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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Warner’s DVD reissues of this 1992 Bayreuth Ring continue with a Siegfried that’s an absolute feast musically, dramatically, and visually. Graham Clark’s been the reigning Mime for a couple of decades now—it’s significant that three of the six available DVD Siegfrieds have him performing the role—and he’s in great form here. Clark is incredibly animated; plotting, cackling, pounding away at the anvil from all sides at the beginning of act I, as the curtain rises on what the notes refer to as “a derelict tube, the technological relic of a vanished epoch.” But good as Clark is, he can’t rise to his full potential without other singer-actors to play off of. He’s got two outstanding collaborators in Siegfried Jerusalem and John Tomlinson for
this juggernaut of a first act, blazingly conducted as the scherzo it is by Daniel Barenboim. Jerusalem was as good as Siegfrieds got in the 1980s and early 1990s, and here he was at the top of his game vocally. He also looked the part, biceps glistening as he forges Nothung— maybe not as Fabio-esque as Peter Hoffmann, but a far better singer. Jerusalem portrays Siegfried as aggressive and ungrateful, but not bratty, which is welcome. Tomlinson’s Wanderer may be resigned to his fate but he’s still imperious and very much a Type-A sort of god. He lets Mime know in no uncertain terms, after the dwarf fails to ace the three questions on his quiz, that his days are numbered. Likewise, in the first scene of act II, Tomlinson is far from laid-back and the exchange with Alberich, the superb Günter von Kannen, is charged with conflict. The opposition of light and dark forces in the world are presented as starkly as they are anywhere in the tetralogy.
The setting for act II presents a bombed-out Neidhoehle, the stage picture disturbingly evocative of the ruins of Oklahoma City or the World Trade Center. The battle with Fafner is brought off well theatrically, with Philip Kang returning to his giant incarnation to sing his final lines. As you’d expect, the scene with Siegfried divining Mime’s murderous thoughts is darkly entertaining. There’s one extraordinary production detail that speaks volumes about director Harry Kupfer’s take on Wotan’s motivations. As Siegfried takes his breather under the linden tree, the Wanderer reaches into his pocket and produces the Woodbird, the creature who will tell the hero what he needs to know about Mime and the hoard, and will lead him to Brünnhilde. Kupfer makes it painfully clear that Wotan is influencing the course of events with his grandson as much as he did with Siegmund. Also, as in Kupfer’s later Berlin production of the Ring (on an Opus Arte DVD set, 0912 D), the Wanderer plays some of the phrases of Siegfried’s famous horn call—the mournful ones that utilize the hero motive. No, Wotan has not separated himself from his descendent in the least.
At the start of act III, Tomlinson’s emphatic insistence on information from Erda, the clear-voiced Birgitta Svendén, makes lots of sense in view of his assertiveness throughout the drama. And when the source of eternal wisdom won’t give him a straight answer, Tomlinson seems more defiant than frustrated—a triumphant climax to the singer’s three evenings of work. The following scene with Siegfried is almost anticlimactic; blue lasers flash after the god’s spear is broken and the hero moves toward the beckoning crimson glow of Brünnhilde’s rock.
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.
As with the two previous dramas in this cycle (Walküre was covered in 29: 4 and Rheingold in 29:6) those with multichannel capabilities will want to listen in 5.1, even though the level of resolution is lower than the PCM stereo option. The surround-sound program really does give a feel for what it’s like to hear Wagner at the Festspielhaus. The transfer to DVD is excellent. Subtitles are offered in five languages and the English is refreshingly idiomatic. “Well, Alberich, that was a flop,” says the Wanderer after Fafner turns down their suggestion that the dragon simply turn over the gold to the Nibelung.
Highly, highly recommended to Wagnerians with an interest in video.
FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Works on This Recording
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Graham Clark (Tenor),
Siegfried Jerusalem (Tenor),
Anne Evans (Soprano),
John Tomlinson (Bass)
Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
Written: 1871; Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Repeated Failure November 24, 2012
By Andre F. (Woodcliff Lake, NJ) See All My Reviews
"It seemed like a dream cast on this DVD album so I ordered it. The set I received could not be played on my DVD player on which I play other DVD albums regularly without any problem. I notified Arkiv about this failure and the album was promptly replaced. The trouble is that the replacement album cannot would not be play either. I notified Arkiv about this second failure but have heard nothing since."