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Wagner: Das Rheingold / Barenboim, Tomlinson, Bayreuth Festival

Wagner / Bareboim / Tomlinson / Johansson / Kupfer
Release Date: 02/28/2006 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 62318  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Günter von KannenGraham ClarkBirgitta SvendénLinda Finnie,   ... 
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra

Imported from : European Union   
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Das Rheingold ? Daniel Barenboim, cond; John Tomlinson ( Wotan ); Günter von Kannen ( Alberich ); Graham Clark ( Loge ); Helmut Pampuch ( Mime ); Matthias Hölle ( Fasolt ); Philip Kang ( Fafner ); Linda Finnie ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Fricka ); Eva Johansson ( Freia ); Birgitta Svendén ( Erda ); Bobo Brinkman ( Donner ); Kurt Schreibmayer ( Froh ); Hilde Leidland ( Woglinde ); Annette Küttenbaum ( Wellgunde ); Jane Turner ( Flosshilde ); Bayreuth Festival O ? WARNER R2 62318 (DVD: 154:06)

This Rheingold is the second installment of the latest incarnation of Harry Kupfer?s early-1990s Bayreuth Ring cycle, conducted by Daniel Barenboim. ( Die Walküre was covered in Fanfare 29:4.) Kupfer?s production delivers big-time on the Gesamtkunstwerk concept and, with the additional attraction of multichannel sound that provides a decent proxy for the singular Bayreuth acoustic, this is the video Ring to have if you?re having only one.

With green lasers and other stunning lighting effects, scene 1 creates as convincing an underwater environment as has been seen on stage, home to Rhinemaidens who can really sing as well as wriggle seductively. Günter von Kannen?s Alberich is grubby and desperate, but artfully sung without vocal buffoonery. Von Kannen reprised the role for Kupfer?s second Ring, available on BBC/Opus Arte ( Fanfare 24:1-4). He?s good in both, but just about perfect here. Visually, the transition to scene 2 is hypnotic with the picture before you evolving as miraculously as the music does. Tomlinson is majestic and confident, brimming with pride as he extols the virtues of his new home. Linda Finnie portrays Fricka multidimensionally: there are moments of shrewishness but also glimpses of genuine affection for her husband, as well as dignity and moral strength?though she?s not such a goody-two-shoes that she doesn?t reveal a flash of blatant self-interest when she hears about the ring?s power from Loge. And speaking of Loge, we?re treated to Graham Clark in the role (Kupfer used him again for his later cycle), as flexible vocally as he is as a physical actor. It?s pretty extraordinary, the way Clark can continue to sing as he climbs around the pipes and ladders of the elaborate set. As in the BBC/Opus Arte Rheingold, Graham?s Loge is utterly unimpressed with the head god?he?ll solve the dilemma of Freia?s ransom for sport, not out of fear or any sense of obligation to Wotan.

The giants are extremely giant, easily 15 feet tall, with tiny little heads. Their movements are awkward (presumably, there are stagehands inside those capacious robes, underneath the singers) but the fact that they move at all is remarkable. Matthais Hölle, the Fasolt, is commanding but Philip Kang?s Fafner has a darker edge right from the outset, as he should. Down in Nibelheim, Helmut Pampuch as Mime isn?t, vocally, quite as high-strung as he might be, but the tricking of Alberich is beautifully done. In the final scene, Birgitta Svendén?s solemn wisdom is compelling: this is an Erda whose advice no Wotan can ignore.

Barenboim moves things along very effectively. When the humiliated Alberich summons his slaves to the surface world to deliver the hoard, the build-up of the dotted Nibelung motive to the final scream is terrifying. The orchestral playing, even the near-impossible string filigree, is amazingly united.

About the sound. As I?ve suggested before, if you have good audio equipment for multichannel playback, you probably don?t usually want to listen to the Dolby Digital or DTS surround programs on opera DVDs because the level of resolution is considerably lower than the PCM stereo option. These Warner Wagner DVDs are a notable exception. They can be thought of as ?discreet? multichannel recordings rather than an after-the-fact manipulation of the mastertape: Unitel placed ambience microphones out in the auditorium at the 1991 sessions and a real sense of the Festspielhaus is communicated.

Warner apologizes, in the notes, for some ?disturbing distortions in the video picture? during the first scene due to the lasers giving fits to the cameras? electronics. No apologies necessary?as far as I?m concerned, it?s cool, even if unintended.

Siegfried and Götterdämmerung are promised before long.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Günter von Kannen (Bass), Graham Clark (Tenor), Birgitta Svendén (Mezzo Soprano),
Linda Finnie (Mezzo Soprano), Eva Johansson (Soprano), John Tomlinson (Bass),
Helmut Pampuch (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 

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