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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Listeners persuaded that Wagner only really found himself with Der fliegende Holländer may well be surprised to hear how much of that work—and of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin—is prefigured in Rienzi.
"First recording" proclaimed the five-LP box in 1976. We still await a second, not to mention that first more complete recording which is possible, if not especially desirable, given that a definitive Rienzi can never be established for sure. In these circumstances, three very well filled CDs at medium price of a performance that has undeniable virtues are to be welcomed for restoring a milestone in the history of opera to circulation.
Listeners persuaded that Wagner only really found himself
with Der fliegende Holländer may well be surprised to hear how much of that work—and of Tannhäuser and Lohengrin—is prefigured in Rienzi. It is nevertheless more grand opera than romantic opera, not least because the hero (the tragic Roman tribune of Bulwer Lytton's novel) is so completely a political animal; his bride, he declares to his sister in Act 5, is Rome. As for the 'grandness', this is all too evident in the extensive marches, choruses and ballet music, as well as in the predominantly forceful rhetoric of the solo vocal writing. Even in his greatest works, Wagner was not exactly addicted to understatement. In Rienzi (especially Act 3) the sustained tone of hectic aggressiveness threatens to become monotonous, and it would certainly be hard to take in a performance with less sense of theatrical impetus than this one.
The principal credit for the recording's success—all the more remarkable since it was made in two quite separate periods in 1974 and 1976—is due to the conductor Heinrich Hollreiser. He prevents the more routine material from sounding merely mechanical, and ensures that the whole work has a sweep and a conviction that persuades me, for one, that there is no reason for its continued exclusion from the Bayreuth canon: indeed, Bayreuth might be the ideal theatre for its large-scale spectacle.
Hollreiser's cast is uneven: distinguished singers like Theo Adam and Peter Schreier have little to do, whereas the main parts would tax the greatest artists in best voice. The chief disappointment is Siv Wennberg, who had promised well in Wagner in the theatre but who was clearly under strain when this recording was made. Rene Kollo often sounds as though he is singing through gritted teeth, but the character's impulsiveness is here, and this quality is probably more crucial than any heroic nobility or religious sensibility. Janis Martin also conveys youthful impetuosity, and she, at least, is able to discover a gentler vein now and again.
The recording is no more than adequate by today's standards. Fortunately, the conductor's evident (and justified) belief in the significance of the enterprise remains as persuasive as ever.
-- Gramophone [2/1992]
Contains libretto booklet in German and English.
Works on This Recording
Rienzi by Richard Wagner
Peter Schreier (Tenor),
Siv Wennberg (Soprano),
René Kollo (Tenor),
Janis Martin (Mezzo Soprano),
Nikolaus Hillebrand (Bass),
Theo Adam (Bass Baritone),
Siegfried Vogel (Bass),
Günther Leib (Baritone),
Ingeborg Springer (Mezzo Soprano)
Leipzig Radio Chorus,
Dresden State Opera Chorus
Written: 1840-1843; Germany
Date of Recording: 1974-76
Venue: Lukaskirche, Dresden, East Germany
Length: 218 Minutes 2 Secs.
Notes: Selection recorded August and September, 1974, and February and April, 1976.
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
An unexpected treat! January 8, 2014
By Keith Messersmith (Ashland, PA) See All My Reviews
"After owning all the Wagner operas on LP; CD for many years, I took a chance on his really neglected work Rienzi. What a surprise! Very tuneful and you can see that he was really trying to outdo Meyerbeer, and from what I have heard from this recording, very successfully. Although we will probably never get a full length treatment of the opera on CD, the score is supposedly five hours long, be thankful for this EMI release which gives us a look at how Wagner got started. Anyone who loves Wagner will want to sample this opera and just indulge. Recommended!"
Excellent! July 20, 2013
By Henry S. (Springfield, VA) See All My Reviews
"Wagner's Rienzi is not encounteed as often as his more well-known operas, but conductor Heinrich Hollreiser's work with a very excellent cast, a massive combined chorus, and the glorious Dresden Staatskapelle make a strong case that Rienzi is a true artistic achievement meriting wider attention. For those unfamiliar with this opera, a surprise awaits you, in that Wagner's Rienzi doesn't really fit the mold of a typical Wagner music drama. In fact, Rienzi is more of a grand opera patterned after the Italian or French vision of what constitutes true artistic achievement. Rienzi is literally filled with powerful, bravado solo passages by every member of the cast, juxtaposed against heavyweight choral work by the combined forces of the Leipzig Radio Chorus and Chorus of the Dresden State Opera. There is method to Wagner's madness here, since Rienzi is a political tale of intrigue, bureaucratic resistance, liberalizing reforms, and competing personal relationships in ancient Rome. Wagner thus reached back to classical Rome (or more correctly a novel about classical Rome)rather than Germanic or Nordic mythology and legends for his inspiration. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable, enduring, and thundering testimonial to Wagner's early work. The singing is great, the choruses are powerful and exciting, and the orchestral involvement is superb. Definitely recommended for all Wagner fans."
Toestapping Wagner!!!! June 8, 2013
By K. BAKER (HEBER CITY, UT) See All My Reviews
"IF you like Wagner, buy this. IF you like don't like Wagner, you must buy this. Who would have thunk that Wagner could write toe-tapping melodies? Excellent recording."