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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not very good.Feb. 16 2010
Earl G. Bean
- Published on Amazon.com
I have finally gotten around to watching the preliminary evening of the Weimar Ring Cycle and was bitterly disappointed. Recently, I have viewed the entire Copenhagen cycle and the brand new Das Rheingold from Valencia conducted by Zubin Mehta. I enjoyed both of these sets immensely so I guess that means I am not a Wagner purist.
The Weimar Rheingold features some of the worst singing I have ever heard in an opera production. I will list only a few of the travesties. The Rhinemaidens are absolutely terrible, especially the one on the top who rarely ever hits a single high note...really, she just doesn't have the notes and when she does they are off pitch. Their harmonies are consistently sour. By the way, one of them is bald. I'm not sure why. Wotan is so light voiced that it is difficult to distinguish him (vocally) from Loge. He sounds like a lyric tenor. I was dumbfounded. Alberich has such a dreadful wobble that you can never tell which pitch he is shooting for. Really awful. He is dressed like the Tim Conway "Dorf" character with boots on his knees. If it weren't so sad it would be funny. Fasolt and Fafner are so light voiced that they are routinely covered by the orchestra. These giants look absolutely ridiculous, sort of like Herman Munster from the tacky TV show. Fafner looks as if he is about to topple over throughout the entire production (they are on stilts).
The gods are clownish figures. Freia looks like Heidi and acts about as well. Froh is blind. Donner looks like the strong man at the county fair. The sets are small and there are no special effects. When Alberich uses the Tarnhelm to vanish in Scene 2, he does so by shining a lamp in Mime's eyes while continuing to remain in full view. Dragon? Keep dreaming. I think this production give the Stuttgart Ring Cycle a run for its money in the cuckoo-land production department.
What did I enjoy? Nadine Weismann as Erda sings gloriously. Fricka and Loge are fine. The orchestra sounds pretty good and I enjoyed Carl St. Clair's interpretation: very serious and heavy in spite of the lightweight and silly production. I was very surprised by the playing of the Staatskapelle Weimar. There were some dramatic touches that I enjoyed such as Loge's obvious disgust with the gods and Fafner's maniacal laughter as he removes the ring from his dead brother's hand.
I would add that I'd hope this production meant something to someone. Did anyone, other than the director, get it? I really found it essentially incoherent. I will push my way on to Die Walkure as I've read that the cycle gets better as it goes on. I will revisit this Rheingold again in an attempt to understand it. I really am open to new ideas in Wagner staging. If there is anyone out there who "gets" this production, then please post a review. Best wishes to all!
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Highly original, different, complex and musically first rateFeb. 28 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
It always angers me, when certain minds don't or don't want to understand something new and different, poo-pooh-ing it from the safety of past productions they think are superior. The idea or ideology is well explained by the Director and reiterated several times in the printed booklets so all it would take is some thinking to appreciate what's going on. Also to use Churchill's immortal words: 'this is not the end or the beginning of the end, but perhaps the (end) of the beginning'.' Judging already by this Rheingold, I believe the Weimar team succeeded with this different, interesting and entertaining new version,a new Ring that develops and so magnificently culminates in the Gotterdammerung. (I saw it and believe me, it's worth the wait)
Wagner's connection to Weimar and his effort to gain Liszt's support for the project is what gave the designers the idea to use Siegfrieds Tod, the very first drama Wagner wrote and dedicated to Liszt as a framework for their cycle. The struggle for world domination between two powers, in this case Wotan and Alberich is the central theme with both willing to take part in the stage action. Alberich is a powerful figure, by no means a dwarf, but puts on the dwarf costume deliberately to break through the `partition' that separates him from the action. The gods are a bunch of half-drunk, decadent and stupid wasters sitting around the kitchen table waiting for the underprivileged but very clever demi-god Loge to help them out of trouble Wotan got them into. As this most action packed opera enfolds, with Wagner's powerful ,compassionate and dramatic music, there is an uneasy triumph at the end, but signaling tragedy yet to come.
Sets are minimalistic, but incisive. Small theatre working with local, but excellent singing artists, Mowes as Alberich and Caves as Loge are absolutely superb, this performance works on all levels and very satisfying. The young conductor from Texas, Carl St. Clair breathes musical life into it and certainly sounds dynamic and passionate, truly Wagnerian.