on 31 May 2013
I watched this on sky arts, and have put it, along with the rest of the ring on my wish list for the boxed set.
The sets are imaginative and consist of the same moving planks with interesting projections to give atmosphere and backgrounds, it all works very well, but in some scenes can be a bit dark.
The cast are generally good, and I will give them all a mention.
Gerhard Siegal is reasonably good as Mime, but I have been spoiled on other productions by Heinz Zednik who is a more sinister character.
Jay Hunter Morris comes a very close second to Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegfried, he looks and sings the part with some brilliance.
Bryn Tervel is pretty good as Wotan, The Wanderer, but does not quite attain the heights that he achieved in Die Walkure.
Eric Owens is, as he was in Rheingold a fine dark voiced vindictive Alberich, he equals the best of any other interpretations.
The representation of the dragon Fafner is better than most, with a snake like head. After the wounding blow Fafner appears in his form as a giant, and is ably sung by Hans Peter Konig.
The flitting woodbird which moves rather cleverley as a projection on the backdrop is delightfully voiced by Mojca Erdmann. She does come on as herself for a bow.
Patricia Bardon is Erda, she ably sings the part and is most certainly the most attractive Erda of any production. No wonder Wotan seduced her.
Debra Voight is probably the best Brunhilde of any of any production, she has just replaced Gwyneth Jones as my favourite.
As a cycle the four productions hang together extremely well. I have found with some of the others they are a bit disjointed. The Staatsoper Stuttgart is the prime example with different producers, no cast continuity or style.
The other production which was a problem for me was La Fura Dels Baus, the staging with characters being wheeled around in contraptions, and trapeze extras swinging around simply detracted from any musical merit.
The Met 1990, Patrice Chereaus's centenary, Bayreuth 1991/1992 and Pappano at the Royal Opera House are all worthy contenders for your library as productions of merit.
on 27 August 2013
Glad to have the opportunity to review a Ring recording, one of the biggest works of art, and whether you love or loathe Wagner, music or man, it is a challenging and rewarding experience, every music lover should tackle it. With such a rich, complex work of art, there are probably as many meanings and interpretations as listeners, and as an allegorical struggle between good and evil, love and power, of relevance to us all. This will be interesting because we have a change of conductor mid-cycle, and I have these big Wagner works for breakfast. So. Here we go....
The sometimes interesting production design doesn't always add to the experience and has proved controversial. It replaces the excellent naturalistic Otto Schenk / Gunther Schneider-Siemssen production, and revolves (pun intended) around the so-called Machine stage, basically a series of motor driven planks which can be rotated around an axis, allowing infinite placement and fluid movement. With interactive projections it represents, for example, caves, forests and rocky mountain tops. Unfortunately it's not as convincing or satisfactory as its predecessor and most of the pleasure in this recording is the performance which fortunately is mostly excellent. The production is more impressionist than literal, and looks both naturalistic and artificial, if that makes any sense.
Due to ill health, Fabio Luisi takes over from James Levine. Light, but not lightweight, reading. It's powerful and energetic, but also has plenty of lyricism and detail in the nature music. For some reason he speeds up for the forging songs, which need to be weightier. Likewise I would prefer a bit darker weightiness at the start of Act Two, and in Act Three, at the start of the music when Siegfried sets off up the mountain, a more thrusting rhythmic pulse is required. But elsewhere it's always a pleasure to hear a nice lyrical reading that actually moves along at a fair clip, no leaden trudging.
Excellent singing all round. In Act One Gerhard Siegel steals the show as Mime despite strong performances from Bryn Terfel (Wanderer) and newcomer Jay Hunter Morris in the gruelling title role. Morris is a revelation, it's great to hear the part sung strongly enough but with plenty of lyricism, even in the declamatory passages, and his voice is pleasing enough, he actually sings the forging songs lyrically! Siegfried the 'fearless hero' needs a fearless tenor and the role deserves its difficult reputation. Siegfried is on stage acting and singing, without microphone assistance, for most of the 4 hours. Act One alone would finish many off, culminating in the forging scene, the singer has to contend with some of the heaviest orchestral music written before the likes of Motorhead and Saxon. After all that vocal 'hammer', he needs to adopt a more lyrical voice for some introspective passages in Act Two, with power in reserve. Then if that's not enough, Act Three culminates in an all-out half-hour all-singing duet with Brunnhilde (who having slept 20 years is presumably in fresh voice) and plenty of passionate difficult music. Just so you know! The character Siegfried, like so many young people, is trying to find his place in the world, though his upbringing is bizarre to say the least, he's been raised by Nibelung dwarf Mime in the lonely forest with no human contact. During the forging scene, Siegfied's music gradually overwhelms that of Mime, Siegfried is actually forging his identity, and on a deeper level the sword is a metaphor for that.
There's good acting and character interplay. As well as a pleasing voice Morris has a good supply of facial expressions which convey Siegfried's boyish innocence, he certainly looks and sounds convincing. Perhaps in an attempt to emphasise the fairy tale element, the 'dragon' in Act Two is unfortunately not especially convincing or threatening, a giant dinosaur head emerges from the cave, it looks quite docile, some hissing and roaring might have helped, Siegfried easily sidesteps it and skewers it with Notung, I actually felt a bit sorry for it. Perhaps it was not Fafner, but Daisy, a tame dinosaur that had wandered in from a Moville Mysteries episode by mistake?
Blistering Act Three with a stormy prelude and intense, powerful Erda - Wanderer exchange. Bryn Terfel is outstanding here and throughout the performance. Another example is the Wanderer's verbal jousting with Mime, pointing out the traveller's reception is inhospitable and unwelcoming. Act Three contains some of the best music in the Ring, culminating in the Siegfried - Brunnhilde love duet, actually more a full courtship. Morris maintains power and lyricism to the very end. Deborah Voigt (Brunnhilde) sings and acts well but her mezzo-ish timbre and vowels-only enunciation on some high-lying phrases preclude unconditional recommendation. The main example of the latter is the end of the line 'Furchtest du, Siegfried, furchtest du nicht, das wild, wutende Weib?' Do you not fear this wild, passionate woman? To which, my answer is usually a very tremulous 'No'. Comparing the staging with the production it replaces, the Machine and projections show an excellent wall of fire and radiant sun, but otherwise Brunnhilde's rock looks drab. In the previous production, there's more a suggestion of fire with a red glow, but a really lovely transition to heavenly blue, and an actual rocky mountain top.
Picture and sound quality are excellent, the Metropolitan orchestra are superb. The stage plinth emphasises the voices, but as good as they are, I would prefer a bit more orchestral volume, though I'm just using a standard TV. The DVDs are chaptered copiously and there are subtitles, so now I know what they're all singing about! Despite a few minor reservations this performance is highly recommended for its musical and performance interest, strong singing, acting and costumes, and is best enjoyed not paying too much attention to the 'scenery' at times. A very qualified 5 star rating but Jay Hunter Morris in the title role nails it. On to Gotterdammerung....