This is in almost every way a first class (1990) production, with all the important ingredients fully in evidence. Wagner's music is well conducted by Peter Schneider and the 5.1 sound allows it to bloom, only rarely threatening to swamp the singers, mostly due to the quality of the cast. The eponymous hero is superbly sung by Canadian Paul Frey, who brings dignity and compassion to the role. He is ably matched by an on-form Cheryl Studer, who can move from passion to vulnerability with apparent ease. The intonation and articulation of both stars can hardly be faulted, and the Act 3 duet is a joy to hear and watch, as the couple also look the part of young lovers. The supporting cast of Manfred Schenk and Ekkerhard Wlaschiha fill the roles ably, with only Gabriele Schnaut adding a false note. As the villainess of the piece, a roughness of vocal technique can be appropriate and expressive, but at times the instability of her pitch reminds me of my first attempt at ice skating. Perhaps a little too much hysteria here.
The set designs are by Werner Herzog, and combine the traditional with the innovative quite beautifully. The opening scene by the shore is quite normal - a rock is a rock, and the waves (though moulded) are waves - but this is cross-faded to a scene with real water etc. So far traditional, but add to this some excellent projections onto the night sky, and a beautiful swan scene utilising modern laser technology, the scenic effect is superb.
It may be possible to do this opera differently, but I don't think it can be done better. I can heartily recommend this production to both newcomers and experienced viewers alike.