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  • Wagner : Das Rheingold - Widescreen [DVD] [2006]
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Wagner : Das Rheingold - Widescreen [DVD] [2006]


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Product details

  • Format: Box set, Classical, Colour, DVD-Video, PAL, Original recording remastered
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Warner Music Vision
  • DVD Release Date: 27 Mar. 2006
  • Run Time: 154 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000E1NWG4
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,864 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Filmed at the Beyreuth Festpielhaus in June/July 1991, Daniel Barenboim conducts the Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiel performing Wagner's 'Das Rheingold'.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By I. Giles HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 7 Jan. 2012
Format: DVD
The biggest surprise for me when experiencing this version of Das Rheingold for the first time was the effect of considerable movement on stage - much of it fast and urgent. In particular this is associated with Wotan as performed by John Tomlinson and this speed of movement defines the production, giving a great sense of Wotan's emotive and unstable responses to circumstances as they increasingly spin out of his control.

Quite apart from the purely musical considerations, this set makes extensive use of laser technology. This is often in the form of green shafts of light than can vary in thickness from narrow shafts to sheets of colour. This enables the Rhinemaidens and Alberich to appear to dive in and out of the Rhine waters as the lasers produce an effect of surface water through which they all appear and disappear as required. Quick movement is thus established from the start. As mentioned above, John Tomlinson is able to portray Wotan as both a dominant and as an unstable character by rapid changes of direction and by telling use of his spear. Considerable use is made of the vast stage at Bayreuth so that Wotan can run around unfettered by limitations of space.

The time period is established as modern by using modern dress and by the use of transparent artefacts such as the gods' suitcases and Thor's hammer whilst at the same time being non-specific and therefore timeless in a futuristic sense. Key dramatic staging moments such as the descent to the Nibelung's futuristic and mechanical world plus the dragon and the toad sequences for example are effective. The giants are suitably large if somewhat strangely proportioned.

The key dramatic sung moments are all delivered as they should be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By lensman 23 on 1 Feb. 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is an interesting production by Harry Kupfer who is, I believe, a fairly controversial director, but I didn't think this is particularly controversial.
There are some very clever visual ideas, including the use of laser beams to represent the Rhine, and Kupfer certainly makes the performers move about the stage a lot, including climbing and jumping. And the giants are huge (even if their arms don't move convincingly)!
The performances are good, as are the picture and sound (despite the lasers causing problems with the video cameras of the time - I found this barely noticeable and not a problem).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 13 reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Barenboim and Bayreuth Opera are excellent 9 April 2006
By Michael Birman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Any new Ring Cycle attracts attention much like the proverbial elephant in the room. In this recently released Das Rheingold the elephant is not the music, which is presented with matchless professionalism by Daniel Barenboim and the legendary Bayreuth Opera. For me, at least, it is the production that is the pachyderm wandering throughout the house, occasionally smashing the good porcelain. After viewing this DVD a few times and trying to keep an open mind, Harry Kupfer's staging of the opening opera of Wagner's 4-part Ring cycle still hasn't grown on me. In fact, his staging strikes me as the weakest part of this production, filmed in June & July 1991. His ideas are not bad, per se. They're just a little banal; and in a couple of instances, his ideas are even misguided. The opera begins with a 3 minute prequel: a big smoking crater surrounded by figures who finally just wander off in silence. This is meant to suggest an historic calamity of global dimensions. These silent figures are "the survivors, about to set out anew on the journey along the road of history". A single laser beam, symbolising the Rhine, moves into the picture, constantly fanning out over an ever wider area. Then, the familiar E flat Major chord begins to unfurl 136 bars of leisurely arpeggios as the Rhine (and time) become Wagner's "cradle song of the world". The problem with this approach: such a prequel is not an artistically licensed interpretation of Wagner's score. It is an interpolation INTO Wagner's score. It changes Wagner's intent, creating a hybrid opera with an entirely different meaning. Here, humans and their history appear to predate the Gods and their involvement in the world. This is certainly not what Wagner intended.

And when we first see the Gods they are fashionably festooned by laurel garlands, floppy bardolino hats and trendy clothing made of either leather or shiny linoleum: they look less like Gods and more like Uncle Bob and Aunt Flossie on their way to a disco reunion in Boca Raton. They carry large, transparent plastic suitcases that are empty. Thor carries a clear plastic hammer. Wotan carries a gigantic Xacto knife as a spear. It all seems slightly pointless, even silly. Incidentally, the laser at the opening shines on for some 25 minutes, causing some disturbing visible distortions (during those few minutes) in the video cameras filming the opera. Anyone who's worked with video cameras knows how easily they are disrupted by E-M radiation. If you've ever placed an unshielded speaker next to your TV and seen the result (violent distortion of the picture), you know what I mean. This production error, by seasoned professionals, truly seems incomprehensible to me. Although Kupfer's staging occasionally strikes me as shallow and listless, and the transient production flaws a minor nuisance, this DVD is still excellent overall and remains strongly recommended. And that is certainly attributable to the greatness of Wagner's score, to Barenboim's emerging brilliance as a conductor in the early 1990's and to the sui generis nature of the splendid Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele playing in it's unique opera house in Bayreuth which usually makes Wagner's music sound spectacular.

The cast is very good, especially John Tomlinson as Wotan. My favorite character in Das Rheingold, reminding me of Rutger Hauer in Bladerunner, is the superb Graham Clark as the white haired punkish trickster, Loge. The rest of the large cast is also quite good. Gunter von Kannen as Alberich and Eva Johansson as Freia spring to mind for special mention. This is a fine Das Rheingold, despite the occasional mildly annoying production weaknesses that, thankfully, are never fatal.

The region code of this DVD is NTSC 1. The film is shot in color in 16:9 widescreen and looks good without distortions or artifacts other than the laser problem already discussed. The disc format is DVD-9. Sound is available in LPCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround and DTS Digital Surround Sound. All three sound spectacular: the two true surround sounds providing ambiance to the rear speakers and clarity to the total soundfield. The voices are crystal clear, the instruments also. Both are airy and well localized, surrounded by a nice sense of space. You feel like you're there. Menus are in English. Subtitles are likewise in English as well as French, German, Spanish and Italian. Running time is 154 minutes. There are no extras.

Strongly recommended for excellent singing, superb orchestral playing and fine conducting. The production and staging weaknesses are not severe enough to overshadow these other artistic elements and should not deter anyone from experiencing this excellent DVD. It looks and sounds splendid.

Mike Birman
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Bayreuth Vicariously 12 Dec. 2008
By Occasional Reviewr - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I tried to tell my husband it would be easier to start watching opera by Mozart or Bizet, but when we received Gotterdamerung as a gift he was hooked (surprise to me). I knew I'd have to get the whole set and start at the beginning. My mother & I used to see the Met. when it came to town in the spring. I grew to appreciate many types of opera, with Verdi and Wagner being my favorites. This is an interesting stage/costume setting; I'm getting used to it. The voices are spectacular and I appreciate information in the booklets and Bonus features. Well done.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A marvellous and inspirational production and performance 16 July 2012
By I. Giles - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
The biggest surprise for me when experiencing this version of Das Rheingold for the first time was the effect of considerable movement on stage - much of it fast and urgent. In particular this is associated with Wotan as performed by John Tomlinson and this speed of movement defines the production, giving a great sense of Wotan's emotive and unstable responses to circumstances as they increasingly spin out of his control.

Quite apart from the purely musical considerations, this set makes extensive use of laser technology. This is often in the form of green shafts of light than can vary in thickness from narrow shafts to sheets of colour. This enables the Rhinemaidens and Alberich to appear to dive in and out of the Rhine waters as the lasers produce an effect of surface water through which they all appear and disappear as required. Quick movement is thus established from the start. As mentioned above, John Tomlinson is able to portray Wotan as both a dominant and as an unstable character by rapid changes of direction and by telling use of his spear. Considerable use is made of the vast stage at Bayreuth so that Wotan can run around unfettered by limitations of space.

The time period is established as modern by using modern dress and by the use of transparent artefacts such as the gods' suitcases and Thor's hammer whilst at the same time being non-specific and therefore timeless in a futuristic sense. Key dramatic staging moments such as the descent to the Nibelung's futuristic and mechanical world plus the dragon and the toad sequences for example are effective. The giants are suitably large if somewhat strangely proportioned.

The key dramatic sung moments are all delivered as they should be. Alberich's curse and the immediate consequences are totally awe-inspiring and the entry into a laser-suggested Valhalla works well in terms of creating the effect of impressive scale. The sense of the epic is totally established throughout this set along with the awareness of Wotan's essential instability of character which makes him vulnerable to the errors of judgement which inevitably lead to his and the gods ultimate downfall. This is drama writ large and Barenboim, the producer, the cast and the orchestra fully deliver on all counts.

None of this would be worthwhile of course if the musical values were inadequate. In this case the whole cast delivers consistently high standards with not a weak moment anywhere. Marvellous.

The recording dates from 1992 but has already been digitally enhanced and would presumably be a strong candidate for a future Blu-ray presentation. What cannot be solved is the considerable amount of trailing light as the film technology of the time could not keep up with the faster actions in the predominantly dark lighting. However I personally find the trailing image effects surrounding the various characters as they move swiftly about rather effective as it emphasises their essentially unpredictable and often unbalanced mental and physical speed. Strange, as normally I would find this a distracting visual problem but it is almost a total positive here. The sound is thrillingly 'real' and is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo.

Nevertheless I personally find that this has become my benchmark preferred version over other more recent productions that I currently own or have owned in the past. I therefore feel that it fully deserves a 5 star rating even bearing in mind the 1992 recording issues as described above and I would expect this to be an inspirational experience for many other purchasers.

........................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

A strong contestant to this marvelous 1991 DVD would be the 1990 Levine/Metropolitan production (but not the 2010 Metropolitan Blu-ray version with Terfel as Wotan...). (U.K. review)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Best-sounding Rheingold on DVD 11 Jan. 2009
By Mr John Haueisen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Don't let the Rheinmaidens' 1980s punk-rock look put you off. Their costume style works well with the yellow-green laser lights that set the stage for the Rhein scenes. To handle the difficult staging of Wotan's and Loge's travel to and from Nibelheim, there are endless industrial-stlye stairways. Likewise, in the closing scene of Rheingold, where Wotan and the other gods enter Valhalla, instead of a rainbow bridge, they use a well-lighted, pyramidal elevator.

So with all these unconventional staging surprises, why is this such a great DVD set? The widescreen format and surround sound help us focus on the great singing and acting in this performance.

John Tomlinson is a convincing, energetic Wotan. Alberich is sung (and acted!) at his very best by Gunter von Kannen. Fasolt and Fafner are, as you would expect them, bigger than life. Eva Johansson is a younger than the usual, and very appealing Freia.

Perhaps conductor Daniel Barenboim and director Harry Kupfer chose such a "modernistic" way of staging the opera in order to direct our attention to the exceptional singing and acting of the cast, which I should add is matched by the superb quality of the sound that Barenboim gets from the Bayreuth Festspiele Orchestra.

If I could have only one DVD set of Rheingold, this would be my choice.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The 'Gods' Are a Pack of Clowns! 16 Nov. 2011
By Giordano Bruno - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
Donner is a blustering oaf, Froh a dithering wuss with evident ED, Fricka a nagging Hausfrau, and Wotan a hen-pecked greedy philanderer. None of them show half a neuron in their immortal minds; in fact, there's no evidence in this drama that they're a whiff smarter than the Giants Fasolt and Fafner. But then there's Loge, the only one of the bunch who shows evolutionary potential, by way of his deceitful wiles and his 'superiority' to all morality. Loge dominates every scene of this opera as thoroughly as his prototype Loki dominates every tale of the Prose Edda by Snorri Sturlason. He's the God of Lies indeed, a perfect avatar of the Aryan Superman of a certain mustached Austrian or the heroic capitalist of an Ayn Rand novel. The 'Gods' are all despicable enough to make one almost sympathize with poor dwarf Alberich.

This much-acclaimed staging presents them -- the Aesir at least -- in slightly zany semi-modern dress, with geometrical light-shows and triangulated girders for sets. There are no horned helmets, no heftily plodding sopranos, none of the traditional trappings of Wagnerian staging that became such objects of ridicule in decades gone by. Dramatically, this is a situation comedy, and the singers play to their audience with grimaces, hoots, and other vocal exaggerations. They cavort, each as lissomely as he or she can. If you don't find the stage business in this production vaguely absurd, you're obviously awestruck by the mere notion of Wagner! You're devout, and there's no arguing with devotion.

I'm not sure how one could stage this opera without an aura of silliness, yet I'm fairly sure that Richard Wagner did not intend it to be buffa. The music, especially the orchestra, has a solemn grandeur that's hard to square with the parody of majesty dramatized in the libretto. Virtually all stage directors of the last 30 or 40 years seem to have suffered the same lack of confidence; from Copenhagen to San Francisco, every production of Das Rheingold, and of the whole Ring Cycle, seems dedicated to contemporizing the drama, to rendering the opera pertinent to a post-Romantic audience. None of them that I've seen have come any closer than this. Perhaps the horned helmets and the lumbersome stage blocking were indispensable after all.

I've committed myself to the whole Barenboim Bayreuther Festspiele Ring des Nibelungen, by buying the eleven-CD set. You can look forward to my snarky reviews of the other three operas over the course of the winter. I should acknowledge that I'm a "hard sell" when it comes to Wagner; if I had tickets to an opera season, with works by Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Rossini, Janacek, and Wagner, and I had to skip one performance for any reason, I'm afraid it would be the Wagner that I'd offer on E-Bay.
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