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Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray] [Import]


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Product Details

  • Format: Classical, NTSC, Import
  • Language: Dutch
  • Subtitles: Dutch, German, French, English, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Studio: Arthaus Musik
  • Release Date: Sept. 28 2010
  • ASIN: B003X8597K

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bold staging of a notorious opera Sept. 13 2010
By Keris Nine - Published on Amazon.com
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 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Only Rienzi DVD I Saw Dec 7 2012
By By The Numbers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Grosser Querschnitt May 4 2014
By John Fowler - Published on Amazon.com
Before someone reports me to Amazon, let me point out that "Grosser querschnitt" is German for "highlights" (literally "greater cross-section").

Wagner conceived Rienzi for the Paris Opera, with lots of choruses and ballet music, which the French insisted on.
The actual premiere was in Dresden in 1842.
Rienzi lasted about six hours.

Subsequent performances shortened it considerably.
The original score was lost in a World War II bombing raid.
A roughly two-and-a-half hour version was thought to be all that survived - until the 1970s when musicologists pieced together an additional two hours from surviving fragments.
This was the basis for the BBC's pioneering 4 hour, 40 minute broadcast in 1976, the single most important performance of the opera since 1842.

There are two competing performances on Blu-Ray, both featuring Torsten Kerl in the title role:

2010: 2 hours, 36 minutes = Berlin Opera conducted by Sebastian Lang-Lessing: The Blu-Ray under review.

2013: 2 hours, 56 minutes = Milan La Scala conducted by Pinchas Steinberg: Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray]

(actual timings are less due to curtain calls and production credits)

Rienzi was Wagner's most popular opera during his lifetime.
Adolf Hitler may have inadvertently killed Rienzi when word got out that it was his favorite opera.
This seems unfair:
After the war, his valet reported that Hitler's favorite movie was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
yet Snow White seems to have survived unscathed.

Though he lived in Italy in the Fourteenth Century, poor Rienzi has suffered for his supposed Nazi connection.
An irresistable temptation for trendy opera directors with a keen grasp of the obvious.
The 2010 Berlin performance is especially clueless.
Silly, really.

The 2013 La Scala performance is more abstract in its staging, therefore
Less Silly.

- La Scala has twenty minutes more music than Berlin.
- La Scala has smarter staging than Berlin.
- La Scala has a 55 minute documentary vs. 26 minutes in Berlin.
- Both Blu-Rays have the same tenor in the lead role.
- Both Blu-Rays have 5.1 surround sound and subtitles in all the usual languages.

If you need Rienzi on Blu-Ray, La Scala is my recommendation.

However, there is always a catch, and that's where Grosser querschnitt comes in.
Both Blu-Rays are heavily cut.

I wouldn't mind it if Opera Houses wanted to present abridged performances, if only ONE uncut Rienzi was available on CD or DVD/Blu-Ray.
CD recordings ranged from 1 hour, 58 minutes to 3 hours, 38 minutes.

The 4 hour, 40 minute BBC broadcast under Edward Downes, with John Mitchison as Rienzi, used to be available as a 4 CD set on the Italian label Ponto,
but unfortunately Ponto forgot to get the BBC's permission and the CDs have been withdrawn.

The Ponto version of the Downes/BBC Rienzi is available as a download (6 euros) on opera-club.net
Recommended as a stopgap.
And if the BBC ever decides on an official release, I hope they don't forget the libretto and translation
(now that I'm at it, I wouldn't sneeze at a new uncut recording conducted by Barenboim, Janowski or Thielemann).

For the time being, your best bet is Hollreiser/EMI, with Rene Kollo as Rienzi, the longest of available performances, at 3 hours, 38 minutes.

For the sorry recorded history of Rienzi, see my review of Wagner: Rienzi ("Wagner's Rienzi: Discography", dated May 4, 2014).
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Jan. 15 2013
By Ian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Terrific modern rendition of Wagner's Rienzi! Having seen it live, this recording masterfully captured the essential aspects of the production with powerful performances by all, especially that of Rienzi and surprisingly Adriano. A must for the hardcore Rienzi fans!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For the dedicated Wagner lover May 13 2013
By G. Miller - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
I call it that because there's not much here to really love. For one thing, it takes a tale set in ancient Rome and puts it in a II World War type setting, transforming the typical Wagner grand vision into an anti-fascist fable. But for me it works. And in a way, even makes the piece more acceptable. This was Wagner in his youth, when spectacle and soaring melodies were his gods, but still a bit beyond his reach. The original opera ran over some five hours, and that would have been pretty unbearable to me. There is frankly only one really memorable song in the piece, but what a melody. Sung by the hero Rienzi, a Juan Peron type despot, it is the prayer of a self-deluded man who dies in ruins. I didn't believe his sincerity for a minute, but I did believe his pain. This Rienzi is the Reader's Digest version, but it still runs around three hours long. It is visually satisfying and the performance is first class singing. As drama it is inclined to be static - but Wagner is usually far more interested in music than in action. He gets better about that in his later masterpieces. (I understand this was one opera he banned from his opera house in Bayreut as not up to his mature standards.) But if you love Wagner, and always wonder about the neglected opera, here's as satisfying a way to sample it as you could find. I give four stars, not because I have any problem with the performance, only because I believe Wagner was right. This will never be an opera I would be willing to say I love.

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