Notes and Editorial Reviews
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Christian Thielemann, “by common consent the leading Wagner conductor of our time” (Die Presse), returns to Bayreuth for this radiant account of Die Walküre filmed at the 2010 Festival. Appearing on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time, it provides the only audio-visual document of Tankred Dorst’s Ring production, and follows the hugely successful release of the whole cycle on CD. Two new singers join the cast: Johan Botha as Siegmund, who was showered with praise by the press (“ideal vocal casting” in the words of
the critic on the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) and Edith Haller, with her “beautiful, strong soprano voice” (Süddeutsche Zeitung) as his sister and lover Sieglinde.
Siegmund: Johan Botha
Hunding: Kwangchul Youn
Wotan: Albert Dohmen
Sieglinde: Edith Haller
Brünnhilde: Linda Watson
Fricka: Mihoko Fujimura
Gerhilde: Sonja Mühleck
Ortlinde: Anna Gabler
Waltraute: Martina Dike
Schwertleite: Simone Schröder
Helmwige: Miriam Gordon-Stewart
Siegrune: Wilke te Brummelstroete
Grimgerde: Annette Küttenbaum
Rossweisse: Alexandra Petersamer
Bayreuther Festspiele Chorus
Conductor: Christian Thielemann
Director: Tankred Dorst
Recorded live from the Bayreuth Festival, 2010
The making of Die Walküre
Duration: 258 minutes
Regions: All Regions
Picture Format: 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound Type: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS
Christian Thielemann, cond; Johann Botha (
); Edith Haller (
); Kwangchul Youn (
); Albert Dohman (
); Linda Watson (
); Mihoko Fujimura (
); Bayreuth Fest O
OPUS ARTE OA BD7081 D (Blu-ray) OA 1045 D (2 DVDs) (259:00) Live: Bayreuth 8/21/2010
The Making of
Here’s an item I definitely was
expecting to see as a commercial commodity. The
cycle directed by Tankred Dorst finished its five-year run at Bayreuth last year. From the beginning, Christian Thielemann’s musical direction was ecstatically received while Dorst’s production was consistently dismissed. Opus Arte seemed to acknowledge this critical dichotomy by issuing a 2008 Festival performance of the complete cycle as the label’s first-ever CD release, a set that was one of my 2010 Want List selections. If the Blu-ray format is a requirement, Zubin Mehta’s Valencia
is the one to get. (The four operas, on the C Major label, are available separately.) But it turns out that this new offering, especially the BD, is well worth the consideration of the video-collecting Wagnerian.
was filmed on August 21, 2010, two years after the audio-only version was recorded with a different cast. While Albert Dohman, Linda Watson, and Kwangchul Youn reprise their roles here, Thielemann has a new Fricka and a different pair of incestuous twins to work with. John Botha is an A-list Heldentenor—he replaces Endrik Wottrich, who portrayed Siegmund in 2008—and sings with power and commitment. A high point is Botha’s scene with Brünnhilde in act II: It’s poignant, even majestic, as he declines the Valkyrie’s offer of a cushy afterlife in Valhalla. Edith Haller, who was an excellent Gutrune and covered the thankless role of Friea back in 2008, is a womanly and full-voiced Sieglinde, replacing Eva-Maria Westbroek, who was equally impressive in the earlier set. Mihoko Fujimura sings a firmly moral, dignified, and sympathetic Fricka, as effectively as Michelle Breedt did previously.
As for the returnees, Albert Dohman performed the role of Wotan about 40 times for Thielemann at Bayreuth and understands completely the complexities of his character. The end of act III is especially treasureable: “Lebwohl!” is exultant; “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar” is emotionally potent but never crooned. Linda Watson again demonstrates that she’s got the goods for a complete representation of the title role, from her confident battle cries right through to her negotiations with Wotan in the final act. There, while Watson subtly shades her singing as she softens the heart of her furious father, she still manages to maintain something of the proud and assertive demeanor that, we assume, made her Wotan’s favorite in the first place. Dohman and Watson’s collaboration in this scene is profound; by the time Watson gets to “Der diese Liebe mir ins Herz gehaucht, dem Willen” (Inwardly true to the will which inspired the love in my heart), we have a powerful sense that Brunnhilde and her father have the beginnings of an understanding, that they are fashioning a solution that they can both live with. Kwangchul Youn seems to come off as a darker, more dangerous Hunding than he did on CD, perhaps thanks to the quasi-Gestapo costume he’s in, or the posse of similarly dressed extras he arrives with in act I.
Which gets us to the production itself. It really wasn’t as objectionable as I’d been led to believe it would be from reviews written at the time this
opened in 2005. Dorst’s affectation is that “the gods … are still among us today, only we cannot see them.” We’re shown slightly jarring and entirely irrelevant reminders of this premise from time to time; for example, during Wotan’s act II monologue, a guy in contemporary clothing sits next to his bicycle reading the newspaper, riding off lazily just before Siegmund and Sieglinde stumble into view. It’s silly, but not nearly as off-putting as, say, all the gratuitous sex and violence featured in the Weimar
More important than these “creative” minutiae is that some very slack stage direction undermines theatrical potency. Act I, in particular, is nothing like the dramatic juggernaut it should be. The three characters on stage don’t seem to be interacting with one another; we don’t get a strong sense of Siegmund and Sieglinde’s rising erotic attraction, or Hunding and Siegmund’s escalating mutual hatred. The blocking of the climatic confrontation that closes the middle act is very clunky.
It’s Thielemann and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra that make any such issues largely irrelevant. The sense of musical coherence and continuity is extraordinary. Further contributing to the success of this undertaking is the high-resolution sound that, especially in multichannel, comes closer than ever to reproducing the singular aural experience of the Festspielhaus. Voices and instruments register as equally significant, amplifying the meaning of, for instance, Wotan’s long second-act speech. The high-definition video (on Blu-ray) is magnificent as well—check out the exceptional “edge definition” of Brunnhilde’s brilliant red costume against a pitch-black background in act III.
The 23-minute extra feature, “The Making of
” is very worthwhile, especially if you’ve never been to Bayreuth. There are terrific shots of the famed recessed orchestra pit and other aspects of the theater. We see Katharina Wagner’s democratizing innovation of showing the drama on a large screen, in real time, set up in the Festplatz. And many of the singers and others involved with the production (sadly, Thielemann doesn’t participate) speak to the unique cooperative milieu that the festival fosters each summer. As I write this, my second visit to Bayreuth is 10 weeks away. I can hardly wait.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Works on This Recording
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Albert Dohmen (Baritone),
Johan Botha (Tenor),
Kwangchul Youn (Bass),
Edith Haller (Soprano),
Linda Watson (Soprano),
Mihoko Fujimura (Alto)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,
Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Written: 1856; Germany
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