"The great thing about Tony Palmer's film is that, on its epic scale, it takes over from real life and makes you submit totally. Richard Burton was the very embodiment of Wagner. This film is one of the truly great experiences of the cinema." -- Edward Greenfield, The Guardian
Available (for the first time) with German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese subtitles.
This epic film – described by Richard Hornak in Opera News as “one of the most beautiful motion pictures in history” – was originally made in 1982/3 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wagner’s death. Filmed in 200 locations throughout Europe, many where the actual historical events took place, with a team from 19 differentRead more countries, the entire production was completed in less than a year. Sadly it was to be Richard Burton’s last major role, but the stellar cast assembled partly because of him - Olivier, Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Franco Nero, Marthe Keller, Gemma Craven, Gwyneth Jones, Peter Hofmann, Arthur Lowe, Ekkehardt Schall (Brecht’s son-in-law), Joan Greenwood, Sir William Walton, Gabriel Byrne, Andrew Cruickshank – the list is endless.
Multi-Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro & Nic Knowland, the cameramen, produced a stream of astonishing images. And none of it would have been possible without the active and continuous support of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer’s grandson.
The music is conducted by SIR GEORG SOLTI, whom many consider to be the greatest Wagner conductor of our time.
Much rubbish has been written about the film since its completion. Apparently it is 9 hours long; 2 hours long; 5 hours long. It is none of those. It is 7 hours and 46 minutes in length precisely. It is not, and never has been, a Mini-Series, and was always intended as a single film. Apparently it went hugely over budget; was made as a ‘tax loss’; ITV refused to show it; the producers ordered the negative burnt. Only the last is true. Fact: it cost less than £7 million. Fact: it was finished and delivered on time. Various distributors since, legal and illegal, have lied about its sales, misrepresented its contents, allowed cheap DVDs (made from poor quality VHSs) to be marketed, and ignored the wishes of those who created it.
So here it is, finally, as it was originally edited by Tony Palmer, restored in wide-screen and Hi-Definition. The music, conducted more-or-less as a favour by Sir Georg Solti, has never sounded better. Storaro’s photography has never looked better. And the script by Charles Wood remains a miracle of historical compression and accuracy, given that Wagner himself was an appalling fantasist and the truth often hard to ascertain.
And Richard Burton, who towers above the production, reminds us what a great actor he was. This is a fitting tribute to his – and to Wagner’s – genius.
Sir Laurence Olivier
Sir John Gielgud
Sir Ralph Richardson
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra
Conducted by: Sir Georg Solti
Written by: Charles Wood
Director: Tony Palmer
Producer: Alan Wright
Sir Georg Solti
London Philharmonic Orchestra,
Budapest Symphony Orchestra,
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Epic failure in capturing the life of Richard WagMarch 4, 2012By Jim W. (San Francisco, CA)See All My Reviews"Tony Palmer obviously hates Richard Wagner, and he set out to obliterate Wagner's music and stress every single solitary character defect of the composer. The only moments of genius in this ridiculous saga are the brief stretches of Wagner's music. In the end, Tony Palmer proves he wasn't up to the task of making a movie about the life of Richard Wagner or utilizing the magnificent cast he assembled. A waste of too much time and (at least now) not too much money."Report Abuse
Bravo! Bravo!February 1, 2012By BURTON A JONES, JR. (Pearland, TX)See All My Reviews"This is a superb movie. I would urge anyone who loves opera in general and Wagner in particular to buy it at the discounted price. What a bargain! I concur completely with the previous review by Robert Jones (no relation)."Report Abuse
The Imagined made realDecember 15, 2011By robert jones (scott depot, WV)See All My Reviews"Both ordinary people and great artists, especially in our times with our technology, have felt this great urge to capture more vividly those sounds and images which an earlier technology of photography and sound recording placed at our finger tips. A rather self conscious attempt was made in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the producers of Wagner likewise acknowledge that certain moments in their epic were indeed already captured by the camera, I am continually amazed at just how much of the 19th century is preserved for us. Visually, watching this masterpiece, it is as if a William Henry Jackson had followed Wagner about just as he followed the building of the railroad across America. As a movie, Wagner has but one flaw, and that one built in and understood;like the Ring itself, it needs to be even longer, or to never end. Were they mine to award, there is not a single actor or production crew member in this film to whom I would not give an Oscar. It is simply the greatest cinema achievement in history. And if, like myself, you live in a natural environment so much like Wagner's, this will take your breath away."Report Abuse