Notes and Editorial Reviews
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(Blu-ray Disc Version)
Valencian Community Orchestra (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana)
La Fura del Baus,
Recorded live from the Palau de les Arts "Reina Sofia", Valencia, Spain, 2008.
- The making of
PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (opera) /
Dolby Digital 2.0 (bonus)
English, German, French, Spanish (opera) /
English, German, French
256 mins (opera) +
27 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs:
1 (BD 50)
Zubin Mehta, cond; Lance Ryan (
); Gerhard Siegel (
); Juha Uusitalo (
); Franz-Josef Kapellmann (
); Stephen Milling (
); Catherine Wyn-Rogers (
); Jennifer Wilson (
); Marina Zyatkova (
); Comunitat Valenciana O
C MAJOR 701004 (Blu-ray: 283:00) Live: Valencia 6/2008 & 6/2009
Zubin Mehta, cond; Jennifer Wilson (
); Lance Ryan (
); Matti Salminen (
); Franz-Josef Kapellmann (
); Ralf Lukas (
); Elisabete Matos (
); Catherine Wyn-Rogers (
); Daniela Denschlag (
); Pilar Vázquez (
); Eugenia Bethancourt (
); Silvia Vázquez (
); Ann-Katrin Naidu (
); Marina Prudenskaya (
); Comunitat Valenciana O & Cho
C MAJOR 701204 (Blu-ray: 307:00) Live: Valencia 5,6/2008
33:6, I gave very positive notices to
from the Valencia
cycle produced in Spain. Now the complete tetralogy is available on both standard DVD and Blu-ray, and I’m here to tell you that what we’ve got is a potential top choice for someone acquiring their first video
and an absolute necessity for those who collect them.
The musical values of this
are considerable but, as noted last issue, it’s the sensational visual panoply we’re treated to, hour after hour, that’s unique. The inventiveness of stage director Carlus Padrissa’s “dream team,” as he calls them in one of the appended bonus features—stage designer Roland Olbeter, costume designer Chu Uroz, and video creator Franc Aleu—never flags. Between the video projections and the quasi-acrobatic presence of La Fura del Baus, the one-of-a-kind Catalan theatrical company, there’s almost always
happening behind, above, or around the singers. Yet all this activity never distracts or seems the least superfluous. Aleu’s high-definition video, in particular, functions at almost a subliminal level, like a
. A flock of birds soar and swoop as Siegfried makes his observations to Mime about the natural world; blood gushes prodigiously when the hero plunges Nothung into Fafner’s heart. The opportunity for stunning visual imagery during Mime’s hallucination, after the Wanderer’s departure in
’s first act, isn’t missed.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the dragon is a sophisticated mechanized affair—this production must have cost a fortune!—and the Rhinemaidens are back in their suspended water-filled Plexiglas tanks for their return in the final act of
Padrissa takes plenty of chances and usually comes away a winner. In act I of
the hero is placed on a treadmill and his vital signs monitored to assess if he’s getting the concept of “fear”; in
’s second act, the Heldentenor is actually suspended upside down by his feet to be interrogated by Brünnhilde and Hagan (and he’s expected to sing!). The deployment of La Fura in
demonstrates that the director hasn’t forgotten that this opera is a comedy, albeit a dark one. The close of the forging scene comes off like a Broadway production number, with a chorus line of Mime’s helpers aping Siegfried’s hammer strokes as the stage picture is increasingly dominated by flames, real and projected.
Lance Ryan’s Siegfried isn’t quite the loutish hothead he’s usually portrayed as. He’s a naive child of nature, primitive and inexperienced, dressed in pelts, with aborigine-like tattoos. This is in stark contrast to Mime’s technologically advanced mad scientist look, a tangle of bloody plastic tubes draped over the dwarf’s back and shoulders. In terms of pure vocalism, Ryan is a capable and well-trained singer though no Melchior, and his voice begins to fade by the end of
’s final act. But as a dramatic representation of Wagner’s problematic hero, Ryan is spot-on: He really sounds and looks like a lost little boy as he sits beneath the linden tree before battling Fafner.
Juha Uusitalo finishes off his superb realization of Wotan/Wanderer. Mehta takes the flowing chord progressions of the Wanderer’s music at a slower tempo than usual, increasing the calm majesty of Uusitalo’s performance. His chemistry with Mime (Gerhard Siegel), Alberich (Franz-Josef Kapellmann), and Erda (Catherine Wyn-Rogers) is excellent and those three scenes, like much else in
, proceed with a dramatic thrust that makes a very long opera seem not nearly so long. Stephen Milling completes an imposing representation of Fafner.
As Brünnhilde, Jennifer Wilson awakens refreshed, her voice clear, controlled, and beautifully colored for “Heil dir, Sonne! Heil dir, Licht!” Her performance in
is one of gathering strength and nobility; she never turns bitchy or hysterical after discovering she’s has been betrayed. The passage in which she and Siegfried swear an oath on the tip of Hagan’s spear (“Helle Wehr! Heilige Waffe!”) is electrifying. Wilson’s Immolation Scene is humanely powerful.
Three excellent singers are cast for the Gibichung realm: Elisabete Matos as a vapid floozy of a Gutrune, Ralf Lukas as her pathetic brother, and the always magnificent Matti Salminen as a particularly malevolent Hagan. (These are “little nothings on the edge of society,” comments Lukas, in a “bonus.”) The beginning of
’s act II, set in a decommissioned Nibelheim, gives us a palpable sense of what’s at stake for the bad guys, and it’s one of the most powerful 10 minutes of the entire Valencia
Hagan’s men are bespeckled accountants—all the Gibichungs are clearly obsessed with money, status, and power—and the choral work is excellent. Another
highlight is Waltraute’s visit to her sister, played out on Brünnhilde’s large, Las Vegas-style nuptial bed before a black star-studded backdrop. Catherine Wyn-Rogers communicates a rising sense of desperation, playing off Brünnhilde’s intransigence.
Zubin Mehta’s profound understanding of the score is apparent in every bar, and the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, hand-picked by Lorin Maazel, is with him every step of the way. (“They are young, but they are extremely gifted,” declares Mehta.) The performance has been expertly filmed and edited, the high-definition video doing full justice to the spectacular stage pictures. C Major’s sound is naturally spacious in multichannel (7.1, if you’re so equipped; I listened with a more typical 5.1 loudspeaker complement) though there’s also a good sense of depth and excellent balances with the stereo program. Subtitles are offered in German, English, French, and Spanish.
Now there are nine complete
s on video to choose among. Identifying them by conductor, they are: Levine, Barenboim, Boulez, Zagrosek, Haenchen, De Billy, Schønwandt, St. Clair, and now this one. Of the nine, only the wrong-headed Weimar production, the other cycle available on Blu-ray, is to be avoided (it’s not conductor Carl St. Clair’s fault); all the others have something going for them. My preferred versions have been Barenboim’s 1992 Bayreuth account, the fascinating Amsterdam
led by Michael Schønwandt, and, for its traditional production values and solid cast, James Levine’s Metropolitan Opera DVDs. But as noted above, Valencia’s production—the high-def video projections, the “articulated dragon, activated by numerical control,” and dozens of harnessed La Fura supernumeraries suspended high above the stage notwithstanding—is actually pretty traditional as well and, as nearly as anybody can say, true to the composer’s intentions. It will appeal, as suggests Helga Schmidt, the Intendant of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia where these performances were recorded live in 2008 and 2009, to younger potential Wagnerians—and I’d say to old hands as well. It is, as billed, “a
for the 21st century.”
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Works on This Recording
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (Mezzo Soprano),
Jennifer Wilson (Soprano),
Juha Uusitalo (Baritone),
Lance Ryan (Tenor),
Gerhard Siegel (Tenor),
Franz Josef Kapellmann (Bass)
Valencia Community Orchestra
Written: 1871; Germany
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