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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic remastering of a classic production
When Chereau's production of this Ring was first seen, and Boulez's conducting first heard, there were howls of abuse in all directions. But sober reflection, as it so often does, mitigates some of the more extreme reactions of that time: the fact is that this is a marvellous Ring Cycle, superbly and luminously played, sung, and recorded. I found no problem with either...
Published on 8 Aug. 2005

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10 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A byegone age?
The rot set in when opera house managers realized that there was a profitable link between embracing "new" artistic concepts of staging and saving money.
In the 70s, Chereau's production was widely seen as a new low - we were not supposed to see through the crass "updating" of Wagner's stunning adventure into the cost-cutting exercise which it really was. We were...
Published on 29 Oct. 2009 by Rik Hardy


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72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic remastering of a classic production, 8 Aug. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
When Chereau's production of this Ring was first seen, and Boulez's conducting first heard, there were howls of abuse in all directions. But sober reflection, as it so often does, mitigates some of the more extreme reactions of that time: the fact is that this is a marvellous Ring Cycle, superbly and luminously played, sung, and recorded. I found no problem with either the sound or the vision of my set: indeed although I don't have 5.1 sound, I do have the original CD sets of all the operas and it seems to me that the DVD sound here is now more spacious, even on normal stereo playback. McIntyre is a tower of strength, as he was at Covent Garden at the time; Jones is superb, not wobbly at all, and acts gloriously and looks stunning. In fact, there is hardly a weak link anywhere in the cast: perhaps Manfred Jung as Siegfried is a bit wooden and tends to look at the conductor a little too often, but so what! Hanna Schwarz remains not only one of the most gorgeous of all Wagnerian singers but the finest Fricka of them all; Becht is a superb Alberich and his curse in Rheingold is truly shattering. Loge and Mime are also fine and the giants very convincing - even to look at! Die Walkure is immensely moving and the murder of Siegmund truly barbaric. Compared to some of the more excruciating productions that have been mounted since this one, one thinks of the Lowry/Jones ROH, or the current ENO to name but two, or the rather odd Dresden production where the stage is, for some reason, covered in rows of dining chairs for the entire cycle, Chereau's is a model of creativity and restraint - even if his thinly disguised French style of Marxism shows through at the end of Gotterdammerung. One wonders now, however, what all the fuss was about. Only Kupfer, of recent producers, has come close to presenting such a coherent and exciting view of the Ring: not at Bayreuth but in Berlin, with Barenboim.
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102 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A centenary Ring that set a new standard, 27 July 2005
By 
J. W. Reitsma (Haarlem, the Netherlands) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
These TV registrations introduced me to Wagner's Ring in the eighties. I went on to buy the box set of 16 LPs and steeped myself for a while in Wagner, his other operas, the Ring and the literature about this particular production. These eight dvds in their sturdy box enabled me to revisit these familiar performances audio-visually.
This staging of the Ring continues to provoke controversy and rightly so. One reason for this is the dramatic, transparent and startlingly un-pompous conducting by Pierre Boulez. He turns the Bayreuth festival orchestra into a lean mean machine that reflects, supports and propels the stage action. The difference between his tempos and those of Solti's studio recordings can be astonishing at times, and may come as a shock to some. However, since I approach this from the opposite extreme, I find Solti's tempos appallingly sluggish and undramatic at times.
Boulez' approach complements the staging by Patrice Chéreau, a genuine theatre director. He invests the action - which he shows to be partly rooted in Wagner's anti-capitalist, radical past - with an urgency and a refreshing Gallic wit that really engage the spectator. He is not afraid to play out some sections of Das Rheingold as a black comedy, while Götterdämmerung wryly references glitzy TV series like Dynasty. But of course that is precisely right for a mythological tale about the rival claims of power and love. I don't believe this approach needlessly degrades the gods and heroes: it merely foregrounds their fallibility. And to those who would call this a historically reductionist approach I can only say that this imaginative staging does retain a sense of wonder: the smoke machine works overtime, the giants are truly gigantic and sets like the Rock of the Valkyries are a joy to behold. Also, the roughly late 18th to early 20th century costumes have aged rather better than some fanciful costumes from other Ring productions that retrospectively look very much of their time.
The singers have been cast for both their singing and acting ability. I was particularly impressed by Donald McIntyre, a prime example of the modern opera singer who can also act. In the course of Das Rheingold his cunning and violent Wotan changes from a cocksure team captain into a brooding and introspective mogul, while he continues to evolve and surprise in the next two episodes. Gwyneth Jones, who creates a sensitive Brünnhilde, also displays great stage presence in a role that is really quite impossible to sing as written. In many ways the pivot of this story, she convincingly morphs from daddy's little girl into a disillusioned, tragic heroine. Heinz Zednik astounds during his turns as Loge and Mime, making his comic creations look effortless in the process. Peter Hofmann and Jeanine Altmeyer as Siegmund and Sieglinde are a visually arresting, physically credible pair of lovers. Matti Salminen with his amazingly deep and pitch perfect voice is an affectingly love-struck Fasolt and an ominous Hunding. It's a pity that the offspring of the dashing Volsung couple, Manfred Jung as Siegfried with a voice like a trumpet, is a bit wooden. However, his bluntness seems in accord with the dark view that this production takes of this 'bright hero', whose treatment of the dwarf Mime, his 'inferior' (oops!) foster father, is really quite offensive. And come to think of it: how much does this bright young thing accomplish in the end? This bleak view seems to resonate with Wagner's Schopenhauer-induced pessimism of his later years.
The supplemental 'Making of the Ring' disc shows how this production was video recorded in long takes that helped create a 'live' feel. Editing was also done live. The occasional glitches resulting from this pioneering process, such as wobbly camera moves and focus errors, are easily outweighed by many felicitous framings and close-ups of telling details (like one of the giants feeling up an indignant goddess Freia). Video director Brian Large, who shows himself to be extremely well versed in music, intensively consulted with Boulez and Chéreau, with impressive results. The documentary also covers the history of Bayreuth production methods, the role of the Wagner dynasty, orchestra and stage rehearsals and glimpses backstage as well as illuminating interviews with Boulez, Chéreau, McIntyre, Jones, Wolfgang Wagner and others.
Still, I cannot help but wonder what happened to the introductory programme elucidating the philosophy underlying the stage production that originally accompanied the TV broadcasts. A promotional leaflet included with each of the four operas gives the title of this bonus disc as 'Documentary & Introduction', so perhaps its inclusion was contemplated at some stage. This omission is only partly remedied by the booklets, which contain annotated synopses of each opera based on Chéreau's production, interspersed with comments by Chéreau and Boulez taken from 1977 Bayreuth programme notes.
Technical details: I don't have a dts home theatre, so I can't tell you how good it sounds in digital surround, but the stereo sound is still excellent. Picture quality is less satisfactory, however, especially in Das Rheingold. Many shots are disfigured by greenish vertical bars that are made even more prominent by the grey tones of the Walhalla set design. This problem disappears as the cycle progresses, although another one - green and red contours or 'shadows' - persists. (Does the video tape from 1979 and 1980 show its age or is this an unfortunate side effect of PAL to NTSC conversion with a view to creating one dvd edition for all regions?) A considerable improvement on the deleted 7-disc set on Philips - which appears to have suffered from the same problem - is the wider range of subtitles, now including Wagner's original German in addition to English, French, Spanish and Chinese translations. However, their timing is a bit erratic. The so-called bonuses are just ads for other Deutsche Grammophon dvds.
Nevertheless, this fascinating set will be enjoyed by open-minded opera lovers who feel that the Ring is a work of music theatre that deserves to be treated as such.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old Ring Polished Up, 10 April 2009
By 
Filmophile "Wagnerite" (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
The Boulez Der Ring des Nibelungen was one of the best ever broadcast on British TV. Delivered in digestible chunks, one act per week, it gathered swathes of new Wagnerites, despite being an untraditional production. This Deutsche Grammaphon edition, with infinitely superior DTS sound, makes up for awful quality of earlier VHS recordings.

Now you can really hear all the instruments in detail, the subtle nuances and expressions in the singers' voices and thereby get the feeling that you really are sweating away in the Opera House in Beyreuth.

The principals, particularly Donald MacIntyre, as Wotan, Gwyneth Jones as Brünnhilde and Peter Hoffman as Siegmund, are in superb voice. The acting by practically everyone is utterly convincing and once you are accustomed to the strange set designs, you begin to feel at home with this Ring.

The picture is TV quality - which is a pity, since visuals, with Wagner, are so important - but overall, this production is sublime and the improved sound makes it an excellent buy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ] The orchestra's technical expertise continues impressively in Act 2 and there are wonderful details, especially in the second, 6 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
This is a reissue of one of the extremely few video recordings that can without exaggeration be called legendary . . . Every "Ring" cycle since has been seen as a development from it, or a reaction to it . . . Pierre Boulez's conducting, too, created a stir, with brisk tempos, lightened textures, and a kind of resolute anti-Romanticism of approach to this epically romantic work . . . Chéreau got the singers to act with an intensity and conviction still rare in opera . . . The hour-long documentary is enthralling.

Record Review / Michael Tanner, BBC Music Magazine (London) / 01. August 2005

Large's filming is totally connected to the music and acutely responsive to nuances of character . . . the cast was able to develop a degree of naturalistic acting rare for any opera telecast and surely unique in televised Wagner . . . The gain . . . is that the emphasis on intimacy throughout this "Ring" creates genuine conversations (intelligibility, by the way, is extraordinarily high) . . .

[Die Walküre:] The orchestra's technical expertise continues impressively in Act 2 and there are wonderful details, especially in the second scene (including a surpassingly lovely reprise of the 'Spring' motif). Act 3's pacing is almost unfailingly riveting . . .

[Siegfried:] The First Act's formidable technical challenges, particularly the more scampering portions of the Siegfried-Mime exchanges, are finely executed by Boulez and the orchestra . . .

[Götterdämmerung:] Through more than four hours of music, Boulez seldom loses his dramatic momentum. Even the Norns' scene, so often lugubrious, boasts a welcome tension and variety of colour . . .

[The documentary:] DG's brilliant recorded sound is hard to beat . . . the production speaks for itself.

Record Review / Roger Pines, International Record Review (London) / 01. September 2005

Chéreau's approach excels in bringing out the human side of the characters in Wagner's great epic: it's hard to imagine Siegmund and Sieglinde's love being more movingly portrayed, and Donald McIntyre memorably conveys the terrible, self-induced dilemmas with which wotan has to grapple. McIntyre is very fine musically too; Gwyneth Jones's spirited Brünnhilde is also outstanding, and Peter Hofmann and Jeanine Altmeyer are unforgettable as Siegmund and Sieglinde. And for all that initial resistance, there's much lustrous and beautifully detailed orchestral playing under Boulez's direction.

Record Review / Malcolm Hayes, Classic FM (London) / 01. November 2005

What they had with the Boulez-Chéreau Ring was a brilliant televisual experience -- colourful, vivid, a mix of fantasy and high drama that was way ahead of its time in presenting singers who looked their parts in performances that managed to be both believable on the small screen and still grand enough to belong to the impossibly lofty world of opera . . . Chéreau's . . . gods were never more nor less than ordinary human beings; the great mythic tale was revealed as an exposé of the beliefs, ambitions and failings of people in our own (or, at least, Wagner's own) time . . . The second is the emotional power of the production . .. none has gone for the solar plexus like Chéreau did . . . Every quickly changing feeling in the relationship between Brünnhilde and Wotan flashes across Gwyneth Jones's face . . . and how Jones sang her heart out! Other scenes . . . are just as exciting. For so many of the singers who appeared in it . . . this "Ring" will be the recording by which they are remembered. Thirty years on it still makes my heart beat faster.

Record Review / Richard Fairman, Opera (London) / 01. October 2007
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best all round cycle of all, 16 Mar. 2015
By 
I. Zaneres (west midlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I have 7 versions of the ring, or rather I did have as I found La Fura Del Baus and Stuttgart versions too gimmicky and too modern for my taste respectively and so were despatched to other places.
Of the others, Pappano at the Royal Opera House exists on my freeview harddrive as I have not found it on DVD, but it is pretty enjoyable, The other four all hold honoured places in my library.
This production is well staged throughout, nothing too exciting but each set is appropriate in turn. The musical reproduction is clear and sharp, and the orchestra to voice balance good throughout.
The cast are all very good, not always the best individually, some other productions have individuals performing or acting better in parts, but this is the best all-rounder.
Donald McIntyre is very well cast as Wotan, his voice is perfect for the part, his depiction is not as aggressive as some, but this makes him all the more credible. He maintains this standard throughout the three episodes in which he appears.
I really like Hannah Schwartz as Fricka, she is undoubtedly the best of all my versions, vocally equal to all but characterisation is superb, very persuasive in her pursuit of marital fidelity.
Heinz Zednik is the ultimate Mime, both in acting and singing, although in Das Rheingold the part is played by Helmut Pampuch quite successfully, as Zednik is an excellent Logi. Hard to believe it is the same artiste, he gets so much into character.
Matti Salmonen and Fritz Hubner are well set up as the giants, good voices and great costumes, even if the hands are a bit unwieldy.
Herman Becht is not quite as malevolent as some Alberichs, but maintains his character throughout.
Matti Salmonen turns up again this time as Hunding and a very good one he is too, he always seems to be the baddy, and his rich voice is pleasing to the ear. He also plays the part with a little more sympathy than most.
Peter Hofmann and Jeannine Altmeyer are well matched as the twins, and are as good as any and a bit better than some.
The piece de resistance of all the characters is Brunhilde, and Gwyneth Jones is a definite best of all. She has a very clear resonant voice and her portrayal of the emotions is nothing short of brilliant. Just watch her expressions as she awakens after Siegfried kisses her awake.
This brings me on to Manfred Jung, he is my favourite Siegfried of all, beating Jerusalem by a short head, not quite as brash as Jerusalems character, but the more credible for it. He has a bright but rather hard tenor voice, but it seems to fit the character well.
Picking up the characters of Gotterdammerung, Fritz Hubner is a menacing crafty Hagen, nice baritone voice, Franz Mazura I did not think at first look quite right as Gunther, but I came round after a while and Jeannine Altmeyer returns as a rather glamorous Gutrune, I did not realise at first it was the same artiste, she is really good at character parts.
The period seems to be turn of the 20th century, with Gunther in a dinner suit in Gotterdammerung, other costumes are loosely based on earlier period, they do not jar but look appropriate. Wotan does remind me a bit of a landlocked sea captain with his tricorn hat. Another interesting costume is Brunhilde's nightie, three sizes too large, I do enjoy a bit of nit picking.
The set comes with a booklet for each episode with timings and synopsis on a scene by scene basis, with timings, and producers short notes as a heading. The bonus disc "The making of" is pretty interesting but should be watched after completing the cycle. Even if you have other versions I suggest this is a welcome addition to your collection.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good - some weak points, 15 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
If you are new to the ring, the two sets to buy are this one and the second Met production with Bryn Terfel as Wotan. The singing is excellent but I do have serious reservations about this set. First, Chereau believes that visual drama is produced by characters hurling themselves and their friends/enemies from one side of the stage to the other. This is carried to excess. The worst moment is in Act 1 of Siegfried in which we see Mime grabbed by the collar and thrown across the stage at least twelve times. It soon becomes ludicrous. Secondly, some of the stage business is meaningless, or contradicts the story or the sentiments being expressed - eg. Siegfried and Mime fighting over the Notung fragments when Mime actually wants S to have the sword so he can kill the dragon. Thirdly, although the sets are not actually grating to the senses - unlike Kupfer 2, where the whole Ring is set in the densest black so one feels suicidal before long - they are not in my opinion quite as fabulous as other commentators suggest. Having said all that, it is a great deal better than any of the regietheater Rings (Valencia, Stuttgart, Amsterdam -avoid) and is recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most beautiful representation of the Ring, 13 Mar. 2013
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This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I just love Chéreau's staging of this masterpiece, it made a complete crack with the past, bringing Wagner into the turmoil of the modern times. Boulez's direction is excellent, my favourite after Solti's. The all visual thing is a total must-see.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely amazing, 25 Feb. 2013
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This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
absolutely amazing - DTS 7.1 is just what was needed to enhance this legendary interpretation - would recommend it highly to anyone
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Ring. Still amazing The only thing to do ..., 15 Sept. 2014
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This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
The Best Ring. Still amazing The only thing to do in Bayreuth now is to get directors as olafur eliasson or calixto bieito for a Ring in simplicity or for a new Parcifal!!! Until then this Ring is the one!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars I'm hot and cold on this version. For me ..., 11 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen: Bayreuther Festspiele (Boulez) [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I'm hot and cold on this version. For me there still is no definitive recording or dvd of the ring but that is part of the appeal. May be one day.
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