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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally a documentary that explains the Ring better then most books on the subject., 17 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Wagner: The World Of The Ring [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
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.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 15 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Jan 2014 15:30:01 GMT
Alan says:
Thank you for this most informative review. You have convinced me to make the purchase.

Posted on 7 Feb 2014 10:39:11 GMT
Excellent review - got the 'juices flowing' and I have now purchased.

Posted on 8 Mar 2014 08:21:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 12 May 2014 15:33:16 BDT
(I have made a correction to this post regarding the subtitles)
As usual Ultrarunner digs deeper than even Alberich's Nibelungen and my comments are additional to the presentation on disc not the philosophical content. Most of the audio is in German and that is subtitled only into English. Some of the comment is in American English and that is subtitled only into German. I was frustrated by this lazy approach. The content of these four analytical documentaries is extremely concentrated and presupposes a great deal of knowledge that many viewers will not have. It also presupposes very high linguistic standards in German or English which again I anticipate will be at least partially over the heads of some. This point is well made in a discussion between Elke Heidenreich and Christian Thielemann. The subtitles can help here and all the dialogue should have been fully subtitled into both languages. Stefan Mikisch has a very thick Alpine accent, perhaps his native Bavaria or Austria, (my German is not good enough to make that distinction) but I can say that I found his German very hard to follow. The others were much easier. The language used by all participants is complex, detailed and very fast flowing. The quality of the subtitles in English was variable. There were plenty of what I thought were spelling errors and even "words" that I could not understand at all, but after a lot of work with a substantial English dictionary I found them to be archaic words from Middle English rarely if ever used today. Perhaps the German form from which they were translated is better understood in modern German but it all makes comprehension that more difficult. There seemed to be little attempt made to translate the German into a more easily comprehensible English sentence. This disc is very interesting, very informative but also very hard work and it is rather let down by the translating and subtitles. Be prepared to use the pause control quite often to consider what has just been said and work out what was meant! This is a disc for serious Ring addicts, it is not a light and easy to follow chat for first comers although they would still get a lot out of it with perseverance. Read Ultrarunner's review at least three times before watching the disc!

Posted on 13 Mar 2014 17:14:03 GMT
Thanks to Ultrarunner and John Chandler for extensive work to convince me that I will not purchase this. You both put in a lot of effort to help me to make an informed decision to save my time and money. I appreciate it very much.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2014 10:56:01 GMT
For many that will be a wise decision. This set is for serious Ring addicts only. More modest Wagner fans will find it too difficult.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2014 15:32:05 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2014 15:32:56 GMT
I am a bit of a Ring addict; how "serious" I'm not sure. While I only have the reviewers generous excerpts to go by, I did not find it so much difficult as smug and not consistently convincing. Either way, my comment was not meant sarcastically at all.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2014 21:22:50 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2014 21:33:43 GMT
So you did watch it after all! Yes many Wagner comments could be called smug. Wagner himself was smug and always presumed he knew more and better than others. I suppose his musical and artistic genius encourages such thinking as enthusiasts try to out-Wagner each other! This set certainly digs very deep indeed and some of the thinking was certainly over my head. If I was a believer in re-incarnation I might wonder if Untrarunner was Wagner in disguise on the one hand telling us what he really meant whilst on the other taking the p**s out of those who try to see more than really exists, and there are quite a few of them about! I like to consider myself middle ground - I love the music but lose my way fairly quickly when the deeper analysts get going. This is not to decry their views but my little grey cells are made of more basic material! In computor terms I still have an 80 GB HD not the 10 TB that Ultrarunner fires up every morning!!
Cheers and Hi-ho to all Wagner fans!! We all look at His Majesty a bit differently and thank God for that.

Posted on 17 Mar 2014 10:58:12 GMT
Last edited by the author on 17 Mar 2014 14:16:42 GMT
Ultrarunner says:
John,

Thanks for your comments. I have been interested in the Ring for over 50 years. Naturally, that does not make me an expert. However, Wagner's Ring is basically Feuerbachian, and the ending Schopenhaurian. The former is up beat and the latter depressing. Wagner himself, was an optimist. He did believe in reincarnation via Schopenhauer. As I explained in the Gatti Parsival, near the beginning of Act 1, Gurnemanz mentions to the boys about reincarnation and Kundry; it is there in the subtitles.

What I have attempted to do, is to explain to readers the importance of Schopenhauer to Wagner. For it is central to the understanding of Tristan und Isolde, Die Neistersingers and Parsival. But most musicologists have played it down. Their attitude is, that it is a form of baggage that Wagner needed to write the operas, but that it is not important. After all, I do not blame them, for they are not trained in philosophy, or show any interest in it. Yet Wagner was unique for a musician, in that he did understand Eastern religion and these German philosophies I have mentioned; to such a degree, that he changed a few of the ideas to suit his operas.

The bluray is in German, with easy to understand English subtitles, yet does not have other languages. I found it easy to understand and so should any beginners. The sound is excellent. A musicologist did mention the philosophers names, but did not explain what they are about. I did. The problem is this, the directors of the Ring do not produce a Ring around these two philosophers and then explain what it all means. Girard, the director of Parsival, hinted at it, but did not really follow through.

The best book written on the subject, is Wagner and Philosophy by Bryan Magee in paperback. It is simply written, and not academic in any way. Having been one himself, he is against that way of thinking. Once reading it, you will never see the Ring and the following operas the same again. It is logically argued and explains the philosophies in laymans terms. He does not patronize people. Another book is an introduction to the Ring, Wagner's Ring, turning the sky around, by M. Owen Lee. Paperback. 112 pages with details of books to read and recordings. It is very simple to read, and he does explain Schopenhauer and other details. I suggest this book as a companion to this documentary.

Wagner in his life contradicted himself, but in his inner life, he knew exactly what he was doing. Yet as I have already stated, those directors of the Ring cycle and the following Wagner opera's, that do not take his philosopical system seriously, are doing a great disservice to the audiences. For they are only viewing half an opera. Therefore, I think that this documentary is an excellent introduction to the Ring, for it takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you think. However, People concentrate too much on his life, instead of what his operas really mean. As Wagner once wrote," I write these essay's to get the spleen off my chest."

I do understand that Music is a subjective art form, and therefore a review is a matter of taste and opinion. So I only write about what Wagner really thought about his operas. I do understand his life, but that is of no importance. A artist can be totally different in his inner life to his outer existence. One does not reflect the other. The work is all important, a realm of peace. Yet their physical life can be choatic, in dealing with a world that is often very silly. There are arguments against this, that the artist and their work are the same. Often stated by people, who have not experienced what I have described. Anyway, John, thanks for the interest.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Mar 2014 11:00:19 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2014 11:11:32 GMT
This ongoing exchange with Ultrarunner is more for the benefit of other potential purchasers of this set than any attempt at a resolution of different perceptions between myself and Ultrarunner. The depth and breadth of Ultrarunner's knowledge and committment to Wagner is exceptional and there can be few contributors to amazon able to hold a candle to his knowledge. I have the greatest respect for his wisdom and invariably find an enormous amount to learn from his in-depth studies and analysis. My disagreement regarding this set is the ease with which it can be understood by Mr Average Wagner Fan. Few if any of us will be able to approach it with Untrarunner's understanding and I submit it is NOT that easy to understand. many of the arguments are very complex, and how many of us have even heard of Feuerbach and Schopenhauer let alone are well informed about their deep philosophical theories? I found the detail of this disc quite hard to follow on several occasions and I speak quite a bit of German having gone to school there after the war. Ultrarunner inevitably can only measure others by his own high standards and I fear that most of us will struggle to live up to that. This is an interesting set but it really is not an easy listen for Wagner beginners. Potential buyers must be alert to this.
Cheers and good luck and ten thousand kowtows to Ultrarunner!

Posted on 18 Mar 2014 15:12:15 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Mar 2014 15:13:24 GMT
Ultrarunner says:
To all who may be interested in this bluray,

If you are interested in this bluray, and do not know a great deal about the Ring, may I suggest this book; Wagner's Ring, turning the sky around, an introduction to the Ring, by M. Owen Lee. A cheap short 122 pages. This paperback book was written at the request of the public. Owen Lee broadcasted these views during the intervals of the Ring at the Met. The ideas are very simple to grasp. Not only that, he gives reviews of recordings of the Ring. Cheers all.
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