15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This DVD of Die Walküre shot live in front of an audience at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus on August 12, 2010, is a fascinating visual record of the august Wagner Festival's most recent production of Wagner's Ring, directed by German theatrical auteur Tankred Dost.
Mr. Dost, who was an 11th-hour replacement for filmmaker Lars von Trier in 2006, presents the Ring as an environmental parable, in a world shattered by the aftereffects of industrialization. Act I is set in a ruined house, with a collapsed power-line mast doubling for Wagner's oak tree. The wild mountains are an abandoned statue factory, with ghostly shapes in the gloom providing an atmospheric background. Most effective is Brunnhilde's rock: a hewn-out quarry "guarded" by a small warning sign and yellow safety tape.
These grim settings (by Frank Philip Schoßmann) aren't much to look at, but they're no more bleak than past Bayreuth stagings by Patrice Chereau (1976), Harry Kupfer (1988), and Alfred Kirchner (1994). Mr. Dost fills his sets with some interesting ideas. Silent dancers portray Hunding's baying hound dogs and Fricka's ram-drawn chariot with elaborate masks. Wotan's long monologue features an avatar of himself as the Wanderer, mourning over his soon-to-be-broken spear. Act II is occasionally interrupted by a Bowery Boys-like gang of toughs who steal a bicycle and mug some hapless old man that happens to be wandering through the battlefield.
The costume designs, by Bernd Ernst Skozig evoke the worst excesses of Rosalie, the designer who dominated the Festival's 1994 Ring. Siegmund is in a sort of muu-muu made from animal hide. Sieglinde's white dress has puffy sleeves that would scare Jerry Seinfeld. Hunding is a neo-Fascist. Wotan is in dull grey, which fails to add excitement to Albert Dohmen's performance. The Valkyries come off the worst, decked out in geometric, quasi-Japanese armor in an eye-searing Star Trek red. (The wigs, in a matching neon of the same tint, are even worse.)
The singing is pretty good. Linda Watson has a big, unsubtle voice--a trait shared by many Brunnhildes of recent years. Her "Hojotoho" battle cries have one crossing the fingers, but she improves in the Annunciation of Death. Johan Botha might not be the most agile Siegmund, but his big, rich tenor is perfect for the part: steady even in the long passages of the Annunciation of Death, He is well matched with his Sieglinde, Edith Haller. She is particularly strong in the Act II nightmare, a scene that can be interminable with the wrong singing actress. Hunding is the sturdy Korean bass Kwanchal Youn, whose projection of menace recalls Philip Kang with a better voice.
The weak link here is Albert Dohmen as Wotan. It is understood that the singer had been recovering from an illness right before this was filmed. But judging from this pale, grey performance, Mr. Dohmen may not have been ready for the cameras. He looks and sounds tired, substituting resignation and depression for any bite and rage in his long monologue. He's a little better in Act III, but the character feels lost under the weight of his own mistakes. Maybe that was the idea, but the performance suffers under its own weight.
The best part of this Walküre is the performance you can't see. Christian Thielemann, working in the famous covered pit of the Festspielhaus, conducts a rich, sweeping performance that would be the envy of Barenboim or Levine. The German conductor has essentially become the house maestro for Bayreuth in recent years, and this is a good thing. Under his direction, the orchestra sings, surges and swells, and the singers are accompanied, but never overwhelmed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Traditionally, Die Walküre is seen as the start of the Ring story proper, the previous episode Das Rheingold being only a prelude, musically as well as thematically, for what is to follow. It's in Die Walküre moreover that what is seen as the human element enters into the story after the mythological struggle of dwarves, giants and gods in the first part. Personally, I'd argue that the human element is there from the first notes of Das Rheingold, the origins of the Ring being inextricably tied up in Wagner's philosophy towards the creation of a new German art form, and the expression and attainment of those highest ideals that humanity can aspire to is evident in every aspect of the mythological symbolism of the whole work, as well as in its method of operatic expression. That's perhaps a debate for another area, but in as far as it concerns this 2010 Bayreuther Festspiele production, one would have hoped to see more of the underlying humanism in the story brought out than is actually achieved here.
As if mindful of the need to relate the great struggle that continues to be fought out largely on an epic scale level to some kind of human level, Tankred Dorst introduces a few irritating and ultimately pointless elements into the staging. The opera opens with a very brief sequence showing a modern-day family, seemingly on a picnic, wandering through a deserted, semi-ruined manor house, the young boy unveiling the figure of Sieglinde and in the process setting off the retelling of the ancient myth that is to follow. In Act 2, the father sits in the background throughout, reading his newspaper, his bicycle by his side, while Wotan and Fricke carry on what I suppose could be termed a domestic argument, albeit one on which the eventual fate of all humanity depends.
As pointless as these kind of intrusions are, they are minor and easily blocked out, feeling little more than half-hearted attempts to introduce an underlying concept that doesn't bear much scrutiny and doesn't in the end impose much of a presence either. The minor tweaks to the staging relating to the position of the sword in a lamp-post that has fallen through the wall of the ruined hunting lodge, is likewise a minor conceit that doesn't affect the overall purpose of the drama or how it is played out. It does in fact introduce a strong sense of ruin and decline that is to be the eventual fate of the gods, and indeed the inevitable end for all those who strive for ultimate power. Elsewhere however the staging feels a little anonymous and unimaginative, even somewhat restrictive, the performers not really given anything to do for most of the time other than statically sing their parts and attempt to express everything through the poetry of the libretto and the voices alone.
Fortunately, in that respect, the singers are all exceptionally good, if not quite good enough for the most part to make up for the deficiencies elsewhere in the production. Only Johan Botha really stands out, and he may even be considered to be one of the best Siegmund's you're ever likely to hear, with a wonderful voice that contains all the warmth of humanity that should be in his character's make-up. That characteristic is just a little bit lacking in the others, although Edith Haller sings wonderfully and interacts well with Botha. Part of the problem might well be Christian Thielemann's conducting of the Bayreuther Festspiele orchestra. Thielemann is a superb conductor of Strauss and Wagner when working with material that suits his style, but that style is often too clinical, intellectualised and, particularly in the case of Die Walküre, a little too aggressive. Whatever the reason, the richness in the melody and the wealth of the emotional content of the tragedy just isn't found here.
Overall however, this is a worthwhile production, fairly traditional in its setting (not something you can always say about Bayreuther Festspiele productions), and more than competently performed - exceptionally so in the case of Botha and Haller - lacking only a little spark of warmth or inspiration that might have made all the difference. It's presented well on the Opus Arte Blu-ray with a fine, detailed and strongly coloured picture, with the usual strong PCM stereo and DTS HD Master-Audio 5.1 mixes. There's a good 18 minute made-for-television featurette on the production on the disc, which is not in-depth, but sets the scene well (barring a horribly inappropriate modern jingle-style soundtrack).
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
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A review is merely an opinion.Especially, Opera which is really the suspension of disbelief. My fellow reviewers have missed the point about this rendition of Die Walkure.The Dorst Die Walkure can be considered as good as Chereau's,or the Copenhagen and Valencia's Versions of this opera.The tragedy was, that this Ring cycle has been recorded on CD, instead of on film. The idea behind this Ring was what I was looking for.
Dorst writes for the stage and has often directed his own plays. His view of this opera is the following,"he relies on myth to make his point. The gods are still among us today,only we cannot see them. We ourselves are the cyclists,newspaper readers,caretakers and tourists who occasionally people the stage,blind to higher powers and to any metaphysical dimension". A myth alive within a natural disaster. Dorst has paid tribute to the Stuttgart Ring. At the beginning of Act One, we see modern holiday makers venturing out of a run down house.One has a fishing rod. A little boy runs in and glimpses beneath the rug covering Sieglinde and leaves. This refers to the fact, that children sometimes see beyond. The sword is placed in the fallen telegraph pole. The house windows play tribute to Chereau, who has the same idea in his version.Hunding arrives with his men, wearing dogs head gear. Wotan gazes through the window, while Sieglinde, wearing a dress copied from one of Klimts paintings and Siegmund under go their love affair.Act two opens with Wotan standing on a rock,surrounded by mist,and a red clad Brunnhilde laying on his feet. It reminds me of a painting by the German Romantic painter, Caspar Friedrich.Most of the Act takes place in a dumping ground for old statues,both modern and ancient, including Soviet ones. In the background sits a man reading a paper. Later on when he picks up his bike he is mugged. This is almost off stage. Fricka arrives with two men dressed as rams, she is dressed in a off deep brown Japanese clothes. Act three takes place in a grey collapsed house, surrounded by red tape,to worn intruders. The Walkure are dressed in bright red. They stand out amongest the neutral grey. Very effective.Yellow flames washes over Brunnhilde and at the top of the building you see an out line of Wotan.Great staging. The clothing worn are to give the viewers the impression of beings who are not of this world, and cannot be seen by the modern world, who are too involved in the mundane. Really a traditional ring, mixed in with the modern. Very clever. I would have loved to see the entire ring.
Now for the singers. Hunding is Kwangchul Youn, who holds his own when compared to the other Hundings in the Walkure's I have mentioned. Johann Botha, is a South African Afrikaner, who sings Siegmund and is on a par with singers such as Stig Andersen,Peter Seiffert,Peter Hofmann in the same part. Edith Haller is Sieglinde,and has a distinctive lyrical voice. I hope she sings Isolde with Kaufmann as Tristan one day. That is how highly I regard her. Fricka is Mihoko Fujimura who is good, but not up to the Copenhagen's Fricka Randi Stone,who is. The Wotan is Albert Dohmen. One reviewer mentioned he had trouble with his voice. I did not notice it. A problem is when you have a Wotan with a serious wobble in the Weimar Ring, but I still like that ultra minimalist BluRay recording. Dohmen sings the part as Wagner wanted. I suppose it is all a matter of taste. One persons good Wotan is anothers lousy one. Brunnhilde is Linda Watson, and I found her singing emotional and a true Wagner voice. It is hard to compare Gwyneth Jones, Chereau Ring, Irene Theorin, Copenhagen Ring with Watson, for they all have different approaches. I like them all. I have no problem with Watsons voice, she acts the part well. The Bayreuth Festival orchestra is conducted by Thielemann, with quick tempo and brings out the various textures. It is not emotional as Boulez, but it is a deliberate ploy, to allow the notes to shine though and the passionate singing to come to the fore. The music sounds different when played in Bayreuth,because of the hidden orchestra pit. The Bluray is excellent, because it was filmed to be shown in cinemas. 1080-World Wide. DTS HD.