Notes and Editorial Reviews
The Netherlands Opera’s Ring cycle wraps up with this Götterdämmerung, which was, like the previous installments, filmed in 1999. Director Pierre Audi has the orchestra back in an open pit surrounded by the stage, allowing conductor Hartmut Haenchen to be frequently in view. As with Die Walküre, Haenchen’s band is the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra—he had the far-from-negligible Residentie and Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestras for Rheingold and Siegfried, respectively. The orchestral playing throughout is excellent: as just one example, listen to the bass clarinet solo followed by the sequential entrance of the eight horns in the passage leading into the second scene of act II. The Funeral March,
Götterdämmerung’s most famous set piece, is thrilling.
The cast is strong with one exception, and we may as well get that out of the way. In Siegfried, Heinz Kruse was a sufficiently bratty hero-in-training and even managed a credible job in the last scene of that opera, thanks to pacing himself wisely (and a strong Brünnhilde.) Here, portraying a more complicated Siegfried, his monochromatic, generic-sounding tenor starts to grate; there’s a sense of strain whenever he ventures above the staff. Fortunately Götterdämmerung is, of course, Brünnhilde’s opera, and Jeannine Altmeyer is terrific. Vocally and dramatically, she’s up to the varied demands of the part, from the besotted wife of the Prologue to the debased sexual victim of act I’s close to the life-affirming heroine of the opera’s final minutes. Her voice opens up on top, precisely where Kruse’s shuts down.
Kurt Rydl comes close to stealing the show. Götterdämmerung may be Brünnhilde’s opera, but a strong Hagen assures the work’s theatrical power and Rydl is a fearful-looking guy with his shirt off—the hirsute chest, bald head, and black suspenders evoking a malevolent professional wrestler—terrifying as he summons the townsfolk (“Hoiho! Hoihohoho! Ihr Gibich’smannen”) in act II. Henk Smit is back as Alberich, and his scene with Rydl at the outset of the middle act is utterly convincing as a father-and-son dialogue. Wolfgang Schöne, who has sung plenty of Wotans, presents a more complex and sympathetic Gunther than is often the case—more than just a pathetic fop. Likewise, Eva-Maria Bundschuh’s Gutrune is beautifully sung, her character developed beyond the standard rich-bitch stereotype. A highlight of the entire performance is the scene between Altmeyer and Anne Gjevang’s Waltraute. Rhinemaidens and Norns are fine.
George Tsypin’s sets aren’t as eye-pleasing as some of the others in the Amsterdam Ring, but there are nice production touches. The Gibichen here are presented as a race of subjugated zombies: there’s a master/slave relationship with Hagen that parallels that of Alberich and the Nibelungs back in Das Rheingold. Additionally, Siegfried’s death is handled very imaginatively. After the murder, everyone disappears from the stage—usually, the hero is slowly born away by the hunters to the strains of the Funeral March—and Brünnhilde appears to grieve, and to remove the ring from Siegfried’s finger. The climactic watery conflagration is ingeniously conjured up with an enormous billowing piece of red fabric around the former Valkyrie. At the closing pages, there are no intimations of a Brave New World: the Rhinemaidens simply have their property back, and that’s that. (One other detail: obsessive Wagnerians like to count who’s left at the end of the Ring, and Gutrune’s among them. For many this isn’t very dramatically satisfying—Alberich and the Rhinemaidens, sure—but Gutrune? No such problem here. Hagen strangles her as the Immolation Scene is getting underway.)
As expected, the PCM stereo option better represents voices than the DTS multichannel, but surround does help make the superb orchestral contribution especially enjoyable. Subtitles are offered in seven languages, including Dutch and Japanese. (Be sure to use a “full” video aspect rather than “zoom” or you’ll lose half of them.) In addition to a cast gallery and illustrated synopsis, we get a brief introduction to the work from Michäel Zeeman, composer Peter-Jan Wagemans, and Ronald de Leeuw who, as nearly as I can tell, is director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
-- Andrew Quint, FANFARE
Running Time: 268 minutes
Picture Format: NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: English, French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
Works on This Recording
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Kurt Rydl (Bass),
Heinz Kruse (Tenor),
Wolfgang Schöne (Bass),
Jeanine Altmeyer (Soprano),
Henk Smit (Bass)
Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1871-1874; Germany
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