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Wagner;Richard Die Walkure [Import]

Robert Gambill , Angela Denoke , Christoph Nel    Unrated   DVD

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Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not your father's Walkure May 10 2008
By harmless drudge - Published on Amazon.com
5 stars for orchestra/conductor; 2 stars for cast; 2 stars for director; overall, 3 stars for entertainment
This performance appears to be identical to one released by TDK. It received decidedly mixed reviews, and I refer you to that posting at Amazon for other opinions. The production is from Stuttgart and is part of a Ring cycle conducted by Zagrosek with a different director for each opera. Let me begin by saying that if you are interested in a well sung Walkure and don't care to watch, then go immediately to an audio recording. None of the commercial dvd recordings are the vocal equivalent of classic recordings (both live and studio). So let's begin with the visuals. In a nutshell Act 1 left me astonished; when it worked, it was great; when it didn't, it was stupid. Act 2 left me perplexed and bored. Act 3 left me literally on the floor rolling in laughter.
Act 1: Siegmund (Gambill) looks like a younger Melchior (barrel chested and chunky); rather than a fake animal skin, he bounces about in shorts and a hoodie for most of the act. His singing, while not near a Melchior (since I brought up the comparison), is mostly up to the challnge and, despite his girth, he moves about fairly well. Sieglende (Denoke) is even better as is Hunding. What really works is the chemistry between S & S; they act as if they feel animal passion; no stand and sing for those two Unfortunately, as is often the case when directors take the Ring out of its mythological time, many details make little sense (e.g., sword pulled out of sheath held by Sieglinde, Hunding plays with a gun),
Act 2: This act is the weakest and, at times, tedious. It opens with Wotan (Rootering) dressed in a windbreaker as if he were about to go out and buy a quart of milk. He is surrounded by small figurines resembling Greek/Roman statues. And poor Brunnhilde appears dressed as a .... hmm...amalgamation of a Goth, biker, and female prison warden. Unlike some other reviewers, I found Rootering pretty much up to par for the role vocally; visually, however, he is almost as wide as he is tall, making him better suited for Falstaff than the chief god. Brunnhilde, on the other hand, is a bit overparted; she does ok until she has to ride either above the orchestra or above the stave. What is really puzzling about this act is the concluding confrontation between Siegfried and Hunding. The singers use megaphones and actions are carried out by huge puppets representing the four parties. The point of the Act 2 staging entirely escapes me.
Act 3: This is my favorite act in this production; if only Wagner were alive to see it. The Valkyries enter with a long feathered wing on each arm, dressed as a cross between hookers and cheerleaders (again with the megaphones). They are stretched out for much of the scene in a single line like some half-bird, half-vamp, half-"I got into mom's makeup box" Radio City Rockettes. (I know that 3 halves are more than a whole, but this group is clearly more than the sum of its parts.) When Wotan enters, he is on a different stage level and never physically interacts with Brunnhilde; he sings to her but observes her on a television monitor. Finally, Brunnhilde falls asleep (passes out, hides her head in disbelief?) on a small table surrounded by a couple of votive candles while Wotan plays with the remote control for the TV that is displaying the image of Brunnhilde. As Anna Russell used to say in her Ring parody, "I'm not making this up." Great fun; at times I laughed so hard I ached.
Bottom line: far from rejecting this version, I was entertained (especially in Acts 1 and 3); if there were profound messages in the sets and costumes, I missed them and frankly am not particularly interested in discovering them. I recommend this production to those familiar with the Ring and who are looking for something different as an addition to the more conventional productions such as Barenboim (first choice despite the overly gloomy lighting and unimaginative costumes), Boulez (second choice due to a weaker cast and conducting), and Levine (third choice because prolonged viewing can induce a coma).
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