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PBS telecast of Met "Ring" this week Sept. 10-14


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Initial post: 10 Sep 2012 15:21:03 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Sep 2012 15:39:29 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Starting at 9PM Central Daylight Time tonight, Monday the 10th, PBS are telecasting the Met "Ring" cycle in the Great Performance series. Tonight is a two-hour documentry of Robert Lepage's production made backstage. The four music-dramas follow at 9PM CDT each evening Tuesday through Friday this week.

Levine conducts the first two, Fabio Luisi the others. Voigt, Waltraud Meier, Stephanie Blythe, Bryn Terfel, Jonas Kaufmann Eric Owens, Franz-Josef Selig, Hans-Peter Konig, and Jay Hunter Morris are in the cast, also "Te Monster" stage machine that didn't always work.

I don't know, but hope that it cn be viewed elsewhere. I'm going to try to stay awake with preparatory naps. It's going to be a long night for "Goetterdaemmerung" Friday, but undoubtedly there is or will be a DVD issue.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Sep 2012 15:49:30 BDT
Last edited by the author on 10 Sep 2012 15:57:17 BDT
Piso: The DVD is already available for pre-order - Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] - it will be available in DVD and Blu-ray - release 17th September in the UK (already available in USA?)

Meanwhile here is a preview - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-r4Dz4VjfA0

Posted on 11 Sep 2012 16:10:09 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Sep 2012 16:14:19 BDT
Edgar Self says:
The two-hour documentary last evening was a close look at the fabrication of the unitary set by Ex ZMachina in Cnada and its installation and fine-tuning at the Meropolitan Opera by director Robert Lepage and the technical crew. Essentially it's a wall of planks used throughout the 16 hours of the "Ring". It malfunctioned at the premiere of "Rheingold"; conductor James Levine was forced out after "Walkuere" by health problems; and the tenor scheduled to sing Siegfried dropped out four days before the opening. Deborah Voigt sang Brunnhilde for the first time, and Morris was debuting with the company. Fabio Luisi stepped in for Levine midway through.

The orchestra sounded particularly fine. The most recent performance shown was "Goetterdaemmerung" from January 2012. just seven months ago.

There were many scenes with the singers, on stage and off, and General Mnager Peter Gelb, who called it the most stressful event of his life. The actual performances follow tonight at 9PM CST, Tuesday through Friday. I particularly want to hear and see Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund in "Walkuere".

Posted on 11 Sep 2012 16:34:04 BDT
From the brief glances in the trailer, the wall of planks reminds me of the Covent Garden production from the late 70s. They installed a huge hydraulic platform that was almost a big as the stage. It rose up on a single pillar and could tip in all directions as well as rotate. In the centre of it was a smaller platform that could be moved independantly. The only occasion I saw it (Gotterdamerung) it behaved impeccably.

Kaufmann sings a fine Prize Song on his disc of Romantic Arias so he should be an interesting Siegmund.

Posted on 12 Sep 2012 13:48:15 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Seeing operas on video is a marvelous wy to get to know them better. I got more from seeing the Met's "Ds Rheingold" last night thn ever before, close up, every word translated, actually seeing who sings wht, and the interaction between the characters.

I didn't realise what a very large part Loge plays in all this, and he was particularly good, also the Froh and Donner. Terfel is a very good Wotan, and Eric Owens outstanding as Alberich. The "Entrance of the Gods" was a bit of a let-down, as it often is. This was my second "Rheingold" of the day. In the morning I had heard most of Furtwangler's RAI Rome version, far more emphatic and dramatic than James Levine's, lathough the Met orchestra "played" better and smoother. Lost in admiration at Wagner's seamless interweaving of the leading motives (Leit-Motiven) into endless musical tapestry.

Some very unattractive persons and costumes, not just the Giants. And those planks! At the end, Loge expostulates, "I may just turn myself into fire and burn them all up." I sympathise.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2012 14:03:54 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 13 Oct 2012 19:31:12 BDT]

Posted on 12 Sep 2012 18:15:55 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Richard Croft is the name of the excellent tenor who portrays Loge so tellingly in "Rheingold". Loge is a demigpd. only half-immortal (but which half?) nd views the assorted mortals, gods, dwarves giants, and gnomes with equal disdain, He is also one of the few survivors of the final catastrophe.

I'm working on the names of Froh and Donner, who were unhirsute and a blessed relief. Froh was likely the youngest singer on the stage, except possibly the Rhine Maidens.

Posted on 12 Sep 2012 20:13:19 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Sorry to be dribbling this out. Donner is sung by Dwayne Croft, the brother of Richard Croft, the Loge. Adm Diegel, lAmerican lyric tenor, sings Froh. Diegel will also sing Don Jose in ENO's "Carmen" late this year.'' Gerhard Siegel was Mime, always an unsympathetic role for me, and for Siegfried, who puts him out of his misery in a fit of impatience, then re-forges the fragments of The Sword himself in a celebrated scene Verdi would have liked.

I liked Richard Croft's Loge particularly9, but reviews say he was booed at his solo bow because his small voice couldn't be heard even doown front. Video and voice mikes smoothed out the differences, so that everyone sounded ample-voiced in that huge Metropolitan Opera.

My nephew Stephan Ruegamer loves the role of Loge and has sung it for Barenboim at La Scala and Berlin State Opera.

ENO alert: There are two current English conductors named Wigglesworth: Mark, whom I heard conduct Shostakovich's Seventh here, and another whose name I forget. Are they kin, like the Jochums and Jarvis (but not, apparently, the Fischers) ?

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Sep 2012 20:15:42 BDT
[Deleted by Amazon on 13 Oct 2012 19:31:18 BDT]

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 05:53:35 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 Sep 2012 03:15:28 BDT
John Ruggeri says:
I am into the Act III of Walkure. I tuned in at ACT 2 and Kauffman was excellent there. The Sieglinde
has an ordinary voice, Bryn Terfel is appropriatley grumpy but rather shaky and dry and lightweight in tone. Sadly Voight is out of her league the shrill wobbly singing is annoying. I enjoyed very much the singing of Hans-Peter König as Hunding. Even with great singing this opera stretches my tolerence level. Talk. talk, preaching with some incredible beautiul melodic and excitng passages too infrequent. This performance does not have GREAT SINGING.

What I have seen of the staging is not memorable. Siegfried should be interesting tomorrow night.

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 12:19:54 BDT
There is a two-disc set of excerpts available and a fairly lengthy customer review -Twilight Of The Gods - The Ultimate Wagner Ring Collection

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 15:38:45 BDT
Edgar Self says:
I watched the first two acts of "Walkuere" last night. The Sieglinde had previously sung Freia in "Rheingold" Her middle name is Bryn, the same as Terfel's. He's doing a tremendous job singing what I believe is his first Wotan, the sorely beset and troubled chief god caught in webs of his own making. Terfe was especially impressive in his long and arduous monologue of explanation to Brunnhilde.

Jonas Kaufmann did not disappoint. I think he's the best Siegmund I've seen. Vigourous, youthful, voice and words well projected from top to bottom, and octave cries of "Waelse" to rival the longest anywhere. He's also appealing. You want him to win the unequal struggle. Deborah Voigt, singing her first Brunnhilde at 52, is vocally fragile.

Act II ended at 11:45, and Act III would have kept us up until 1AM, so I went to bed, my head full of the announcement and act of Siegmund's death.

Act I is the part of the "Ring" I know best, thanks to Melchior, Lotte Lehmann, and Bruno Walter. Kaufmann now is a few years younger than Melchior when he recorded the first act. The Met orchestra under Levine played flawlessly, although some parts were very slow.

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 15:50:36 BDT
Last edited by the author on 13 Sep 2012 16:33:08 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Peter Gelb's idea of transmitting Metropolitan Opera performances to cinemas was a good one. More than one million viewers world-wide have seen this Met "Ring" cycle in their local movie theatres.

A nice touch is what looked like real rams' horns on Fricka's carriage, as in the myth.

Posted on 13 Sep 2012 17:18:52 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 13 Sep 2012 18:02:30 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Sep 2012 04:04:21 BDT
John Ruggeri says:
Last night it was:
Siegfried by Richard Wagner --(PBS: Thursday, September 13, 9 p.m. EST in the US)
Starring Deborah Voigt (Brünnhilde), Patricia Bardon (Erda), Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried), Gerhard Siegel (Mime), Bryn Terfel (The Wanderer), Eric Owens (Alberich)
Conducted by Fabio Luisi
==================
Gerhard Siegel (Mime) was vocally and acting wise tremenodus as was Eric Owens (Alberich). Both were wow . The jewel in this Ring Opera was Jay Hunter Morris (Siegfried), a strong firm voice that never seemed to tire. He was expressive also.

Bryn Terfel (The Wanderer), had some good moments But IMO his tone was dry and too much wobble.
In a shorter roled Voigt was good as Brunnhilde but nothing special..

The production** and conducting were top drawer and those who like this opera were well served.
I did no care for the work - again - talk - shout with orchestra dominance until the final @ 25 minute duet with melody is NOT for me. Hearing the leitmotivs over and over was like getting HIT over the head with a sledgehammer and brought a grin to me. Ricky I get it back off.

** I have heard the opera before but I have never seen it and I would have preferred realisting trees rocks etc.

Posted on 18 Sep 2012 11:34:12 BDT
I have been reading with interest the postings in this thread and as a result bought the two-disc set of highlights I mentioned above. Here are a few of my thoughts on the discs and the production in general. I realise some might find it unfair to judge a whole Ring Cycle on the basis of two-and-a-half hours of excerpts but there is enough there for me to make up my mind and I am afraid the result is negative.

Judging from the brief trailer on Youtube and the still photographs in the CD set I would class the production as almost traditional. Mercifully, the action hasn't been transferred to hospital during World War One or some such other nonsense. Based on the production alone I would certainly consider buying the DVDs. Here is what I think of the music.

Rheingold: From the review of the discs and the postings above it seems there are fine performances from Richard Croft (Loge) and Gerhard Siegel (Mime) but they are only briefly represented in the highlights. I am less enthusiastic than other reviewers about the Alberich of Eric Owens but possibly seeng the complete performance would be a different experience. As far as I am concerned the main drawback is the Wotan of Bryn Terfel. His 'Vollendet das ewige Werk' is an embarassment and his closing scene 'Abendlicht strahlt...' is painful to listen to. The orchestra play wonderfully throughout.

Walkure: As everyone has noted Kaufmann is the star of the show and I have no problems with the Sieglinde. At the beginning of Act II, Terfel is in firmer voice. I had great misgivings about Voigt having read the other comments but I found her entrance safe rather than exciting, better than I had been led to expect. Unfortunately it is all downhill from there. Act III doesn't get off to a good start; it would be unfair to describe the orchestral playing as ragged, it is never less than first rate, 'lumpy' is the best word I can think of. Possibly Levine was showing signs of the illness that caused him to withdraw.

Terfel recorded Wotan's Farewell in his debut Wagner recital with Abbado in 2002. There he sang well enough but didn't give much indication that he understood what he was singing. Here he has better understanding but produces some ugly noises. I had great hopes for Terfel in this role but on the evidence of these excepts he is a severe disappointment.

Siegfried: I can only start by saying that Jay Hunter Morris is an atrocious Siegfried with an ugly voice that made me wince every time he sang. He might pass muster as Mime but Siegfried never. There is a unique synergy between Morris and Voigt; the sum of their singing is far worse than you could expect from their individual performances. The Act III love duet was so horrible I had to stop listening.

Gotterdammerung: The high point of the selection is Hagen (Hans-Peter Konig) and the Vassals which says something. Voigt's Immolation Scene was far better than I expected, possibly she saved her best until last. Unlike some others I had no problems with Luisi's conducting of the last two operas; he restored some precision and firmness.

Posted on 18 Sep 2012 16:27:15 BDT
Malx says:
So thats a no then Geoffrey!!

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Sep 2012 21:58:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Sep 2012 13:56:30 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Geoffrey -- Atr my CSO archivist friend's today I saw the beginning of "Siegfried", some of the love-duet, the Norns' scene in "Goetterdaemmerung", the Rhine Journey, , death of Siegfried, and what the Italians call Brunnhilde's Holocaust. I cannot fault any of your points. Siegfried's voice was so like Mime's that I had to look closely to see which was singing. Brunnhilde survived, but only just, and only to be immolated along with her wooden horse.

I promised you information on Martinon and Rafael Kubelik recordings with the Chicago SSymphony. He said he has all their concerts, broadcasts, and commercial recordings transferred to CD and would be glad to discuss with you what you are looking for. I'll send you his address and further information.

I enjoyed your shrewd and honest comments on the Met "Ring". Jau Jimter Morris is I think the most unappetising Siegfried since Max Lorenz, visually and vocally.

Posted on 19 Sep 2012 10:05:32 BDT
Piso: Many thanks for your info about the Chicago live recordings.

I am not sure why you take such exception to Max Lorenz. I only have him singing Siegmund (Act I with Elmendorff in Dresden); I will have to have another listen. I have a slight problem with Lorenz, Melchior and Windgassen - they all have a similar quality to their voices that I find hard to explain. When singing Siegfried, Windgassen sounds permanently middle-aged, even when he wasn't. I have a disc of him from the mid-50s singing other Wagner excerpts and he sounds fine as Parsifal, Tristan, Lohengrin etc but not Siegfried. Towards the end of his career he had the habit of husbanding his voice but in the 'Ring' recordings Solti bullied him into giving it his all and consequently he sounds a lot more heroic.

I wish the Met Ring had been better vocally but I fear that, with a few exceptions, we are living in an Age of Lead as far as Wagner is concerned.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2012 14:10:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 19 Sep 2012 18:18:21 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Geoffrey -- My reservations about German tenor Max Lorenz date from having seen him on stage in 1954, when a tenor slated to sing Siegmund in the Bayreuth "Ring" cancelled and Lorenz was taken out of moth-balls to fill the gap. He was a vocal and visual embarrassment, particulrly in the company of Resnik, Moedl, Hans Hotter, and the Siegfried, Windgassen. I'm ready to believe that Lorenz sounded much better when younger, and he has his admirers.

I had a similar experience with another German tenor, Fritz Uhl, who sang Florestan in "Fidelio" at San Francisco Opera, or thought he did. He would have been a stretch as First Prisoner. Gre Brouwenstijn's Leonora saved the day. Burkhart Fritz is another, in "Parsifal" Act III here with Hampson and Rene Ppe.

I take your point about the unyouthful sounds of Melchior, Lorenz, and Windgassen (who was wonderfully relaxed on the stage, like Siegfried Jerusalem and James Morris). Melchior at least sounds fine to me, and youthful enough in his 1935 "Walkuere" Act I with Lehamnann and Bruno Walter, when he was 45, caught just in time by the microphone at age 45, just a few years older than Jonas Kaufmann in the Met "Ring".

Posted on 19 Sep 2012 15:15:51 BDT
Piso: I will return to Lorenz a bit later when I have had time to refresh my memory.
It is not just a lack of youthfulness that worries me but a distinctive tonal quality they all seem to share. Was it something specifically Germanic (I know Melchior was Danish!) and of the time? I wish I could explain it better.

I have the Melchior/Lehmann/Walter recording and I agree it is wonderful. I also have Melchior in duets with Flagstad, recorded in 1939-40 in Philadelphia and San Francisco.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2012 18:17:35 BDT
Edgar Self says:
Geoffrey -- It's quite possible that it was an affliction of many German tenors, a sort of glottal constriction Helge Roswaenge or Rosvaenge also had it; he was Danish, like Melchior. Aksel Schiotz, another Dane, did not. Fritz Wunderlich escaped it, and is one of the most mellifluous of all German tenors. Others who are easier on my ears to one degree or another: Walther Ludwig, Peter Anders, Ernst Haefliger, Karl Liebl, Richard Tauber, Joseph Schmidt That's without getting into the Swedes.

Posted on 19 Sep 2012 18:44:41 BDT
Piso: I think that is a quite good description of it, I am not sure why it was so prevalent. It seems to have died out. It is a bit like the dreaded 'Anglican hoot' that used to afflict so many English tenors and baritones.

I had a listen to Flagstad and Melchior singing ' Zu neuen taten'; it would be cruel to even consider comparison with Voigt and Hunter. The recording was made in Hollywood not SF as I said though the orchestra is from the San Francisco Opera. The conductor, Edwin McArthur (new to me) obviously had a train or bus to catch (possibly to check the tickets). Or it could be technical limitations of the time.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2012 21:44:35 BDT
John Ruggeri says:
NOT FROM The RING or anything else operatic but this 59/60 year old tenor sounds somewhere between incredible and unbelievable to me.

Lauritz Melchior - Because
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMoXf9DR52g

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Sep 2012 21:46:41 BDT
John Ruggeri says:
Geoffrey Cryer says:

Piso: I think that is a quite good description of it, I am not sure why it was so prevalent. It seems to have died out. It is a bit like the dreaded 'Anglican hoot' that used to afflict so many English tenors and baritones.
===============
Geoffrey -
I never heard the phrase "Anglican hoot" before. Who are some of the offenders?
I hope Alfred Piccaver whom I worship is not one of the offenders.
Regards-John
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Initial post:  10 Sep 2012
Latest post:  20 Sep 2012

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