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Wagner: Rienzi
Format: Audio CDChange
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2013
Apparently Wagner's most successful opera in its day, Rienzi has long been overlooked. It hasn't yet been performed at Bayreuth and Wagner himself seems to have disowned it. True, it is markedly different in style to later Wagner operas but as the work progresses you become more aware of what is later to emerge in the Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser and Lohengrin. Dramatically, the opera is long and the Bulwer Lytton storyline is convoluted but it is worth persevering. As to the merits of this particular performance, that's all a bit academic as if you want a recording, this is the only choice. I thought Kollo was suitably heroic but the other parts are a bit anonymous. The acoustic sounded rather bathroomy to me but you now have to invest very little money for the 3CDs which comprise this work along with a CD-ROM of synopsis and libretto.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
At its Dresden premiere in 1842, "Rienzi" lasted about six hours.
Much of this music has been lost in the past 170 years.

The most complete performance in modern times was conducted by Edward Downes on the BBC in 1976.
It timed in at 4 hours, 40 minutes.

First runner-up is Heinrich Hollreiser/Dresden Staatskapelle on EMI: 3 hours, 38 minutes.

The Downes/BBC "Rienzi" was issued on the Italian label Ponto in 2005:
Yeah!
Unfortunately they forgot to tell the BBC.
Boo!
It has been withdrawn.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 until we get an official CD release authorised by the BBC.
And if the BBC does decide to release it, 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).

"Complete" recordings of Rienzi, in ascending order of completeness:

1 hour , 59 minutes = Josef Krips, Vienna State Opera (Set Svanholm, tenor), 1960 (mono) : Wagner: Rienzi

2 hours, 17 minutes = Lovro von Matacic, Stuttgart Radio (Wolfgang Windgassen), 1957 (mono) : Wagner: Rienzi

2 hours, 36 minutes = Sebastian Weigle, Frankfurt Opera (Peter Bronder), 2014 : Wagner: Rienzi [Sebastian Weigle] [Oehms: OC941]

2 hours, 36 minutes = Sebastian Lang-Lessing, Berlin Opera (Torsten Kerl), 2010 : Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray] (Blu-Ray or DVD)

2 hours, 49 minutes = Winfried Zilling, Hessian Radio (Gunther Treptow), 1950 (mono) : Rienzi

2 hours, 56 minutes = Pinchas Steinberg, Toulouse Théatre (Torsten Kerl), 2013 : Wagner: Rienzi [Blu-ray] (Blu-Ray or DVD)

3 hours, 17 minutes = Wolfgang Sawallisch, Munich Opera (Rene Kollo), 1983 : Wagner - Rienzi / Kollo · Studer · Rootering · Bayerische Staatsoper · Sawallisch

3 hours, 38 minutes = Heinrich Hollreiser, Dresden Staatskapelle (Rene Kollo), 1976 : see below *

4 hours, 40 minutes = Edward Downes, BBC (John Mitchinson), 1976 : download on opera-club.net

The 2 hours, 41 minutes separating the longest from the shortest performance is unprecedented, and more than a little ridiculous.

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.

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 Edward Downes' pioneering 4 hour, 40 minute BBC broadcast in 1976.

Unfortunately, subsequent performances did not take the hint.
The Hollreiser/EMI studio recording (also 1976) is the longest version ever issued commercially.
Even so, it is fully one hour shorter than Downes.
Since then, the opera has gotten progressively shorter.
I sometime think I am the only person who cares about this.
I wouldn't mind it if Opera Houses wanted to present abridged performances, if only ONE uncut Rienzi was available on CD.

* For the time being, your best bet is Hollreiser/EMI, available in three different editions:

Rienzi - includes printed libretto and translation

Wagner: Rienzi - includes libretto and translation on CD-ROM

Wagner: Complete Operas (Limited Edition) - libretto and translation are on a website
(the Big DG Box: all thirteen Wagner operas on 43 CDs with librettos and translations for 65 Pounds)

-- I'd probably give Downes/BBC five stars if it existed.
I am giving Hollreiser and Sawallisch four stars each.
Everybody else gets three stars for being Grosser Querschnitt.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
If ever an opera deserves a wider currency it is Wagner's `Rienzi', his first masterpiece and his third opera. That is not to say that it has not enjoyed success; this five-act tale (written in the style of extravagant French Grand Opera) of political intrigue was, during his lifetime, one of his most successful creations, much to his own (misplaced) embarrassment. However, during the composition Wagner must have thrown himself in to its writing with gusto, so full of marches, processions and ballets is it that he lived up to his own analysis of the task at hand: to produce a work "with sumptuous extravagance".

The present recording of the 1843 one-evening version, but with revised ending composed for Berlin in 1847, dates from two recording periods (August and September 1974 and February and April 1976) and is the most readily available although Sawallisch on Orfeo (1983) may still be found after much searching. This is a shame as this outing of `Rienzi' has many flaws. It is an unwieldy piece (it is long) and demands singers that can carry the narrative. Singing Cola Rienzi is René Kollo (no stranger to Wagner - he sings Tristan for Carlos Kleiber on DG) who does very well, sounding sufficiently heroic but he is let down by Siv Wennberg as Irene, Rienzi's sister. She comes across as tired and the moment where she declares her loyalty to Rienzi in Act five sounds forced rather than natural and out of sisterly love. However, the final moment when all three perish (Adriano is the third, Rienzi's son) worked incredibly well, with plenty of fervour from the orchestra and conductor Heinrich Hollreiser.

Throughout the recording one is mindful that the players and conductor have produced a great recording of the music, which is full of character and often very rousing, where it is meant to be. The quality, too, is superb, and despite the reservations of some of the singing, this release is to be recommended for it is good value and one ought to get to know this opera more.
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15 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 18 August 2005
Very good sound quality, great interpretation by Hollreiser, the orchestra and the artists, the elegance of the chorus (especially the parts on CD3 are magnificent)... I'm really enthousiastic about this CD-box! The 'grandeur' of the Wagnerian opera in combination with the tragic and dramatic element make this work definitely one of the masterpieces Wagner has produced! The music quality makes you think you are in the opera house where the artists provide you with a high quality performance. The purity of their voices (Kollo and Wennberg) just touches you and takes you on a journey to the old Rome.
I will never regret the purchase of this tremendous masterpiece! This really is a must for Wagner lovers or people willing to get to know Rienzi (Moreover, it's really a good price for this work!)!
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 20 July 2010
OK, this is an early opera from someone who later went on to produce the greatest music dramas ever written. This is much more in the classical style and I believe Wagner couldn't bear it in later years. However, if you like your opera with great stirring choruses and some gentler arias in between, then this is definitely worth a listen. It's not Tristan and Isolde, but it's certainly as good as a lot of other works from the period.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 21 June 2014
I heard Rienzi for the first time recently in an Otto's Opera House online broadcast, and I liked it so much that I bought the CD of it. It reminded me of Lohengrin which I like a lot. After hearing the broadcast I looked up Rienzi -- not a very happy story. It was an early opera of Wagner, lengthy (this 3-disc box set runs 217 minutes), in grand opera style, and was successful, although Wagner later came to dislike it. That I like it probably reflects my preference for his other operas much more than his ring cycle.
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on 28 December 2014
wagner, the best
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