28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
First off let me say that this cut Rienzi is not a desecration of Wagner, and I am a major Wagnerholic. If you have made it through the entire Rienzi (there is a CD available by the BBC) you know that it is a numbing work - chorus after chorus, ballets that never end: enough material for two operas. Do you really want 5 hours of second rate Meyerbeer? This is not mature Wagner, and anything that helps Rienzi work in the theater is welcome. This DVD delivers.
Yes, the work is brought up into the 20th century and casts Rienzi as a fascist dictator. But it works. Due to the cuts this streamlined Rienzi makes more of an impact than the sprawling original.
The musicians are quite good. The singers are effective actors. The conducting keeps the work moving. Don't hold your breath for a complete Rienzi. This production makes a good case for the opera. All Wagnerians should check it out.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
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This is the first performance of Rienzi to be recorded on DVD. Any Wagnerite is going to jump at the chance of seeing it.
Fortunately, this is a very entertaining production. Admittedly, cuts have been profound and sweeping; out of the five hour original only 2.5 hours remain. I'm not familiar enough with the full version to comment on whether the baby has been thrown out with the bathwater, but to my ear, what was left was strongly Wagnerian, with none of the fluff described in many accounts of the original. Clearly, the scenes have been selected to match the premise, that Rienzi was a proto-Führer. Again, I don't know whether this is a distortion of the original.
The opening scene, where a somewhat acrobatic body double performed during the overture, was reminiscent of Obersaltzberg, complete with panoramic window and Mussolini fireplace, although the director, in the 'making of' interview, claimed that this wasn't intentional. Much use was made throughout of a bi-level stage, with the main action taking place above the lower section - a concrete bunker. There was also copious use of monochrome video, giving a strong flavour of Leni Riefenstahl.
Musically splendid, with some outstanding performances. Torsten Kerl was the perfect despot, incorporating many of the mannerisms of those chaps from the beginning of last century.
Kate Aldrich, as Adriano was amazing. Just amazing.
On a second viewing, there was a particularly strong scene where the chorus removed their grotesque masks, and normal street clothes, and replaced them with uniforms, complete with stylized 'R' symbols. The individuals were now identifiable, but made anonymous by the costumes.
The more I watch this, the more I like it.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
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This DVD presents a bold re-interpretation of this early opera by Richard Wagner. The title character is re-imagined as a 20th century dictator with a uniform fetish, who rises to power on the back of the common people, only to be killed in an underground bunker in the last act. (Sound like anyone you've heard of?) It's fitting that this brilliant staging by Philipp Stölzl was filmed at the Deutsches Oper Berlin in 2010. It's the first Rienzi on video, and the first essential Wagner DVD to be released in some time.
Rienzi is Wagner's third opera. It is his longest work: (five acts, six hours) a gigantic grand opera in the manner of Meyerbeer. Philipp Stölzl cut the score severely for this performance, chopping out ballets, finales, choruses, processions, and whole swaths to get it down to a lean two and a half hours. The truncation of the score is clever, if ruthless.
This music is very different from mature Wagner. He wrote it when he was 26, and by time the opera was premiered (eight years later) the ever-restless composer had moved on to Der Fliegende Höllander and was already planning Tannhäuser. The Deutsches Oper Berlin orchestra plays brilliantly under the baton of Stephen Lang-Lessing. The decision to retain Wagner's early (and sometimes clumsy) orchestrations intact gives the work charm and shows the care that went into this performance.
Heldentenor Torsten Kerl gives a moving performance in the title role, singing with a high, penetrating tone that blooms into moments of sweetness. This part has hellish difficulties written into it by the young, ambitious Wagner. Much declamatory singing is required, forcing the tenor to be heard over a heavy orchestra. Mr. Kerl rises to the challenge, soaring to an impressive height for the moment when Rienzi rejects the crown in Act Two.
His best singing is in the final act, during Rienzi's prayer. This famous scene (its main theme is the backbone of the Overture) unfolds with a warm outpouring of tone as it rises to its climax. In the final scene, Mr. Kerl loose with his full instrument, and the effect is devastating.
Soprano Kate Aldrich is a potent figure in the trouser role of Adriano Colonna, the would-be assassin who is also in love with Rienzi's sister Irene. As Irene, soprano Camilla Nylund sings with hard, bright tone that fits the role of Rienzi's chief lieutenant and collaborator. There is the chilling suggestion of incest in their sibling relationship. The other star of this show is the Deutsches Staatsoper's main and auxilary choruses, who do remarkable work in this opera's many public scenes.
The production makes extensive use of back-projected films by fettFilm (Torge Møller and Momme Hinrichs). Cribbing from the films of Leni Riefensthaal (most notably Triumph of the Will) the films are used as on-set propaganda and a narrative device throughout.
The costume design (by the team of Kathi Maurer and Ursula Kudrna) is also clever. In the second act, the onstage mob of Roman citizens takes off their civilian colors to revealchiaroscuro uniforms, emblazoned with the "Diamond-R" rune that serves as the symbol of Rienzi's government. As the dictator comes to power, all color is bled out of Rome. The effect is terrifying.
Rienzi was Hitler's favorite opera. In 1905, the 16-year-old dictator-to-be attended a performance in Linz, Austria. That may have inspired much of the iconography, (and some of the the political philosophy) adopted by the former house painter as he led Germany down the path of genocide and destruction. So it's understandable that it doesn't get performed much. By re-imagining the work in this radical new way, the creative forces behind this staging may have actually redeemed it. Wagner would have been pleased.
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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Normally an abridged version of an opera would not be something one would find acceptable, particularly when the production itself has been updated and modernised, but Wagner's 1842 opera Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen) - almost forgotten but certainly eclipsed by the composer's next opera Der fliegende Holländer - is an opera in serious need of rehabilitation, not least because of the infamy of it supposedly being Hitler's favourite opera. Cut down in half from its original five hour running time, the five acts compressed into two parts, this 2010 Deutsche Oper Berlin production, conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing and directed by pop-video and film director Philipp Stölzl, does however manage to give a new lease of life to the opera, or at least bring out elements in it that suggest that, for all its flaws and its troubled history, it's time the opera were confronted to determine whether its worthy of reconsideration and re-evaluation.
As the story deals with the rise and fall of the 14th century Roman dictator Cola di Rienzo, it seems appropriate in this production to emphasise the uncanny parallels that the opera has with the rise of Hitler and his downfall. To not do so would be unthinkable, according to the director Philipp Stölzl, and indeed it's impossible not to see the remarkable coincidences in the common circumstances that give rise to a Rienzi here and those of Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin or Ceausescu. Accordingly, being a German production, the opening part of Rienzi with the struggles between the Orsini and the Colonna factions, is clearly set in Germany's interwar years. In the midst of these troubled times, Rienzi appears, promising to bring the people freedom, lead them out of their shame and make them a great nation once again, despite the warning from Adriano that "to reach your proud ends, you shall leave a trail of blood".
Brilliantly, the staging absorbs the cultural references of the times, Rome/Berlin looking like a backdrop of Fritz Lang's Metropolis with German Expressionist angles, while the warring Orsini and Colonna followers are masked and distorted like figures out of a colourful George Grosz painting. This soon changes unsettlingly into the militaristic imagery of a fascist dictatorship, with propaganda films influenced by Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will playing out in the background. As Rome enters into war in the second part of the revised opera, an increasingly embattled Rienzi is seen in a underground bunker, planning his grand vision of a new Rome while the reality above the ground is something quite different. The parallels between Rienzi and Hitler are eerily premonitory, arising as much from the text of the libretto as the production design and never feeling forced.
Apart from the association of Wagner with the Third Reich, in almost all other respects, the Grand Opera of Rienzi scarcely feels like a Wagnerian musical drama. The busy crowded staging and the huge rousing choruses are a recognisable feature and there are one or two prototype Wagner characters in this early opera, but otherwise the drama and storytelling is concise and to the point. Not being familiar with the full 5-hour version of Rienzi, much of this however could be down to the tightening of the focus by the cutting down of the opera for this production, but the decision to revise the opera considerably seems justified by the results.
This is not a great Wagner opera by any means, certainly not when compared to Der fliegende Holländer which immediately followed it, but musically it's not a bad opera in its own right, with a beautiful overture, some wonderful symphonic passages, and there is a strong study of the conditions that give rise to a dictatorship in its drama. It at least has a certain curiosity value in the fact that Hitler would have seen in this opera the means of his own rise to power and a premonition of his downfall, but it also has an interesting place in the history and development of German opera.
The Blu-ray edition of Rienzi has a 16:9 image that is just about flawless. There's a strong 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio mix, althuough I didn't notice any LFE subwoofer activity at all - your neighbours however will probably be thankful for this considering the force of the performance and the recording that is still evident. The PCM stereo mix is also terrific. A 27-minute Making Of is not particularly in-depth, but covers the background and the concept of this production through interviews and rehearsal footage.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By The Numbers
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So, I bought it because I'm a big Wagner fan and I knew and liked the famous Overture. Perhaps, above all, I bought it because I wanted to have as complete a collection of Wagner DVDs as possible. A nice surprise. The "modern" setting worked very well. The casting and music were very good and Camilla Nylund is gorgeous. While I would only give 5 stars to something so great that it warrants getting out of your sick bed to buy it, my four stars mean it's very worthwhile and I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommend it.