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Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen / Barenboim

Wagner / Kupfer / Barenboim
Release Date: 10/25/2011 
Label:  Kultur Video   Catalog #: 4755  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  John TomlinsonBirgitta SvendénGraham ClarkGünter von Kannen,   ... 
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival OrchestraBayreuth Festival Chorus
Number of Discs: 11 
Length: 15 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Kultur is pleased to announce its release of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, filmed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in June & July 1991 and 1992, a historic Ring Cycle under the musical direction of Daniel Barenboim.

In going back to the original high definition video master tapes and using cutting-edge encoding technology, Kultur was able to maximize the video quality of this new presentation of this historic Ring. Along with the 11-disc transfer, this allowed Kultur to exploit the DVD standard to its fullest and including three audio streams, LPCM, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The production of Wagner's Ring at the Bayreuth Festival is an event that takes place every six years. Bayreuth recordings of the complete
Read more cycle are rare; this is the second filmed version. The Kupfer/Barenboim Ring was performed over a five-year period and recorded at the conclusion when the "Bayreuth Workshop" had raised "the quality of the performance to an almost unsurpassable level" (Der Tagesspiegel).

Stage direction: Harry Kupfer
Picture format: 16:9 wide screen
Subtitles: German, English, French, Italian, Spanish
Region: 1 (US & Canada Only)
Running Time: 917 minutes
Color: Color

Review of orginal release:

Das Rheingold

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. 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.

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.

Die Walküre

Daniel Barenboim and the superb Festival Orchestra provide a tightly wound, almost violent sort of orchestral support. The first act sizzles with a sense of danger initially and, later, of erotic emancipation. Act II opens with Siegmund and Sieglinde still wrapped in a post-coital embrace before they hit the road. Then Anne Evans portrays a vigorous Brünnhilde. Her voice is youthful, clear, and penetrating; it’s not a giant instrument, but this is the kind of thing you can get away with at the Festspielhaus. John Tomlinson’s bass is rich and resonant, yet agile and expressive. When Wotan dispatches Hunding at the close of act II with “Geh! Geh!” many singers will contemptuously whisper the second “Go!”—Tomlinson bellows it. For scene 3 of the last act, Wotan and Brünnhilde sit facing away from each other as they negotiate over the latter’s offense, like a Dad and a teenage daughter who has missed her curfew. Tomlinson’s “Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!” is triumphant, exultant, and very moving. Finnie’s Fricka is shrewish, but she’s no more assertive than anyone else: her scene with Wotan is truly a war of wills.

Of five video versions of Die Walküre on hand — the others are Levine, Boulez, Zagrosek, and de Billy — this one is the clear winner.

Siegfried

Siegfried’s courtship of Brünnhilde is as convincing as can be hoped for, given the difficult dramatic situation Wagner created for himself, with two protagonists having a very different understanding of “love” — the Valkyrie’s based on her loyalty to Wotan and what she learned from Siegmund and Sieglinde; Siegfried’s pretty much hormonally driven. We witness Brünnhilde come around to an enthusiastic acceptance of erotic love — Barenboim’s sensual, sensitive leadership contributes immeasurably — in a fashion that doesn’t seem forced or abrupt. “Spare me your ardor, the rage of your love,” sings Brünnhilde, but she doesn’t mean it: Anne Evans delivers these words with her hands firmly on Siegfried’s shoulders. This ends up being the hottest final scene of Siegfried I’ve yet seen, in person or on video.

Highly, highly recommended to Wagnerians with an interest in video.

Götterdämmerung

The three principals of the Gibichung realm are a conniving and self-interested trio—you can tell before they open their mouths. Bobo Brinkman’s Gunther has an arrogant assuredness—Hagen does not intimidate him and we can, in fact, detect a hint of superiority towards his half-brother. Gutrune’s eagerness to marry up puts her firmly in Hagen’s thrall; Eva-Maria Bundschuh’s blond bimbo persona helps ensnare the pharmacologically altered Siegfried. Philip Kang is a very Verdian villain, darkly scheming. He’s got the goods theatrically, even if his voice isn’t as vast and commanding as some others undertaking the role. With these superb singer/actors, all the various plot contrivances—memory-erasing potion, magic helmet, disguise—go down easy. We never lose a sense of a metaphysical context even as the opera is acutely enjoyable as a grand entertainment.

The orchestral contribution is magnificent, with Barenboim making every detail in the score count dramatically. Just the first forte chord of act II speaks volumes with its ominous, despondent weightiness, and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey is fresh and exciting, the difficult string passagework remarkably confident and unified. Small touches draw us in: in the Prologue, when the Second and Third Norns arrive, in turn, at the line “weisst du, wie das wird?” (“do you know what will befall?”), Barenboim slows down significantly as the “Death” motive rises in the orchestra. It’s breathtaking. Thanks in equal parts to conductor, singers, and orchestra, the climatic fourth and fifth scenes of act II reach their full dramatic potential, the curtain descending on a mood of hollow triumph.

Remarkably, several of the principals had never performed their roles before, including Tomlinson, Jerusalem, and von Kannen. Even Graham Clark, surely the world’s reigning Mime, had only sung his part once previously. That may help explain the emotional acuity of this Ring—the “process of discovery,” as Tomlinson calls it, is palpable. No Wagnerian with a DVD player and a television should be without this set.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

1.
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  John Tomlinson (Bass), Birgitta Svendén (Mezzo Soprano), Graham Clark (Tenor),
Günter von Kannen (Bass), Linda Finnie (Mezzo Soprano), Eva Johansson (Soprano),
Helmut Pampuch (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
2.
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Anne Evans (Soprano), John Tomlinson (Bass), Nadine Secunde (Soprano),
Matthias Hölle (Bass), Linda Finnie (Mezzo Soprano), Poul Elming (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
3.
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  John Tomlinson (Bass), Graham Clark (Tenor), Anne Evans (Soprano),
Siegfried Jerusalem (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
4.
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jane Turner (Mezzo Soprano), Siegfried Jerusalem (Tenor), Bodo Brinkmann (Baritone),
Birgitta Svendén (Mezzo Soprano), Philip Kang (Bass), Linda Finnie (Mezzo Soprano),
Anne Evans (Soprano), Eva-Maria Bundschuh (Soprano), Annette Küttenbaum (Mezzo Soprano),
Waltraud Meier (Mezzo Soprano), Günter von Kannen (Bass), Hilde Leidland (Soprano),
Ute Priew (Soprano)
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1861-1874; Germany 
5.
Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 NO BETTER FOR THE MONEY. May 15, 2012 By JERSON TERAN (MIAMI, FL) See All My Reviews "THE PRICE IS VERY GOOD, THE PERFORMANCE IS GREAT!!. I WOULD RECOMEND THIS RING TO ANY CLASSICAL MUSIC LOVER. IT IS A MUST." Report Abuse
 Magnificent Ring Cycle December 8, 2011 By William H. (Courtenay , BC) See All My Reviews "Barenboim's Ring Cycle has to be one of the best values in operatic DVDs to come out in years.This 11 disc set of the four operas is beautifully filmed and the sound is about the best I'v heard and I've heard more than a few of them.Not too much to complain about here other than some of the acting is a bit on the extreme side but that's not too much of a distraction.The sets are very good along with the lighting.A good Mime and Wotan and most of the others rank pretty high as well. Highly recommended." Report Abuse
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