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Wagner;Richard Der Ring Des Ni [Import]

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5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth watching (and hearing) May 9 2011
By Malcolm
Format:Blu-ray
If you are looking for the type of Ring cycle that features "realistic" scenery and mediaeval costumes - think the Met/Levine set, for example - this is probably not for you. If you are adventurous, open-minded and looking for something that is visually stunning and for a near flawless performance, you will not go wrong with this offering. But be warned. It is - different!

From the opening bars, Mehta leads a first-class orchestra and cast. Canadian Lance Ryan is an excellent Siegfried and American Jennifer Wilson a perfect Brunnhilde. Plus anything with Matti Salminen just has to be good!

The surround sound is rich and well-balanced, video is excellent. Well worth watching (and hearing).
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Art!!! Jan. 28 2011
By RCast
Format:Blu-ray
Really glad i purchased this product and for such a great price. You can't beat it! If you love Wagner or Opera or Blu Ray or Valencia's Ciudad des Artes y Sciencias (or all of the aforementioned) then this is a must purchase. Enjoy!! :-D
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  21 reviews
69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ring made for Blu ray. Dec 20 2010
By Ultrarunner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
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.".
40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bel canto Ring Nov. 30 2010
By Richard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There's a puzzle here and it is primarily Zubin Mehta. You would expect a fast,rousing performance from him. Yet that's not what we get. What we get is something quite different. I first noticed it in Rheingold where Mime sings about life in the past. Mehta seems to be highlighting this as a little aria in itself. But then in Walkure he allows Seiffert (Siegmund) to hold "Walse" an incredibly long time. The love duet has rubato all over the place. And throughout the cycle when there is an opportunity the singer will milk the high note for all it's worth. Even the unwritten hold in Brunnhilde's lament in Act 3 of Walkure which used to be regularly done, but has disappeared as singers and conductors hewed to the score, is here restored.
Then there are those songs spread thorughout the score. Mehta has highlighted passages which now reveal themselves as old fashioned arias and duets. Consider Siegfried: there's Siegfried's song to freedom, the forging song, the duet between Mime and Alberich in Act 2, and, of course, the love duet. As GB Shaw pointed out by the time we hit Gotterdammerung we are back in the arms of Grand Opera.
So what gives? Where other conductors focus upon music drama, Mehta highlights all the musical forms embedded in the score. Then it hit me. These guys are playing the Ring as if it were bel canto - beautiful singing first, drama second.
What's more they are staging and playing the Ring as opera seria - that form of opera popular in the baroque. Opera seria starts with a mythical plot (gods and demons) and tells the story through recitative and arias. The opera is a string of arias held together by recitative. Opera developed from this form into the opera we know today with heightened drama and arias, duets, trios , etc. Could this be the Ring as opera seria?
Well, look at the staging. The scenery in this Ring is spectacular. You have never seen a Ring like it. Opera seria also provided wonderful scenery. It also would include a deus ex machine - a god appearing with the help of a machine. And, lo and behold, in this Ring all the gods are ex machine. They sing from their perches high above the stage in cherry pickers. These people are saying that when Wagner invented his new music drama he was really going back to the early days of opera seria. For me, Mehta has made his case. I will hear the Ring differently from now on.
But what kind of experience does this give us? For one thing it does make beautiful singing the goal. But at what price drama? All these gods flitting around emphasizes the four groups of inhabitants of this world - gods, giants, dwarfs and humans. But there can be little interaction from people trapped in a machine. All the poor gods can do in their getups is stand and deliver. And that is just what opera seria was about.
I was growing uneasy with what I thought was Mehta's lack of drama, especially in Walkure. I approached Siegfried with some trepidation. But then Lance Ryan (Siegfried) came on stage and I gasped - he actually looks the part - young, handsome, athletic. But when he began to sing I was even more blown away. He could sing it, not adequately, but the best I've ever heard. I couldn't wait for the forging scene and that love duet. For him alone this Ring must be recommended. The other two main characters: Uusitalo (Wotan) and Wilson (Brunnhilde) are also singers rather than barkers. And what a joy to have Matti Salmonen as Fasolt, Hunding and Hagen. He is magnificent in both voice and acting.
There are two great drawbacks to this Ring, however. The costumes are downright ugly. And they create ugly people. Everyone except Brunnhilde is having the worst bad hair day in history. But then the Walkure costume has a helmet that resembles a horse's bridle. Echhh! She has a horse; she is not a horse. Besides the costumes are so heavy and bulky it is hard to really act. Again the characters are forced to stand and deliver.
And finally the video. Erich Korngold once said of movie music that it must be so good that the audience is unaware of it. It should not call attention to itself. The same could be said for video direction. The major gaff occurs at the beginning of Rheingold. First we are looking at an image of a bouncing red ball. But then we cut from the ball to the orchestra. And so throughout the prelude we bounce back from stage to pit. At Bayreuth Wagner covered the orchestra. It is heard and not seen. But our director here jumps into the orchestra pit given half the chance.
There is a real mess at the end of scene 3 of Rheingold. When Wotan and Loge go to seize Alberich we cut from the stage to the pit. What's that about? Was there some trouble with the staging? Was it just sheer stupidity? For a production like this you would think they could do a retake to get it right. Not so.
Throughout the cycle the camera is always jumping from shot to shot. It can be quite distracting. And there are not a lot of closeups. But then again given the lack of acting that may not be a problem.
So should you get this Ring? Yes,for Ryan and the other singers. Or wait for him in another production. He is young and still has to perfect his performance. His "Gotterdammerung" Siegfried is not quite up to the "Siegfried". Yes,for the production. But that's qualified by ugly costumes and stupid video direction. Definitely, this should not be a first
Ring. And it won't be a Ring to which I will return except to see and hear that glorious Siegfried. To see the real drama of the Ring watch Kupher/Barenboim or Chereau/Boulez. For a stunning re-interpretation watch the Copenhagen Ring.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reposted from Superconductor: "Battle for the Radioactive Donut" April 25 2011
By Paul Pelkonen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This 2009 release of the complete Ring, filmed in 2008 in Valencia, Spain under the baton of Zubin Mehta is a compelling, visually arresting, and best of all, well-sung version of Wagner's mythological cycle. It should appeal to Wagnerians who want to hear the next generation of singers, and those curious opera-lovers who want to see what a modern Ring looks like.

This is not a traditional production. It incorporates dance, machinery, and digital projections. These last look fantastic on DVD: a centerpiece of this hyper-visual staging. But behind all the flash and java is a solid retelling of the myths, steered by Mr. Mehta's steady hand in the pit and Carlus Padrissa's innovative (but not intrusive) directorial ideas.

La Fura del Bas is a Catalan theater troupe: kind of an Iberian answer to Cirque de Soleil. Here, their dancers serve as scenery, props, and even buildings, combining to form the gates of Valhalla in an astonishing image that ends Das Rheingold. The other key element of La Fura's staging is a set of eight digital projection monitors, that serve as the mountains, the Rhine river, and the flames as Götterdämmerung blazes to a close.

The digital projections (by visual artist Franc Aleu) serve as visual reminders throughout the cycle, accompanying Wagner's leitmotiv system of musical memory triggers. Mr. Aleu also incorporates cyberpunk concepts in this Ring. For example, Nibelheim (reached through the caldera of Mount Etna) is depicted as a complex, ever-spinning machine. The sword is a three-dimensional electronic idea, floating in cyberspace before it actually appears in the hand.

The Gibichungs appear as tattooed yakuza gangsters out of a William Gibson novel, more interested in the stock market than the affairs of Gods and Valkyries. Siegfried himself (Lance Ryan) is a grotty club kid with dreads, wolf skins and tattoos before the Gibichungs clean him up and get him a nice suit. Most disturbing is Hagen's call to the vassals: the mention of animal sacrifices to the Gods triggers an ocean of blood that would have pleased Stanley Kubrick.

But it's not all hi-tech. The Rhinemaidens appear in suspended glass aquarium tanks, big enough to swim in with real water. They "birth" a collection of golden fish-eggs, which Alberich collects and steals to forge the Ring. The Ring itself looks like the product of Homer Simpson's attempt to make donuts in the reactor core. Brunnhilde's magic fire is a group of dancers with torches. Wotan is accompanied by a "forest" of dancers armed with long porcupine-like quills. And Siegfried's corpse is carried out--through the theater itself.

Musically, this is a pretty solid cycle, with a mix of young singers and cagey veterans. Lance Ryan stands at the forefront, a steady Siegfried with a generally pleasing tenor that never shrieks or struggles. Jennifer Wilson is a formidable Brunnhilde, with a voice to match her imposing stage presence. She delivers her best performance in the second act of Götterdämmerung, making hay in the Vengeance Trio.

Peter Seiffert brings his veteran tenor to Siegmund, and Petra Maria Schnitzer is an ardent Sieglinde. Gerhard Siegel is an exceptional Mime. Juha Uusitalo dives headlong into Wotan, using his big Finnish bass to good effect as the King of the Gods. With his low range and dark tinge, he gets better as the cycle goes on, rising to a mighty climax with "Wache, Wala!" in the last act of Siegfried.

It may help Mr. Uusitalo's performance that he shares the stage with Matti Salminen, the king of Finnish basses. Mr. Salminen is in all four operas, playing Fafner, Hunding and Hagen over the course of the cycle. Mr. Salminen's huge instrument may have lost some of its luster, and he sings with some vibrato. But he can still pour on the power and rich black tone, and nobody in the operatic world looks as evil--even when he's just sitting there.
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars DTS HD-MA is just wrong in all 4 discs Feb. 2 2011
By R. Kreutzer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I have over 100 opera and ballet DVD/BR's that I watch on a projected screen about 7' 8" wide and listen through a 7.1 loudspeaker setup where the left and right speakers are about 9' 6" apart. The goal is to make the viewing experience as if I was there in a middle seat in one of the front rows.
I have the Kupfer/Barenboim Ring from the early 1990's and thought it was time to upgrade to blu-ray with this Valencia Ring Cycle.
There has been enough said about the video aspect of these performances and the singers, but few details about the audio except that it is excellent. I beg to differ. I have listened to all 4 performances once and the Rheingold now twice for this review with the DTS HD-MA track.
The orchestra is recorded fine. The sound stage goes about 2-3 feet beyond the front corner speakers to the left and right. BUT LEFT AND RIGHT ARE REVERSED!
If you listen to the stereo track 2:55 into the recording, the french horns are on the left, where they are actually sitting. When you then listen to it in the surround mode, they come from the right, i.e reversed.
You can hear this also clearly at about 18:15 into the performance. First sings the Rhine maiden in the middle and her voice comes from the center. Then sings the left maiden, but the sound comes from the right. Then sings the right maiden and the voice comes from the left. Never had anything like that.
At 30:49 Wotan is left of Fricka, but Fricka's voice is left of Wotan.
At 38:06 Fricka is on the far right of the stage, voice is from left.
But at 2:08:13 Fasold is on the left, his voice is in the middle.
At 2:14:46 Fasold moved to the right, his voice is now left.
At 2:17:15 Erda appears on the far left of the stage, but the sound comes from the right.
At 2:21:05 Wotan to the right of Erda, his voice is left of her voice.
The reversal of left and right explains most of the anomalies, but not everything. Why not more sound from the right, when they are left.?
Philipp Knop could probably tell us what went wrong. He is given credit for the stereo and surround mix.
With the performance so much utilizing the projections in the background and wide stage shots required for that to work, the misallocation of the voices just ruins this for me. To see Wotan on the right and to hear him from the left is just goofy.
If you watch it on a 32" screen and your loudspeakers are 36" apart, you probably won't notice. In my setting, very noticeable.

I listened now a second time to parts of the remaining 3 operas, i.e Walkuere, Siegfried and Goetterdaemmerung
The orchestra in all three operas is recorded rather well with a good soundstage and detail. There is no left/right reversal on these three.
But the voices are not recorded right when you compare them to the actual positioning of the singers on the stage which you see quite often due to the multitude of stage shots. And that holds true for all three performances.
The sound comes mostly from the left of center. If the singers are on the left stage, the sound comes from where they visually are. If they are in the middle, the sound comes from about 2 feet to the left of center. When they are at the right, the sound comes from the center and is more distant.
The only explanation I have is that the right stage microphone did not pick up the sound. So regardless of how far a singer moves to the right, the center microphone will pick up most of the sound. If he is in the middle, the left microphone will pull the sound to the left, as there is no balancing microphone on the right. If the singer is on the left, he sounds ok as the (missing) right component would be rather small relative to left and center mics.
So in the Walkuere's opening scenes, Siegmund and Sieglinde are to the right of center, but sound is from left of center. At about 18:45 Hunding sings Heilig ist mein Herd and he is half left and sounds left. Then he goes to the right of center and sings at 19:07 Ruest uns Maennern das Mahl and the sound is from the left of center.
At around 27:00 Siegmund sings left of center and moves to the left and the sound moves with him further to the left.
Siegfried is the same, as is Goetterdaemmerung. In the opening scene of G. the left norn is heard from the left, the middle one from left of center and the right somewhat more distant from the center. It stays this way all the way to the end.
While the visual effects are at times quite striking and new, opera is for me mostly an audio event. I can listen to an opera without picture, but I can't watch it without sound. The way this is playing out with the disconnect between the stage and the soundstage, I don't think I'll watch this again. It would probably be a stunning production if the sound was right. I'll return my set and stay with Barenboim/Kupfer until there is a proven updated release with top sound.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never let us forget ANNA RUSSELL! From Fanfare Magazine (US) July/Aug 2010 June 10 2013
By Thomas Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray
This production, directed by Carlus Padrissa, is being hailed as a "Ring for the 21st century," and if it's a bit too early to make claims about the zeitgeist of the century, it's not too early to suggest that this Valencia Ring--like those by Chéreau, Schenk, and Kupfer--is a statement to be reckoned with, a production against which others will be judged. Most immediately obvious is the sheer spectacle, topped off by (but not limited to) the often acrobatic participation of the Catalan theater group La Fura dels Baus and by Franc Aleu's video projections, rightly described as "stunning" by Andrew Quint in his review of these two operas in the last issue (Fanfare 33:5). Quint has already mentioned a number of the highpoints. I'll just echo his enthusiasm, adding that while some might find the production a touch hyperactive, at least there's not a moment in the hours and hours of viewing here that's less than visually compelling--something rarely said about even the best productions of The Ring.

Granted, it didn't take Anna Russell to point out the streak of inanity that underlies these operas; as Tolstoy's skewering of The Ring in What Is Art reminds us, the Ring's inherent silliness has been a target for critics and comedians since the days when this was New Music par excellence. And this production has its Monty Pythonesque moments, too, especially (as Quint pointed out) in the costumes. But the moments of sheer wonder--the grimy industrial backdrop of Niebelheim, the airborne acrobats who create Valhalla, the kaleidoscopic tree in the first act of Walküre--more than compensate, at least on Blu-ray, where they emerge with astonishing clarity.

For all the razzle-dazzle, though, this is a profoundly human Ring, and the production is even more gripping for its dramatic interpretation than for its spectacle. I use the word "interpretation"--rather than "reconception" or "vision"--advisedly. Many critics (including me) have registered their distress over the current wave of productions that are driven by the idiosyncratic visions of the stage directors at the expense of the details of the scores. (For a few examples of my own protests, see my reviews of Calixto Bieito's Wozzeck [31:6] or Robert Lepage's Rake's Progress [33:4]). In fact, many of us have complained with such consistency and vehemence that it might seem that we're opposed to creative imagination altogether. We're not (at least, I'm not); respect does not at all require repetition of old tropes, just as freshness doesn't require grinding the composer's intentions under your heel. It's possible to be radical and respectful at the same time, and the Valencia Ring proves it. Archeological rather than disruptive, these discs deepen our understanding of Wagner rather than overturn it.

Two examples can stand for many. First, the treatment of Fricka. Fricka is usually cast as an aging frump. As a consequence, her defense of marriage seems more pragmatic than principled; she seems to be insisting on marital fidelity because, sexually speaking, marriage is all that she can now depend on. Anna Larsson, looking a lot more like Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago than Christa Ludwig in the Schenk/Levine/Met Ring, is a very different kind of Fricka. She's smart and sexy, with a voice that can stand up to her husband's and with just a hint of the dominatrix--her principles obviously don't stem from sexual weakness. Her relationship with Wotan thus becomes deeper, her position harder to brush off--and act II of Walküre becomes even more heartbreaking than usual.

Second, the treatment of Sieglinde. Many productions portray Sieglinde as a generous and gracious hostess--even a regal one, as Jessye Norman is in the Met version. Hunding may not be the best of husbands, but at least, it seems, he's given her middle-class comforts. In Chéreau's version, in fact, he's given her something even classier than that. But is that really what's in the score and the libretto? Let's remember that Sieglinde was brutally kidnapped and--not to put too fine a point on it--turned into Hunding's sex slave. That history of sexual violence is never occluded in this tough-minded probing of Walküre's first act. When we first see her, she's outdoors, tied up like the dog she's been reduced to, scuttling among the bones outside the dwelling. Her initial scoping out of Siegmund involves not only sight (this production is especially sensitive to the psychology of the look, especially when characters are silent) but smell, too, as she sniffs him to come to terms with what's happening. And we see the growing love between the twins not simply in the growing erotic charge, but--even more touchingly--in the way Sieglinde (and Siegmund too, although to a lesser extent) becomes humanized in the course of the act. It's not just the big gestures; the small gestures, too, reinforce this strange tenderness of the previously uncivilized. Note, for instance, how she gives the prostrate Siegmund water by dipping her hair in a bowl and then transferring it to his lips.

It doesn't hurt that Peter Seiffert and Petra Maria Schnitzer as Siegmund and Sieglinde are both in exceptional voice. Especially powerful, to my ears, is Schnitzer's mad scene in act II, where her sense of grief threatens to undo all her progress and return her to an animal existence. But then again, nearly everyone sings and acts well in this production. As Quint suggested, Juha Uusitalo is as poignant a Wotan as any around today--and Jennifer Wilson manages to convey Brünnhilde's growing wisdom with remarkable sensitivity. Matti Salminen is such a sympathetic Fasolt that it's something of a shock to see how raw his Hunding is.

Zubin Mehta's conducting is slightly on the broad side, rarely pushing the tempos, and concentrating on the long lines. He occasionally slights details (I'd like more bite on the trip down to Niebelheim), but he never loses his grip on the larger architecture. The youthful orchestra plays with tremendous heft and panache, clearly enjoying every minute (something you can't always say for Boulez's Bayreuth crew). As far as audio goes, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is suitably overwhelming and enveloping. Enthusiastically endorsed. Peter J. Rabinowitz
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