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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rienzi as Adolf Hitler
This Blu-ray disk is a must for Wagner fans. Not only does it appear to be the first appearance of Rienzi in video format but the quality of a Blu-ray version when the orginal is recorded digitally is stupendous. Visually it is so crisp, and the soundtrack is also of the highest quality.

This production of Rienzi was videoed at live performances at Deutshe Oper...
Published on 27 Nov. 2010 by G Gardiner

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grosser Querschnitt
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...
Published 10 months ago by John Fowler


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grosser Querschnitt, 6 May 2014
By 
John Fowler (urbana, illinois) - See all my reviews
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.

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 Rienzi - ("Wagner's Rienzi: Discography", dated May 5, 2014).
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rienzi as Adolf Hitler, 27 Nov. 2010
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This review is from: Wagner: Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen: Deutsche Oper Berlin 2010) [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
This Blu-ray disk is a must for Wagner fans. Not only does it appear to be the first appearance of Rienzi in video format but the quality of a Blu-ray version when the orginal is recorded digitally is stupendous. Visually it is so crisp, and the soundtrack is also of the highest quality.

This production of Rienzi was videoed at live performances at Deutshe Oper on the 7th and 10th Feb 2010, and I was present at the first of these. The acoustic of the Deutsche Oper auditorium is so good that even in the back row of the stalls every word can be heard, as it also can on this superb recording.

This is not Rienzi as Wagner planned. It is not six hours long, but 156 minutes. It is not in five acts but in two parts. It is not set in Rome in 1340, but more like 1935-45. The character of Rienzi is barely distinguishable from Adolf Hitler (whose favourite opera this was), and shows him unsympathetically as a populist demagogue whose hubris causes the people to turn against him and destroy him. The producers say they studied Leni Riefenstahl's film techniques very thoroughly, and the result is great in creating the 1930s atmosphere. During the 14 minute prelude one is shown an almost balletic performance by a Rienzi stand-in and this must have been inspired by a scene in Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator.'

The forces used in the production are gigantic. I counted 96 members of the chorus on stage but it appears the true total was 100.

The disk contains a 26 minute video about the production of the opera.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A chance to seize, 3 Oct. 2010
By 
Carlos (Brussels, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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There are not that many CD or DVD versions of Rienzi. I once read that it should be considered Meyerbeer's best opera, and I think the comment was not necessarily disparaging against the French composer, but critical of the traditional French structure in five acts: very long. The current Deutschen Oper Berlin version trims it to two acts, rendering it acceptable to more modern tastes, and manages to keep the dramatic punch.
The stage production transports the story to the mid-20th Century, drawing on the obvious parallelisms with the rise and fall of the Nazi or fascists regimes. Reactions to these kind of artistic decisions are very subjective, so do not take my word for granted. For me there are two kinds of stage productions, those that help and those that harm the dramatic charge of the opera (which I think it is the only important thing). In this case, it worked for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic implications, although I do have reserves about specific moments (particularly the staging of the most famous aria, "Allmacht'ge Vater", where I was distracted by Tenor's playing with the props). It manages to bring closer a very old fashioned story originally set in Roman times.
I will not comment on the opera itself, you can easily find more learned opinions through an internet (or a book, they are also useful!) search. For me, the music is beautiful and deserves care and respect.
I have to say that I enjoyed Lang-Lessing reading of the score, but then again I had only heard Rienzi once before in the, in my opinion, awful Hollreiser version. I lack the required knowledge of the opera to make a more critical analysis. It seems to fall flat here and there, but is it the version or the musical score itself?
Singing is of a high standard for a live performance. I have to admit that I have always liked Torsten Kerl, and although I felt some strains here and there, I always enjoy his singing. I was also amazed at how fit he is after seeing the overture (it is a sort-of reenactement of the Great Dictator), until I realized it was a stand-in. I also liked Kate Aldrich, a singer I had not heard before.
In short, if you are curious about Rienzi, but were afraid to ask, and if you like Opera, of course, this is the version you should try. In my opinion.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bold staging of a notorious opera, 13 Sept. 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
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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, although 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.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Rienzi, 23 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Wagner: Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen: Deutsche Oper Berlin 2010) [DVD] [NTSC] (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 changing the motivation and actions of the principals completely. As such it is a travesty though it is well sung, played and acted. But don't believe this is Wagner's Rienzi - you only have to read the libretto to see how falsely it represents the drama.
There is a wonderful absolutely complete (not 9 hours) version of the opera on cd conducted by Sir Edward Downes originally broadcast by the BBC in 1976 - well worth seeking out.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rienzi from Berlin, 6 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Wagner: Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen: Deutsche Oper Berlin 2010) [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
This brave production from the Deutsche Oper is riveting. The production turns on its head the perception of Rienzi as a heroic saviour of the masses, with whom Hitler identified himself, and what we get is a chilling megalomaniac dictator in the style of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin. The staging, set in a type of 20th century faschist Rome, is mindblowing. The overture highlights the dilemma that the very power of music itself can be turned into a force for evil, further twisting a twisted mind.

The production company have clearly studied the techniques of propaganda dissemination very carefully, using massive backwall projections of the dictator's speeches and even his maniacal fantasies of world power.

All the parts were well sung and the orchestra was excellent. Torsten Kerl's performance made the blood run cold. There is a lot of fine music in this, even if it is not a 'music drama' but, rather, a grand opera. Having said that, perhaps I would be less enthusiastic if it had not been cut down from 5 1/2 hours to 2 1/2 hours.

Should be compulsory watching for all those swept along by the cult of celebrity.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fascination and terror, 2 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Wagner: Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen: Deutsche Oper Berlin 2010) [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
This production of Rienzi is a must for various reasons.
Addressing the non-Wagnerian, Rienzi is the surprise that might well make you want to investigate the later operas and music dramas. Many Wagnerians also do not know Rienzi because they have fallen for Wagner's and his followers' propaganda about this opera being something that is not the true work of The Master. Von Westernhagen has the answer - it's Grand Opera, so don't pretend it's anything else and go for it! With this attitude, you are ready for a really enjoyable evening.
How does this production fit in with this criterion? Firstly, it has been severely cut to not much more than a third of its original length to make the action run more quickly. Rienzi is very long and there are admittedly weak sections such as the Act 2 ballet scene which no-one does now and does contain some of Wagner's weakest music.
Today we see Rienzi in terms of 20th century dictatorship. Is this valid? Well, Mussolini would talk of himself as the new Cola di Rienzo, so to draw a parallel there is no problem for me. I personally dislike any opera where the overture is rendered visually, but the Charlie Chaplin Great Dictator imagery in Hitler's picture window at the Berghof sets the scene for what the Museum of Nazi history at Nuremberg calls Fascination and Terror. The transition to the opening abduction scene, however, is then totally unsequential. The production makes the dictatorship point very starkly by mixing imagery from both Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The transition from Rienzi as local to national leader is done dramatically by the chorus removing their decaying Otto Dix-style masks to becoming pure people again. From then on, the rise and fall of Rienzi is mirrored with 1930's and 40's-style imagery throughout. I saw the similar but less brutal production earlier in the year at Leipzig and talked to older Germans who were very uncomfortable with the Berlin version - it is effective, whether you like this type of production or not. The producer Philpp Stoeltzl has come late to opera but unlike many perpetrators of Regietheater has achieved a thoughtful and challenging production.
Now to the singing. Mention of Leipzig means the necessary comparison of Torsten Kerl with Stefan Vinke. They are both true Heldentenors (I saw Kerl at Glyndebourne as Tristan in 2009) and can both deal admirably with the part of Rienzi, arguably the most difficult in opera. My personal preference is for Vinke, whose beauty of tone cannot today be matched anywhere, in my opinion. However, one cannot fault Kerl in this production. Irene sung by the incomparable Camilla Nylund was gripping, with the passion for her brother taking on an almost incestuous feel and that for Adriano made to look dominating, helped by her extra foot of height over Kate Aldrych who also sang brilliantly, especially in Acts 3 to 5 and deservedly got the biggest round of applause at the curtain calls. As this was a live performance, one or two weaknesses came out in the singing of minor parts, perhaps a slightly off-night for some. There was some great chorus work; the opera needs and gets it, and the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper was predictably superb, with the conducting of Sebastian Lang-Lessing intelligently phrased and dramatically related, though a tiny bit leaden here and there for my taste. All in all, should you buy this DVD? Yes, because it is an enjoyable and revelatory experience, even for the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable of Wagnerians.
© 2010 Colin Bayliss
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another example of First-Class 'Other Opera', 26 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Wagner: Rienzi (Rienzi Der Letzte Der Tribunen: Deutsche Oper Berlin 2010) [DVD] [NTSC] (DVD)
There is a school of thought which maintains that people are either transfixed by
Wagner's music or they reject it completely. After experiencing this DVD I have
become convinced that a state of robust enthusiasm can indeed exist in regard to
some of Wagner's works.

Having arrived at this opera from an overriding 18th Century perspective,
I found the long shadow of Mozart's influence at work in Rienzi,
especially 'Idomeneo and 'La Clemenza di Tito'.
There are also echoes of Beethoven, Weber and Schubert from the
early 19th Century. This mixture, coupled with Wagner's own creative
powers result in a work which fits well into the 'Romantic Period',
yet still looks back to Opera's Classical period of the previous century.

By having Rienzi sung in German {with a little Latin} but set in Rome a
feeling of cosmopolitan artisic unity is achieved.
In addition, the updating of the plot to a kind of 20th Century
enviroment with dark totalitarian undertones tends to make the whole
concept of the work more accessible to a modern audience.
The usage of mid 20th Century video footage adds to the perception
that the whole work is ahead of its time, and, as a result,
certain nightmarish visions concerning the future 20th Century akin
to some of Mahler's symphonic music come to mind.

Torsten Kerl in the title role appears to convey his charachter's
personality both in terms of acting and singing.
Kerl is well supported by Camilla Nylund in the role of Rienzi's
sister Irene and by Kate Aldrich in the role of Adriano.
In many ways the opera tends to centre around Adriano's
infatuation with Irene as well as his romantic view of warfare
which is eventually shattered with tragic results.

The extras consist of an In-depth documentary on the makiing of
the production. In addition, there is a good choice of subtitles
and first-class sound.
All in All then another fine example of an underrated operatic
masterpiece which belongs in the 'Other Opera Category' as
opposed to the general bourgeois mainstream.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly valuable revival, 1 Nov. 2010
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This Berlin production does full justice to Wagner's first successful opera. Although it omits some 45 minutes of ballet, it is almost complete except for being arranged in two acts rather than the orginal 5. Torsten Kerl as Rienzi is magnificent with a robust voice which manages this taxing role with plenty to spare. The comparison with Hitler is not shirked; Rienzi is built and costumed very like Goering. Hitler refers in Mein Kampf to a production of Rienzi which he saw in 1905 and describes it as his life-long inspiration, hence its long neglect since 1945. If true, he seems to have left the performance before the end, since Rienzi';s downfall and death resulting from over ambition bear a strong resemblance to Hitler's last days.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A successful modern production, 20 Oct. 2010
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While in general I prefer opera productions to be set in the historical setting to which they relate and I am suspicious of modern productions that seek to show relevance to political themes I must admit that of its kind this is a very successful production.

Rienzi is infrequently staged so this DVD of a live production fron the Deutsche Oper is most welcome. The production updates the action of the plot from the 14th century to the 1930s in a fascist Rome with the hero Rienzi looking like a composite of Hitler and Mussolini. One of the reasons that Rienzi is rarely performed is its impossible length of 5 hours. This production makes cuts reducing the opera from 5 acts to 2 parts, curtailing the performance time to 156 minutes.

Musically it is a strong performance conducted with verve by Sebastian Lang-Lessing. Torsten Kerl in the title role has prescence and any appropriate heldentenor voice. Irene is sung by Camilla Nylund in good voice. She is a tall nordic beauty who towers over her protector Adriano (a contralto) sung very well by Kate Aldrich. The orchestra plays magnificently and the large chorus make a major contribution. The recording in dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 makes terrific impact if played at realistc levels.

If you can accept the Brechtian production and historical inconsistancies (e.g. the reference to the Pope's flight to Avignon) there is much to enjoy both musically and in the political and ethical issues brought out through the drama. It is certainly highly dramatic and thought provoking.

Strongly recommended.

Archie Ewing
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