I just finished watching this entire cycle and wanted to review Gotterdammerung first. A few comments about the cycle as a whole to begin: This is the most consistently sung, marvelously played, conducted, and beautifully produced cycle I have ever seen! I am a big fan of the Copenhagen Ring, a devout disciple of the Bayreuth/Chereau Cycle, and, yes, even an admirer of the ultra-traditional Met staging. This cycle, as a whole, blows all of the competition out of the water.
Across all four operas the filming is well done and the Blu-ray imaging is wonderful. The sound, as heard on my Boston Acoustics surround system, is very realistic and detailed with the orchestra in front of the singers. There is no spotlighting of the voices and one hears a realistic opera house sound. This is very important since Zubin Mehta draws powerful, passionate, and incredibly accurate playing from the Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencia. This is no small feat since, as a former orchestral musician, I can attest to the extreme difficulty of these scores. The orchestra plays this music as if it is in their blood. All the more amazing if one considers that this is a brand new ensemble made up of players who appear to be mostly very young. Of course, Mehta is an old hand in the pit. His interpretation is sweeping and dramatic.
Gotterdammerung clocks in at about 4 hours and 30 minutes. It always seems just right. The brass playing is spot-on with special mention going to the horn section and individual horn players who perform the various horn calls with a tremendously brassy tone. No mellow horns here! The wind section is amazing...especially the great clarinet duet at the beginning of Act One, Scene Three: beautifully phrased. The orchestra always plays in tune, even the first E-flat minor chord that opens the piece, often a tragedy even in good cycles, is right on pitch. There is never any scrappy ensemble in this performance.
The singers are all top notch. The Norns are appropriately mournful, the Rhine Maidens are sexy and sound great, and the fabulous Waltraute of Catherine Wyn-Rogers is menacing instead of resigned. What a voice. The Cor de la Generalitat Valencia is powerful and well-disciplined. The summoning of the Vassals (in Act Two) is quite an aural experience. I was a little disappointed that the horn calls (on trombones) for this scene weren't more primitive and overbearing.
The Gunther of Ralf Lukas is well sung. He plays Gunther as a real whimp, which is appropriate for this production. Ultimately, he is a helpless and sympathetic character. The Gibich clan inhabits a modern, technological, money obsessed, polluted world, that is a far cry from the rough and tumble, wilderness retreat of Siegfried and Brunnhilde. One moment of humor occurs when Gunther reacts to the smell of Siegfried (who probably hasn't bathed in years). I enjoyed the trash in the Rhine River as Siegfried approached the Gibich Hall. By the way, there is a boat and it does go up river. Well done. Gutrune is a modern woman who seems obsessed with staying in shape and looking just right. Elisabete Matos sings and acts well.
Hagen is portrayed by the incomparable Matti Salminen. He looks and sounds terrifying. He is the Hagen of our day. I can't imagine anyone else in the role. He is impassive and yet he manipulates the action that leads up to Siegfried's death with the accuracy of a surgeon. His acting is never less than very good. His huge voice always comes over the orchestra with ease. When he calls the Vassals it is a hair-raising experience. The terrible, brooding night watch scene is Act Two brought a tingle to my spine. Alberich, who has aged horribly, floats in above Hagen's head. Truly frightening.
The Siegfried of Lance Ryan is amazing from a vocal standpoint. He never sounds tired and always looks heroic and handsome. Listen to that "high C" in Act Three, Scene Two...solid as a rock. No strain at all. He is a natural Heldentenor. He plays Siegfried as a simpleton; an immature teenager. I thought some of his acting was a bit much (he plays to the audience several times) but it was consistent with his interpretation. The scene with the Rhinemaidens is, for once, truly funny (and looks great). The scene leading up to his death is sung with perfect musicality and his death is truly touching. The funeral march, played to perfection, is especially moving as the Vassals carry Siegfried's body off of the stage and into the hall.
The highlight of this production is the AMAZING Brunnhilde of Jennifer Wilson. Her voice is powerful across a wide range and her high notes have razor sharp precision. There is never a wobble of any sort in her voice. Her voice just never flags. She is an excellent actress. Her Brunnhilde is not a perpetual victim. Her valedictory performance of the Immolation Scene is the crowning jewel in an impeccable interpretation. She will be the Brunnhilde of our age.
The production is a feast for the eyes and the ears. Realistic fire and water, shifting colors that project the inner world of the characters, and costumes that powerfully illustrate the clashing worlds of this story. I have never, never, never seen the final scene done as well...incredibly moving. Vahalla literally comes apart amid the flames. The multi-media projections are always used to grand effect. This production, though very modern, never does violence to Wagner's conception. A must see and hear for all Wagnerites. DON'T MISS THIS!