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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure popcorn, in a good way.
I was lucky enough to see Die Walkure when I stayed in New York in April this year and I loved it in the theatre. I bought the blu ray set as a memento of the production but have some mixed feelings about the cycle over all.

Despite the visual impact of the Stage Machine, this is a very traditional production of the Ring, with very little in the way of depth or...
Published 20 months ago by david may

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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great set, great orchestra but voigt is a vocal disaster
An amazing Seigmund in Kaufman, a competent Wotan but Voigt's Brunnhilde is out of her depth in this production. Compare poor old Voigt to the wonderful Brunhilde of Jennifer Wilson in the Valencia ring four years ago and Wilson out classes Voigt completely. Voigt utterly ruins this Ring! Brunnhilde is too major a part to be miscast, and Voigt is miscast. She is a turkey...
Published 18 months ago by KC


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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pure popcorn, in a good way., 18 Nov 2012
By 
david may (hawkesbury heights, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
I was lucky enough to see Die Walkure when I stayed in New York in April this year and I loved it in the theatre. I bought the blu ray set as a memento of the production but have some mixed feelings about the cycle over all.

Despite the visual impact of the Stage Machine, this is a very traditional production of the Ring, with very little in the way of depth or spirituality. If that's what your looking for in a Ring for repeated viewing at home, this well may be the best available for you. It's all very solid and straightforward, with some stunning visual effects. (The magic fire, the entry of the gods into Valhalla,, the forest scene and Siegfried's Rhine journey stand out for me). It's always beautiful to look at (only the dragon in Siegfried fails for me). The other big plus for the visuals is that the actors all look pretty convincing dramatically.

The orchestral playing is magnificent. I am not a fan of Levine and found his previous DG ring very labored and ordinary. This cycle is shared over 2 conductors. For me this was not a problem as Levine's interpretation is so unremarkable (not bad , just bland) that it could blend in with anyone else. More importantly I have to advocate for Fabio Luisi. I have read some commentaries, which imply he really is a second choice. I actually found his attention to detail brought out many moments of orchestral scoring which I have never noticed before. I wish that he had conducted the whole cycle, my experience of Walkure in the theater where he conducted was the same.

The singing is generally well worth owning the discs for. Everyone has personal likes and dislikes and you will read contradictory reviews about the same singers in this set. In any live performance of the Ring, singers will tire and be a bit weaker at various stages of the night. Bryn Terfel rises to produce an outstanding farewell in Die Walkure. He acts and sounds as perfect in this role as you could imagine. Deborah Voigt is a believable Brunnhilde who provides appropriate thrills at all the right moments, although not necessarily consistently producing a continual beauty of sound. Jay Hunter Morris acts so well and is so believable as Siegfried that you can forgive some signs of effort and lack of strength (only very minor flaws really. Don't let any negative comments put you off).

Eva Marie Westbrook and Jonas Kaufmann provide both the required sound and looks for the twins in Walkure. Other cast members provide strong performances. I can't think of anyone I didn't like at all.

I thought the sound was very badly mixed, heavily in favour of voices. This was a big disappointment about the set. This problem seemed to be less obvious in the stereo track. On the 5.1 mix, I adjusted the setting of my centre speaker with some success. This would be my biggest reservation about the set.

Overall, I believe this is a Ring, which will stand up to repeated viewings. It is beautiful to look at and there is some fantastic music making. Don't look to it for great meaning or insight. Its pure popcorn, in a good way. Sort of an operatic Star Wars. Go for it!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There is much to admire in this Ring Cycle, but............, 10 Jun 2013
By 
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
Before you embark on this journey, I would heartily recommend that you watch the accompanying documentary, 'Wagner's Dream', first. I found the insight into the producer and casts' visions both enhanced and added to my understanding and enjoyment of this production. It did, however, launch alarm bells in my head when I heard Bryn Terfel tell us that the drama doesn't kick in until Die Walkure - this could explain why I felt that he didn't seem as involved in this Das Rheingold as he was on the two occasions I saw his Wotan at Covent Garden. Although, let's be quite clear, this is a much better production than the current Covent Garden Ring.
By deducting one star, you may think that I didn't like it, but I have to tell you that I found much to admire, but I was disappointed with Das Rheingold, I didn't think that the conclusion to Die Walkure worked and I was very underwhelmed by Deborah Voight. It is actually Deborah Voight that is the main issue for me - howevever, I thought some reviewers have been a little too harsh on her. She isn't a disaster and I certainly don't hate her, but I don't like her either. She's too waily and her acting is too static for me, especially when you compare her to some of the outstanding singer\actors in this production - I would highlight Jonas Kaufmann, Jay Hunter-Morris, Bryn Terfel and Eva-Maria Westbroek as deserving particular praise. Having highlighted my main reservations, I'll move onto my review:

As I said, I was disappointed with Das Rheingold. I didn't think the electronic set worked particularly well - although, a tweak in the lighting would have helped to mask the wires and harnesses holding the Rhinemaidens, which are only too obvious and distracting on the Bluray. The action kicks in nicely and I have to admit that, contrary to some reviewers, I thought Eric Owens sang and acted very well. However, I was less enthusiastic with Stephanie Blythe's Fricka - but it would be churlish of me not to point out that most other reviewers love her. I thought that Bryn Terfel seemed more distant from the action than he was at Covent Garden, but he sang brilliantly and is certainly much more than 'adequate', as one person suggested. The other roles are taken very well - especially Wendy Bryn Harmer's Freia - but, whatever was the production team thinking of by dressing and lighting Richard Croft's Loge to look like Liberace?! That didn't work for me at all, other than make me snigger and I thought Patricia Bardon's Erda was disappointing - especially as Erda can steal the show.
I didn't like the entry of the Gods into Valhalla at all - what was the point of heaving them up a steep incline (on very visible ropes and harnesses)to a backdrop of flashing, dispersed light? Well, it didn't work for me - although on the night this was taped the mechanism didn't break down, nor did the audience boo as they did on the opening night.

Die Walkure is a completely different beast. The set works on every level and I was particularly impressed with the wood in Act I. Siegmund is very convincingly chased through this forest at the start and the action just grips you from start to finish. Jonas Kaufmann is superb - the best Siegmund I've ever seen or heard. In fact, to be honest, he's in a class of his own. Eva-Maria Westbroek is very convincing as his sister, but Hunding is too wooden. I don't like Deborah Voight's interpretation at all - nor did I like the massive throne that Fricka is wheeled around in. It makes her look like a wicked witch in some dark, Grimm fairytale. The conclusion to Act II is just perfect - I have never been so moved by Siegmund's death and Hunding's dispatch is chilling.
I often think that the Ride of the Valkyries is better heard than seen. I have never seen it done satisfactorily - and I still haven't, but I've seen a lot worse than this. The closing scene is done very poignantly, but why is Brunnhilde suspended upside down on a vertical plane? This didn't work for me - but, overall Die Walkure is excellent.

Now we get a change of conductor and unlike some, I didn't find this switch-over either obvious or jarring. I thought both conductors bring out aspects of the score I haven't noticed before and I couldn't critisise either of them for any aspect of their excellent orchestrations.

Siegfried is just the dog's kahunas!!! I loved it from start to finish and would give it 10 stars alone if I could. OK, I agree with everyone - the Yogi bear look-alike at the start doesn't work and I will concede that the dragon would look more at home on the set of 'How to Train your Dragon' - but dammit, this is so good that none of this matters. The set works on every level - I was so impressed with it. Then, there is the wood bird, well, what can I say? It was just perfect. The cast are superb and Jay Hunter-Morris is the best Siegfried I have ever seen. Alright, he doesn't have the vocal power of your usual heldenen tenor - but he acts and looks perfect. Even Deborah Voight was OK in the closing scene. So what more could you ask for? Only to nit-pick, maybe, by having a dragon and wild bear that works.

Gotterdammerung is also very well done - although I think Deborah Voight is at her worst here (far too waily and off-key for my taste) and I felt that Hagen was too wooden (oh, how I yearned for Matti Salminen). Gutrune and Gunther are much better here than they are in the Otto Schenk DVD. However, the set was the supreme focus of the drama again - as it was in Siegfried. And touches such as the blood diffusing across as Gunther washed his hands after Siegfried's murder, added to the drama - I could go on, but there are so many examples such as this. I was a little disappointed with the 'juddery', mechanical horse which doesn't catapault Brunnhilde off to Valhala (it looks more like a small kiddies fair ground ride), but the image of the Gods in the distance crumbling to dust as the music dies away brought a lump to my throat.

So, in conclusion, I actually think this is very good and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Peter Gelb hit the nail on the head when he told us in 'Wagner's Dream' that the Met can't survive by continually reviving old and tired productions. This Ring Cycle does work, but also, needs some tweaking to get everything right. I read in the NY Times, when I was there last, that this production was being put in storage for a while - but I believe it would be a shame to ditch it. There are so many good ideas here, but you can't expect audiences to sit in their seats for 40 minutes while the set is being re-booted, as happened to my cousin when he went to see it - and I really do believe that they need a better Brunnhilde than Deborah Voight. I won't be giving up my Otto Schenk Ring, but this is a good recording for the digital/Bluray age. I wanted to say well done to everyone involved, but I was worried that might sound patronising and this recording does not deserve that. In fact, it just deserves praise and I was so pleased that it was awarded, like the Met's other telecast, a Grammy for best opera recording. The vast canvass of the Ring makes it nigh-on impossible for everything to be perfect - but this recording is pretty damned good! I hope you enjoy it.

Incidentally, I have now seen it 'live' in NY; but I have to tell you (as when I saw the Otto Schenk Cycle 'live') the cast I saw were nowhere near as good as this crowd.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but still great, 18 May 2013
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
The first rule about performances of The Ring is that there is no such thing as a perfect production. Take just the staging as an example - if you go for the absolutely traditional 'Lord of the Rings' type scenery and costumes, then this is great for some, but staid and unimaginative for others. If on the other hand, you go for minimalist and daring (e.g. the gods dressed as Nazi stormtroopers or whatever) then to others it's gimmicky and distracting. And that's just the visuals - on top of that you can have endless debates about the quality and type of singing, the conducting, the acting, blah, blah, blah. Since Wagner always intended The Ring to be a marriage of equal partners between words, music and visuals, getting the combination just right to suit even one person is against the odds. Therefore, in order to enjoy a production of The Ring, you have to be prepared to accommodate.

What you have to accommodate in this production in my view are two things - Voigt's Brunnhilde and the sound quality. Neither is awful, but they might not suit everyone. Some reviewers have said they find the orchestral sound too recessed. Compared with some other cycles, this is true, but I found that after a few minutes my ears had adjusted and it certainly wasn't a deal-breaker for me. As for Voigt. she just does not sound quite right. In Act 3 of Die Walkure (when all the Valkyrie maidens are gathered together) I found myself wondering which of the other singers could have done a better job than Voigt. To my ears she sounds a bit like Angela Lansbury! [And I mean no disrespect to Ms Lansbury with that remark!]. I have loved Voigt in other roles, but here, she just isn't quite right. But nor is she awful - we're not talking about a Sofia Copolla in Godfather III sort of thing. It's a *relative* weakness in an otherwise very fine cast. And I would sooner have a slightly below par Brunnhilde than a slightly below par Wotan any day.

On the plus side, the staging is magnificent. I usually dislike minimalist staging but this works, because it's minimalist and not minimalist at the same time. Just to explain this apparent contradiction - the scenery largely consist of a set of massive metal slabs that can bend and rotate to form an amazing variety of shapes. But the slabs are rarely left as bare metal. Aided by very clever projections (some of which alter in response to the singers' movements and volume of voice) and a few props, the stage rarely looks barren. The costumes are generally sensible, the direction solid, the acting by and large excellent. The singing is top notch. The standard of orchestral playing and conducting is high. I would have liked James Levine to have done all four operas (he had to withdraw from the final two because of illness) but I don't think the voltage drops significantly with his replacement (I know that some have said they notice a change, but I think the danger is that if you look for change, you'll find it whether it really matters or not). The ending is a little anti-climactic, but to be frank, I've always found this with The Ring. The only production that bucks the trend is the Valencia production, which is so over the top it has to be seen to be believed.

I think that for someone getting into The Ring, this would be a good first choice. My personal favourite remains the Valencia production under Mehta, but that is far more idiosyncratic (though it remains remarkably faithful to Wagner's stage instructions nearly all the way through) and unless you already know the plot, it can be confusing in places.
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32 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressive Production, 27 Aug 2012
By 
Adrian Drew (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
I have edited my original pre-view, which was based on attending actual performances, in light of two subsequent viewings of the blu rays - so please forgive any disjointedness in the following "review"!

The Blu Ray is very impressive with solid - if not reference - video and excellent audio.

I have none of the reservation about audio balance mentioned by other reviewers and felt the music and voices were excellently presented. How wonderful not to have singers swamped by orchestras!

As I was watching the blu ray on video projection I did wish however that the video presentation, directed by Gary Halverson, was not so obsessed with close ups of the singers at the expense of the overall stage production, as it occasionally destroyed the "magic" of seeing the epic vista of the set and reinforced the artifice ( you can even see the mesh of the wigs !). I really wanted to be totally swept up in the theatricality as i was in attending the actual production. However it is still generally adequately shot and avoids the trixy camerawork too often in evidence in Met telecasts.

A big bonus is that the Met's often very weak behind the scenes interviews, are here thankfully given as optional extras and so do not interrupt the performance in the way they do on TV or during the cinema live screenings. A bonus disc provides the documentary "Wagner's Dream" which at 2 hours, provides further fascinating insights into this epic production.

Musically the performances are of a high standard.
American tenor Jay Hunter Morris, who took over the title role in "Siegfried" at short notice and Deborah Voigt as Brünnhilde, received justifiable praise too. Although in the performance of "Gotterdammerung" I attended she was not in the finest form - but this has been corrected on the Blu Ray.

Iain Paterson, is an impressive Gunther, as was Hans-Peter König as Hagen but to identify the full range of talent on offer, in this little note, is impossible - just believe me when I say it is very impressive indeed.
No, with the exception of Jonas Kaufmann, the singer's performances aren't always perfect. Voigt's Brunhilda is clearly not to everyone's taste, although I enjoyed her very much. Bryn Terfyl's generally impressive Wotan, is much better in Walkyrie than it is in Rhinegold and Morris' Siegfried has its weaknesses at times too but he gets through the ordeal of Sigfried admirably - but the immediacy and excitement of this production - featuring such an accomplished and distinguished cast - is something to be celebrated and enjoyed along with the magisterial contribution of conductor Levine and the solid, if not quite as impressive, contribution of Luisi although his handling of the final moments of Gotterdaummerung do not have the awe and majesty of Levine's earlier recording.

Still, without question, this"Ring" is an important addition to the many other productions already available.

From "Rhinegold" to "Gotterdaummerung," - some 16 hours later - the Mets Opera's new production is generally very theatrically effective too.

As the cycle progressed, Director Robert Lepage use of"the machine", the name given to Carl Fillion's 45-ton set composed of 24 planks which when combined with sophisticated video projections works tirelessly - and with varying degrees of effectiveness - to evoke the full range of scenes demanded by this monumental work.

Those intrusive visual production details which distracted audiences in early productions, (e.g. the clanking of the set, the whirring of the fans cooling the equipment and the anxiety on the faces of the singers when required to climb up vertiginous slopes or clamber over yet more wooden planking,) and reduced for them the overall theatrical success are, thankfully absent from the blu ray discs.

Without question, Lapage's production remains reassuringly traditional in very many ways - it is clearly the product of a creative genius - and he is brilliantly supported by
Lionel Arnould's quite astonishing video imagery and François St-Aubin's costumes.

My only caveat is the climax of the cycle where alongside the rather disappointing conducting I mentioned, the production fails to deliver the visual coup necessary and falls short of the magic it has so often brilliantly produced earlier in the four operas. Still this must not be overstated and does not deserve the cynical criticism of several mainstream reviewers. It's just a little lacklustre after the astonishing spectacle of what has gone before.

If this were to be corrected and the magisterial James Levine (whose illness prevented him from conducting the last two operas) were to return to conduct the cycle once more, it would we well worth a trip to NYC to experience this outstanding production - although a bill for over £1000 for the tickets necessary to have decent seats might prove an obstacle!

To sum up - the blu ray video transfer is up to the technical quality of the Met's other releases - not wonderful but good - and the audio is excellent. So all in all this new version of the $16 million production of "The Ring" is highly recommended. Lepage has brought a creative brilliance and a true attentiveness to the libretto which results in a dramatically effective and musically astonishing event of truly epic proportions which is ideal for the big screen Blu Ray experience.

The discs are a worthwhile purchase as I really believe that this ambitious production gets closer to Wagner's original staging requirements than many more "traditional" versions and some moments are positively stunning!

So 4 stars for the performances, 4 stars for the Video and 5 stars for the audio. This add up to just under 5 stars as a total!
But nothing in life is ever perfect!
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Met Opera's spectacular!, 7 May 2014
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Saw the entire Ring over two seasons of the Met Opera and just knew I had to own the DVDs so I could relive the magic moments. Superb performances by many of the great names in opera. It doesn't come better than this.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great set, great orchestra but voigt is a vocal disaster, 25 Dec 2012
By 
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
An amazing Seigmund in Kaufman, a competent Wotan but Voigt's Brunnhilde is out of her depth in this production. Compare poor old Voigt to the wonderful Brunhilde of Jennifer Wilson in the Valencia ring four years ago and Wilson out classes Voigt completely. Voigt utterly ruins this Ring! Brunnhilde is too major a part to be miscast, and Voigt is miscast. She is a turkey worbler of a Brunnhilde. Nice hair but shame about your under powered voice. I wanted to like this Ring but its less Die Walkure and more, Die Worbler!
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21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Much too much of a mixed bag, 27 Sep 2012
By 
J. Manger (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
Visually, the Lepage production ranges from the clunky in Rheingold, where set pieces such as the journey into Nibelheim are boring to a fault, to the extraordinary, such as when Siegfried climbs through the flames to reach his bride-to-be. The action is never impeded by the production, though, and that is something to be grateful for. All the key props and moments, such as the dragon, the swords and spears, the excellent costumes all ring true to Wagner's intentions but are stylish and well-managed.

Musically, it is very much a 'game of two halves', with Levine's familiar weighty reading of the scores of Rheingold and Walkure - to my ears not as sluggish as he has appeared previously - and the Met orchestra responds to him with richness and power. Luisi, on the other hand is mostly lightweight and rather superficial: eschewing the grander moments for the sake of maintaining a fairly brisk pace - not in the excitable manner of a Bohm or a Keilberth, but merely brisk! The scene between Mime and Der Wanderer is played in a very uninteresting and colourless way, likewise the Prelude to Act III of Siegfried. One could go on. But Luisi does not match Levine's gravitas even slightly. Some may find that a blessing: I did not. Sounds like two different orchestras to me!

And so to the actors. Terfel is astonishingly good, moving, subtle and mighty in Walkure; and he is certainly good enough in Siegfried. Basically, he sings everyone off the stage, with the notable exception of Jonas Kaufmann, as Siegmund, who is his accustomed magnificent presence. So far, so good. Jay Hunter Morris looks the part of Siegfried, for sure, but his voice, though reasonably lyrical and accurate, is not very different from Mime's - which is a bit worrying! Sieglinde is very fine, the minor gods acceptable, Mime superb, the giants steal the show in Rheingold, and Loge does his best. Alberich, Eric Owens, has much too light a voice and is a weak actor. Then there is Deborah Voigt: oh dear! Well, you either love her or hate her, and I don't love her. The voice has the familiar warble, and she sounds as though she is singing through a pillow. Her acting is cliched beyond description. She increasingly looks, acts and sounds like Lucille Ball. Her finest moments are in Siegfried Act III - which is itself a problem. The totally undiscriminating New York audience growls and screams its approval of all its homegrown stars, as you might expect - not unlike the Ryder Cup crowd. But they rightly give Terfel a big shout too. For my money, the acting is too 'Hollywood' in gesture, which is a shame because there is some highly intelligent and subtle directing going on: an example would be Der Wanderer's slight, but satisfied, smile to himself when Siegfried shatters his spear. Nice touch, not often seen.

Levine's earlier DVD set, although Morris is no Terfel, has basically a stronger cast, including Behrens, and is preferable: not as clever, perhaps, and certainly very traditional as a production. But Levine knows how to pace the Ring and in the earlier set, he is present throughout. Luisi just can't match him.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to Ring Cycle, 31 Jan 2013
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This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
Other reviews have criticised Deborah Voight as Brunhilde. Her voice is not powerful and forceful but she seems as good as most of the others I previewed on Youtube. I like that this is a traditional ring. I think its best to see a traditional one first. I really like the sets, the performers look okay for their parts and the voices are good (though I am not an opera expert). I have really enjoyed it.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great DVD, 3 Nov 2012
By 
bookworm (Voorburg, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
I love this DVD. A must for fans of the Ringcycle!Kaufmann and Westbroek are very good in their role as Siegmund und Sieglinde.
And a great Siegfried as well.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect balance between tradition and innovation, 25 Jan 2013
By 
Dandy "Dandy" (Netherlands, Europe) - See all my reviews
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Heartwarming performance from a stellar cast. Grand stagings are followed by intimate scenes and vice versa. If you do not have time to fly to New York and watch it there, this is the best alternative.
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Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012]
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray] [2012] by Bryn Terfel (Blu-ray - 2012)
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