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