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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
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Arthaus Musik
  • Release Date: Sept. 28 2010
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • ASIN: B003X8597K
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars 21 reviews
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Rienzi DVD. Excellent. Oct. 4 2010
By Doug Urquhart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.

Strongly recommended.

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 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reposted from Superconductor "Rienzi and the Fascist Beast" Aug. 27 2011
By Paul Pelkonen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grosser Querschnitt May 4 2014
By John Fowler the Obsessive Compulsive Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
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.

[hint: for ease of navigation, read the review though to the end, then come back and click on the links.]

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 = Toulouse Théatre du Capitole 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 Toulouse Théatre performance is more abstract in its staging, therefore
Less Silly.

- Toulouse has twenty minutes more music than Berlin.
- Toulouse has smarter staging than Berlin.
- Toulouse 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, Toulouse Théatre du Capitole 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).
18 of 25 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
Format: Blu-ray
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.
18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Rienzi Feb. 23 2011
By Waldteufel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The fact that Hitler liked this opera does not make it an opera about Hitler and the nazis or Mussolini and his fascists. This is a director's 'take' on the opera completely changing the motivation and actions of the principals. As such it is a travesty though well sung, played and acted. But never believe this is Wagner's Rienzi - you only have to read the libretto to see how falsely this version represents the drama.
There is a wonderful and absolutely complete (not 9 hours) performance of the opera on cd conducted by Sir Edward Downes originally broadcast by the BBC in 1976 - well worth seeking out.