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While I have three other ring cycles this is definitely one of my favourites. Singing, acting, musical direction and playing are of a high standard and it all works really well on Blu Ray. The Wotan is one of the most memorable that I can remember and there are no weak links in this production. Many of the images are truly stunning and take you to places other productions can only hint at. Highly recommended.
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25 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A MasterpieceFeb. 3 2010
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It is difficult not to sound hyperbolic about this Rheingold. So let us try to remain in terra firma. This performance from Sergio Calatrava's stunning new Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia, Spain is first and foremost solidly grounded on Wagner's music and text. Zubin Mehta excels. The music propels the story, comments on it and builds to a monumental Entrance into Valhalla. The orchestra, like in Bayreuth, was handpicked for the tetralogy, mostly in Spain but throughout the world (Mehta says in an interview that Lorin Maazel did the recruiting.... and recruiting for a "Wagner" orchestra, on the theory that an orchestra musican that excels in Wagner can play anything else). The singers are mostly young but excellent Wagnerians with a sprinkling of prized veterans like Matti Salminen as Fasolt. The Wotan is new to me, Juha Uusitalo, powerful and eloquent, a real find. If there is another "star" part in this most ensemble of ensemble operas is Loge, here the subtle, ironic, wily, John Daszak, almost always weaving his way around the stage in his standing moto, a lyrical, musical, dramatic presence with a voice the timbre of which reminded me of the late great Gerhard Stolze without the mannerisms. Ana Larsson whom we've heard in much Mahler is a witty, self-serving Fricka; Alberich and Mime are properly nasty and well sung by Franz Joseph Kappelman and Gerhard Siegel respectively. Christa Mayer warns effectively as Erda, and the great, beautiful singing which comes as the clouds break and the rainbow bridge appears is by Illya Bannik and Germán Villar as Donner and Froh. Not only are they all excellent musicians and vocalists, but they are superb actors so one is always engrossed in the interactions between the characters.
The production by the fabulous Catalan group La Fura dels Baus, Carlus Padrissa stage director, is breathtaking. It is symbolic but without imposing an interpretation on Wagner's work other than what Wagner is trying to convey through text and music. It is unlike any operatic production one has ever seen. It uses gymnasts, projections, videos, lights, seemingly every device a modern stage can muster to illustrate the opera. It is never less than riveting. No stage picture is superfluous as it all adumbrates the work. When there is so much imagination, intellect and understanding in evidence it is the mark of great artistry that it is always kept disciplined, always serving the purpose of the work. This is for me the most exciting and revealing production of Wagner since the Chereau Ring at Bayreuth. But it goes one better, as it does not impose a specific ideological or epochal garb on the work. It is spectacular and dazzling but chaste: it is timeless and true only to Wagner.
Of this Ring cycle I have now seen this and Walküre (which I saw in a movie theatre). I am waiting for Amazon to deliver the latter. Siegfried and Götterdammerung are out I believe next month. The blu-ray sound and images are stunning. If the last two dvd's are like the first two, this will be the preferred version of the Ring to acquire, bar none.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
a wonderful performance with scarcely a weak aspectFeb. 28 2010
Ivor E. Zetler
- Published on Amazon.com
It is around 50 years since the release of the Decca/Solti Rheingold recording. At the time any Wagner Ring issue was a major event; now there are a multitude of performances available in sound and video formats. Although I cannot claim to have sampled them all, I have seen and heard most of the well regarded versions. I would like to make the bold claim that this Valencia issue is the finest of those that I have encountered. Given the visual importance of opera, DVDs would now reign supreme.
On paper the portents are not encouraging. The vocal cast, apart from Anna Larsson and Matti Salminen, are little known in the general operatic firmament. The orchestra and opera company are new to the scene and Zubin Mehta has only a slight profile as a Wagner conductor. I had previously never heard of La Fura dels Baus, the producer. Fear not, the singing is uniformly of a very high standard and the orchestra from the stunningly designed opera house in Valencia (by Calatrava)is top notch. My greatest surprize and joy was Mehta's orchestral direction; he expertly maintains the flow of the music and brings out the varying dramatic and lyrical aspects of Wagner's music. I have not heard better conducting in this work.
I thought the stage production terrific, although it's business (particularly with the often changing back projections) might distract and annoy some viewers. I found it highly imaginative, interesting, colourful and engaging. The journey into the earth is particularly well handled as is the factory like scene with Mime, Alberich, Loge and Wotan. The final scene is also amazing. Finally the sound is warm, clear and detailed and the filming is faultless. I have a similar enthusiasm for the Valencia "Die Walkure"; if Siegfried and Gotterdammerung are on the same level of excellence, this will certainly be a Ring cycle to savour. Bravo.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Not what I expectedFeb. 11 2010
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I had read reviews on this production and viewed several previews before purchasing. I am new to Wagner which may discredit my opinion, or make my opinion more valid being that I come with no expectations. All I know is that Wagner's music is unworldly and the story of the ring is enchanting. I was wanting a depiction that could match the glorious story without forcing bizzare "artistic" elements on the viewer, but yet was modern and entertaining. Let's face it...when it comes down to it, when you watch opera it should be about three things...the music, acting and staging. The online previews are a bit misleading. They of course show all of the most incredible visual scenes of the production in a compact 2 min. and if you are like me, you watched these on a computer screen and thought...WOW!!! how much more amazing will this be in Blu-Ray on my new HD TV??? In truth, those scenes translate very well and the picture quality is beautiful, but this comes with a price. The blu-ray definition is very crisp as would be expected. The high-def screen behind the actors portrays some beautiful imagery. But is the blu-ray too crisp for opera? Do I really want to see every bit of crusted-on makeup and endless beads of sweat pouring from the actors brow?
Wagner is sometimes very drawn out in my opinion, so the opera needs great drama and outstanding acting abilities from the cast to continually draw the viewer in. The singing needs to match the drama and the text needs to be brought out by the actor through facial expression, movement, inflection, etc. Everyone loves a great background set and intricate costumes, but all of this means nothing without the singing and acting. The Valencia production has placed their actors in what comes across as some very uncomfortable costumes and stage props. You can feel the actors' lack of confidence at so many different points throughout. The look on their face is not totaly convincing and everything feels clunky like the actors needed about 2 more months of practice in their crane lifts and robotic-like costumes. The opening scene with the Rheinmaidens is so interesting visually and conceptually, but then enters Alberich. I imagined him being able to scurry about wildly trying to catch these crazy water ladies that dart too and fro out of his grasp, but everyone is so confined in their space that the whole feel is lost. Alberich looks awkward tyring to find his place on the stage and has no idea how make the whole scene look convincing. Same with Wotan in his crane. There is a look on his face throughout like "woah, woah, here we go again, up in the air. Is my singing really matching my movement? I feel confined. I wish I could move about, but if I do I will fall off this crane thingy and die. I hope this expensive production company knows what it's doing." There are so many more instances throughout that I could expand upon. A little about the singing. It is good. That is all I can say. If you want to see what I mean, watch the Valencia/Mheta version and then go back several years in time and watch the Boulez version on DVD. The vocals are on a different level...not really on the same planet. The acting matches the dramatic story line to a tee. The sets and props are not distracting and do not confine the actors abilities. The Rheinmaidens DO dart about and Alberich DOES leap too and fro trying to catch the maidens. It is EXCITING and like I first mentioned, gets to the heart of what opera should be about....the music, acting and staging. I think future versions will find a way to use modern techniques and staging while not sacrificing the main elements. This was a great try, but no cigar. Serious---watch Valencia then watch Bayreuth. You'll see what I'm talking about.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Brillant production - a MUST have for Wagner loversMarch 8 2010
Mr. John A. Coulson
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a highly imaginative production of which Wagner would be proud. It uses technology in this fantasy in a highly effective way to emphasise the otherwise surreal plot in a spellbinding manner. The opening scene with the Rhinemaidens actually frolicking in water on stage inbetween their glorious singing sets the scene for this brilliant production. It would be easy to denigrate the props used if they were not so effective.
Five of us sat down to this opera last night and we were all transfixed. Even my wife, who is generally unmoved by opera and avoids it if possible, found herself immersed in this 2007 Valencia performance. The only minor negative expressed by one was that the oft changing projected background was a little overdone at times. But the symbolism of the gold, the transformer type locomotion of the giants and the effects generally were excellent. Kapellmann's projection of Alberich was not one of a creature to be despised but rather of someone who was deprived of everything - love, power, wealth, so one actually felt sorry for him!!
Combine the superb singing from a very strong cast with the excellent orchestral playing conducted by Zubin Mehta and you have a performance of Das Rheingold which it would be hard to surpass. Audio & video are similarly technically top notch. A MUST for the library of every Wagner lover. And yes, I have the other 3 Ring operas in this series and we will all be looking at them in the coming months.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Switched front channels in DTS!Feb. 7 2012
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I agree with the other reviewers that this is a spectacular production, BUT the DTS multichannel soundtrack has the two front channels exchanged, so a singer on the left of the stage sounds from the right. Once you notice it, it is such destracting and irritating that the whole experience is ruined. My complaint to C Major resulted in no answer. Therefore 1 point as a warning, both to customers and C Major, not to treat customers like that.