These four documentaries last six hours and each opera is illustrated by numerous music examples played on the piano by Stefan Mickisch.Also,Christian Thielmann rehearsing the Vienna State opera orchestra for the 2011 Ring cycle,production Sven-Eric Bechtolf.Here you see the conductor as an engaging Man,using humour,inspiring his orchestra,and fully engaged with Wagner's Ring.There are excerpts from Chereau's Ring cycle, Boulez, conductor,Bayreuth festival Orchestra 1979-1980. Harry Kupfer Bayreuth orchestra, conductor Daniel Barenboim 1991-1992.Valencia Ring Cycle,production La Fura dels Baus,conductor Zubin Metha.Informative comments by Stefan Mickisch, Piano,who also plays the Leitmotiv's to illusrate a point. Udo Bermbach political scientist,Dieter Borchmeyer literary scholar, Friederich Dieckmann writer,Laurence Dreyfus Musicologist,Elke Heidenreich journalist, who explains the outline of each opera and asks Thielemann questions,Stephan Mosch musicologist. Spoken in German,English Subtitles.All Regions. 10801 16.9.Stereo only.Sound good.
I shall use the actual words from this documentary to give you an idea of what it is like.The comments are not just a synopsis of the opera,but explain parts of Wagner's life,his thoughts on the Ring and why he wrote the Ring the way he did,and touches on philosophy.I have been interested in the Ring for over 5o years. I have 11 DVD and Bluray Ring cycles,as well as the Solti,1955 Keilberth,1966 Bohm,1950 Furtwangler La Scala Ring Cycles with Flagstad,plus the 1926-1932 cycle cond Coates and Blech with Leider,Easton,Austral,Schorr,Melchoir.
Thielemann conducts an excerpt,then the pianist will explain what has happened and play leitmotifs,then excerpts from the various Ring cycles to illustrate this,thereafter comments from the experts and so forth.The Literary Scholar opens with this comment "the Ring is one of the most inspired ideas in the history of civilization." Later on he continues after the opening of the Rhinegold Prelude and the story of this scene by the Journalist "the Rhine maidens have the cruelity of children for they are themselves children of nature.The question is asked in this opera,how does power arise,and how can we get rid of it.Fulfilment in love extingusihed the need to control others".Refering to Alberich,the pianist states "Bruckner and Brahms suffered from rejection by women,it is not a unique problem."
The Pianist mentions that" Valhalla is like one of those big insurance buildings and architectual monstrosities where they hold big parties and swank.Fricka asks Wotan how he is going to pay for it? The political Scientist(P.S) mentions Wotans refusal to pay the giants what they are owed."It was just a joke,I never meant it to be taken seriously." It was a breach of contract. Wagner criticises on stage this ineqality,where people should be equal,but as the P.S says"there is no equality in our Society. This Wagner criticises and how it can surpress people.P S is amazed it is shown on stage and shows great courage on Wagners part by turning it into a great bit of opera." The Journalist:"The Ring could be seen as a parallel of our lives. For example Wotan cannot afford Valhalla,but he has it built and attempts to fiddle the giants.Today people buy houses they cannot afford". Thielemann: "people don't change."Journalist: "The subject is topical. Yet the Ring is archaic,with Greek myths and the Nordic Edda.How can they be topical".Thielemann: "When you look at the Eurozone thats the Ring in a nutshell"( Hinting that myth is timeless,for they relate to the human psyche.Wagner knew this before Jung-T)Musicologist:"Wagner was deeply disatisfied with the 1876 Ring cycle. The Chereau Ring opened up possiblities for the 1970's and speeded up a change in staging. And with the new staging, where acting allowed them to move around, the singing improved."
"What is new about Wagner is the relationship between words and music,alliterative structure,an ancient verse."
(Explanation -Millington the Sorcerer of Bayreuth"Strabreim,as ancient verse form used in Germanic and Anglo Saxon poetry.This was the link with primitive folk culture").Pianist: When Wotan and Loge go deep underground there are chords that were not heard until Bartok and Stravinsky.This represents the horror of exploitation. This opera was written in 1853." Journalist: "Wagner started as a revolutionary,then he became a theatre director,owned a Villa,knew a king.But inwards he remained true to himself and his utopian dream.Thielemann: a sensible person remains utopian,but becomes pragmatic. There is nothing worse then a person who sticks to an opinion,remaining the same.(never changing)Wagner although true to himself, became a kind of reformed conservative." "One can only understand the Ring if you have prior knowledge of it." Pianist: Wagner repeats the following thought throughout the Ring,"we must learn to die,not cling to life."
Die Walkure: Pianist "All the relationships are extramartial". Musicologist Dreyfus:Wagner's characters are extremely believable, because he uses leitmotifs".Pianist: "80 leitmotifs in Rheingold and Die Walkure.140 in the entire ring that you need to know,for it adds to the fun." Thielemann: "Like some composers Wagner did not know how the Ring would turn out. When conducting you must pay attention to the stage,if the Singers breathe differently,then you conduct differently." literary Scholar: Wagner wanted his instruments to sound like singers".
Dreyfus musicologist: "The voice has to fit into a huge orchestra. The singers see themselves as an instrument in the Orchestra."
Pianist: "Brunnhilde is love,so is part of Wotan.She knows what he really wants when she goes against him,to disobey Fricka." Dieckmann Writer: "Brunnhilde Rescues her Father Wotan's plan. Sons and daughters understand the pressure their father is under and break the spell."
Siegfried:"Parts of Wagner are in Mime such as being highly strung."."In Wagner's day the orchestra sounded different. He would be surprised and appalled at the same time at the orchestra of today." "A modern horn produces four times more sound then a 19th century One. A voice has to contend with a battery of horns." "Wagner's philosophy is revolutionary. The conditions were not to his liking. Everything must be destroyed-hense Siegfried. Thats the reality of Act 1.That is why the sword can only be recreated by Siegfried,not Mime." "We have droves of Mimes,Alberich's,Siegfrieds and Wotan's living in our society,today". Literary scholar:"There is no other composer who had such an impact on literature. Act 3 "Dreyfus: "Feurbachian Love-love in Pop. Eroticism isnt always sensible. Brunnhilde comes from the land of eternity,she has to learn how to live in the Present." Dreyfus-musicologist:"Pure Feuerbach,but not post Schopenhaurian which the music belongs to. Wagner is in conflict with himself".(First documentary to deal with this.Dreyfus assumes most people are familar with these two German philosophers.Feuerbach wrote the Essence of Christianity,released in 1841.He argued that it was in fact mankind that created God or Gods in our own image. Instead of the love of God, the love of man is a necessity.Religion should not be seen as a fairy tale,for it tells us about ourselves. Schopenhauer viewed life as evil and one should not be born.He called life and the unknowable the will.His solution was to become like a mystic and ignore life.He thought music was the highest form of Art.)
Gotterdammerung:Journalist: " Love only causes destruction in the Ring.How can love save us?" Thielemann:"its like people who say we tried to make socialism work,it did'nt. Lets give it another chance." Journalist "the basic idea is correct,we should not exploit each other. Thielemann: But it does not take into account human nature." Journalist: "Does love give us a chance" Thielemann:With a smile he says, "If we are nice to each other". Journalist: I do not believe in love but art." Political Scientist: "In this modern world we are not able to see life as a single entity. People are looking for this way of life." Views on the ending from Thielemann, Elke Heidenreich Journalist and Udo Bermbach political Scientist. "Wagner thought change would come from within,when people realized they were living in a false situation. Revolution from within,which would create a new World.That his Ring would bring about the social change through art,which was his mistake.(Some artists like Wagner in his time, were thought to have the answer,which religion did not.He had a huge following,which is hard for us to understand-T.)You can see that the Rhinemaidens have the Ring back,but Alberich survives,and could steal the Ring again . However,there is this lovely theme,which shows that Wagner did not think his Ring a failure,he ends it positively.Yet it remains open ended,for Wagner did not state how the future would be." A good insight into Wagner's Ring. Each programme is one and a half hours long. For fans of the Ring and those new to it, a documentary such as this has been urgently needed. Highly recommended.