Wagner wrote the libretto of the Ring backwards and the music from the Rheingold forwards.He wrote about his Cycle that "how can he hope to have his intuitive perceptions understood by others, when he himself stands before an enigma and can suffer the same illusions as anyone else." (Lee 1994:Limelight editions New York pg 98). He used Germanic and Nordic Myths, added ideas of his own,plus based the concept of a festival on the Ancient Greek ideal. At the time of writing the Libretto, Wagner was under the influence of the Philosopher Feuerbach. "Polytheistic religions, he argues,express man's dependence on Nature and personify natural forces".(Oxford 1995:MJL).Man attributes to God his own feelings.We need to replace the love of God for the love of Man and our faith in ourselves.Then Wagner switched his ideas to Schopenhauer. This Philosopher was influenced by Plato, Kant, the Hindu Upanishads and Buddhism. He saw the world as evil and horrible. Will was the cause of Mans problem.If we can lose Will like the Saint who thinks life is an illusion, and we can all become this way, then Will shall cease to exist. Very much against Wagners way of life, as he loved to consume. This way of thinking did influence his later music in the Ring. Why, I do not know. Wagner himself believed in Reincarnation and had read books on Buddhism and Hinduism.He wrote a Sketch for a proposed opera called Die Sieger, based on an incident in Buddhas life. In Parsival Reincarnation is mentioned in the Libretto regarding Kundry. Father Owen Lee in his marvellous book on the Ring, writes that the Ring is about us. A World of many layers, the Human soul. For me the Ring can be staged in so many ways and then its meaning depends on our own understanding of ourselves.Thus,at the very end of Gotterdammerung, Alberich is still alive, and a lovely theme attributed to Sieglinde, Die Walkure, finishes the opera. This means the start of a new world the critics say. But could it be that Wagner meant, that it is up to Man, to have a peaceful World,or the basic problems with the Ring would start all over again. A sort of Karma. Feuerbach and Schopenhauer, brought together at the very end, destruction of the Gods,and a new age. According to Ernest Newman in Wagner Nights,how to express it in words finally defeated Wagner. The Man of the Theatre, saw a musical ending, but unconsciously, the practical side realized that leaving Alberich alive,showed us that humans may not change. If we see this Ring about us and our spirit, we could see the ending as reaching the peaceful innerself,but with a chance of slipping back into our old ways. We have a choice,constant rebirth,or a new way of thinking.
I have five DVD and two Blu ray Rings. The Levine which I like, with the Italianite sound,which has the Bel Canto Singing of James Morris, the Wotan,Siegfried Jerusalem, the best Siegfried in this Field. The Chereau Ring conducted by Boulez,with Gwyneth Jones as the Brunnhilde, changed the staging of opera, is a favourite of mine. I do like Traditional staging as well as what is termed "Eurotrash". Battle lines have been drawn up unfortunately. I think the singers of today are as good as they have ever been.It is a myth to think they are not and always look backwards to the past. I have a huge collection of CD's of Opera singers from 1900's to 1970's. The Barenboim, I hardly play,although it is good and well beloved by many. The Dutch Ring with its Ring stage and Complementary colours lighting, is up there with the best of the rings. The Orchestra is in the middle of the stage. The conductor Haenchen, uses brisk tempos which I like. The Copenhagen Ring is brilliantly conceived, with one of the Best Wotans in James Johnson, Brunnhilde , Irene Theorin,and Siegfried, Stig Anderson.The conductor Schonwandt uses brisk speeds. The Siegfried love duet is played as it should be, fast. The Walkure is the Best out of the Seven I have got. The passion generated by Anderson and Sjoberg, remind me of the 1935 Act I recording of Die Walkure, with Lehmann and Melchior. The Weimar Ring on Blu Ray would be my no 1 , but is ruined by one of the Wotans. The staging is simple and not for the Traditionalists. The conductor Carl St Clair, conducts briskly. This ring flows.
Now to get to the point of this review, the Valencia Ring, conducted By Zubin Mehta, directed by Carlus Padrissa, with the Acrobats of the La Fura dels Baus, which do not really intrude upon the action. The scenery is made up of Panels which are screens for the Video's shown. This is outstanding in Blu ray. For example, in Das Rheingold,Wotan and Loge enter the Earth, via a flying machine, which goes into the Earth down into the bowls of Nibelheim. Machines are making eggs, in which there are babies, which become slaves. Amazing. The Tree in Act 1, changes colours ,green and blue, through to red. Drops leaves. At the Beginning of 'Winterstrume',the moon passes across the tree and remains,with birds flying across the tree. Brunnhilde shoots through space on her crane.She is travelling through time, like the space craft in Kubricks, 2001. Yes all the Gods fly around on cranes which become horses. The Gods above Earth, the rest on Earth. The Earth often has the sun behind it. Take Act three of Siegfried, Wotan seems to be flying over snow topped mountains.Also, the Earth arises out of the ocean and out steps Erda. Spacey. Double WOW. If you liked Avatar,and other Science fiction films you will love this backdrop.
The conducting by Metha is slowish, but most of the time does not seem to be so. He,Barenboim and Abbado, when young, listened to tapes of Furtwangler. You can see the influence here. The tension, emotion and lyrical side of the score brought to the fore. He has an orchestra of the best young players from around the World, chosen by Conductor, Lorin Maazel.The physical scenery depicting Valhalla,is made up of acrobats. In Siegfried, the same acrobats with props, become Miro like designs. In Act 1 of the Walkure, the singers are dressed in Prehistoric clothes, the Gods in space like outfits. I cannot see a problem with the clothes they wear, nor with the filming of the opera. Obviously,the critics of this facit of film making do not go to the cinema, and understand that the camera does jump around. I get tired of reading their bleating about this. Opera filming is being treated like new cinema film making.
This is one of the few Rings made where there are no singers who have weaknesses. They are all good. Wotan is a find, Juha Uusitalo,a young bloke,but has a grasp of this difficult part. Brunnhilde, is Jennifer Wilson,already up there with Theorin and Catherine Foster of the Weimar ring. Who said we do not have any Wagner singers today. What a powerful voice , with such depth and emotion. She is built in the traditional Wagnerian mould, big. Sieglinde of Petra Schnitzer and Siegmund, Peter Seiffert are competent. Both bring their experience to the part. For the best of Seiffert, hear him as the Kaiser in Richard Strauss "Die Frau ohne Schatten'-TDK. Anna Larsson as Fricka plays her very well, but is up against Copenhagens Fricka Randi Stene, who is outstanding. The Siegfried of Lance Ryan is lyrical and he actually looks the part. But he is not up to the standard of Jerusalem, who is. I would say he is good as Heinz Kruse of the Dutch Ring, and within touching distance of Anderson . Fasolt is Matti Salminen, he must be in his late 60's. What a strong voice. Stephen Milling as Fafner. Both walk around in Avatarlike Robots. The rest of the parts all add up to a great Ring, which is worth five stars.
Where does it stand with the other rings.Obviously, better then the Levine and the Barenboim,here many will disagree with me. This is the Ring of the 21st century. I like the Chereau, another all around ring without failings. The Dutch Ring does have failings, but I am very fond of it. The Copenhagen Ring falls in that Catagory, but I would not be without it, the same goes for the Weimar Ring. For me, it is a draw between the great Chereau Ring , Valencia Ring and the Copenhagen Ring. I would suggest first timers obtain the Levine Ring to get their bearings. For young people order this Ring immediately, I think you will love it. At least I hope you will. This is written by an old geezer, who went through the 1960's and 1970's as an alternative." Hippies' we were called.Greenies now. I did the whole overland trip twice via India, to Australia, where I now live.
Blu ray is the way to go.Once you have seen the clear picture and heard the sound you will not go back to DVDs. I wish all the Rings I have named were in BLURAY now. I think the companies are missing out here. I have bought a Denon DX 1OOODB Blu ray sound system, with two speakers that creates surround sound.The set has a place for head phones. I use a Sennheiser Wireless surround sound head phones.Filmed in HD. Zone Worldwide. Dts-HD ma 7.1. Has four bonus films about this ring. Go for it. I think even the traditionalist might like it. Not understanding them I may be totally wrong. Who wants to live in the past. Mahler once said" Tradition is a form of lazyness.".