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2.0 out of 5 stars All in all - a Blu-ray DVD Rheingold Metropolitan disappointment., 29 May 2013
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This review is from: Das Rheingold: Metropolitan Opera (Levine) [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
Let me state this straight ahead; This is a disappointment of a Metropolitan/Levine/Blu-Ray/Rheingold.
Should anyone be looking for a Metropolitan/Levine/Rheingold, than it would be a better choice to have the previous production mase in 1990 with the Metropolitan/Levine (also on the DGG label, also with DTS5.1 surround audio besides the usual PCM stereo).

The visual effects first:
The new production has the stage covered with long planks front and back of the stage a decor that changes its color according to the illumination: the planks are placed vertical-horizontal and in any position in between that and are supposed to replace any more natural, or "traditional" approach to staging, but soon after only the first moments are getting tedious. The support-robs that at times are fastened to the singers on stage when they have to stabilized and hang from the (at times) steep planks is ridiculous and reminds one of the "Cirque du Soleil" tricks but without the art and the stunning visual effects of that circus...
The less than enjoyable visual effects gets even a ridicule laughter from the public (the transformation of Albrich into a small creature, in that case into a frog:
That stone frog placed on the stage planks could have been taken from any garden center and the second it is placed there the public begins to mock-lough it out (I make this point just to clarify how ineffective the decor and staging is...)

With the 1990 production you get a much believable stone-field and scenery stage which changes slightly and very logically accordingly - to witness: the Rheinmaidens swimming, Alberich grasping the gold, the scene where Alberich slaves brings up the gold to the surface of the stage while they come out like worms from holes in the stage, and more than that, when Erde makes her phantom-like appearance...
All in all - the 1990 visual effects, lightening, and decor are more advanced, less on the boring "modern" side-effects. All in all much to be preferred over this 'new' production.

The singers:
The new production has Wotan sung by Bryn Terfel. Now to clarify, Bryn Terfel has quite a large voluminous voice but basically it is a Baritone voice (maybe on the dramatic side of the fence). I have heard singing Wotan's farewell scene with the Concertgebouw Orchestra and my opinion stays the same: the voice is a bit too light in tessura for the Wotan role (a true Bass-Baritone, or a Bass is what this part calls for, but not a Baritone voice).
On the 1990 James levine/Metropolitan, we have Wotan sung by James Morris and immediately it become obvious that this Bass-baritone dominates the stage even without much bodily movement, and it becomes clear that this is the Wotan to listen and watch.
Also; Morris has an astounding voice to match his astounding stage presence standing tall like a Greek god with his gestures controlled, sparse, in-exaggerated; James Morris does not have to smear his arms with mud (and for whatever purpose..?) the way Bryn Terfel first appears on stage looking wild, more like a dirty Neanderthal than an ancient god.
Fricka (Wotan's wife):
The new production has Stephanie Blythe (an enormous woman) with enormous talent, a big, powerful voice which has a special dramatic timbre and which at times sounds like a distance reminiscent of Kirsten Flagstad's voice.
The dress of this Fricka in this production is ridiculous to say the least;
Stephanie Blythe is dressed with a (lemma-chiffon) a shining cloth appropriate for an dress appearance at a Viennese ball with her clean tidy hair nicely done, while the other singers dresses is something that looks like an SM brown lather show presentation;
The stupidity on the part of the dressing-department is brought farther into the ridiculous realm, with her husband Wotan looking like he was rolling in the mud...

Nevertheless Frika part in this opera is quite limited in scope (one would be intrigued to hear her Stephanie Blythe sing Fricka's aria and duet with Wotan in the Walkure opera where much more is placed on Fricka's voice...)
The 1990 Metropolitan production gives this part of Fricka to the veteran, much respected and much loved Christa Ludwig - a singer that does not need any introduction except to say that her appearance with the Metropolitan 1990 production brings nobleness and statue to this role (it is believed to be one of her last public appearance on the operatic stage...) Christa Ludwig's gestures - like those of her partner Morris are measured and command old godlike respect...

Loge (half-god of fire):
This role has always been one of the more difficult on all of the Wagner Rheingold production.
It is sung by a tenor that at times has to flex his voice below the tenor range or to have some healthy upper Kopf-tone resonance bursts and has to be utterly convincing as a slippery cunning character.
The new production has opted for a more smooth tenor voice without many "games-flexibility-in-the-voice" and without much of a traditional Loge voice show-case. It becomes quite a straight forward singing here and (whatever) acting there is with this role in this production, compared to the 1990 magnificent Siegfried Jerusalem.

The role of Alberich (Bass) is superbly sung and acted by Eric Owens who possesses a large, dark true vibrant full-range show-case voice.

Erde (Contralto voice according to the score requirements)
Here in this Metropolitan production he role is given to Patricia Bardon:
Now, here is something of a disappointing when one compares this contralto voice with the voice of Birgitta Svenden in the 1990 Metropolitan production and in the 1991 Bayreuth Festspiele conducted by Barenboim).
While this (short scene) where Erde appears to warn Wotan can make your hair stand on edge, because of the dramatic effect in Wagner's score of this sublime musical moment, it is also very clear that Erde's voice has to be something truly extraordinary and not just an accumulation of notes sung by a lower female's voice.
(A friend of ours who listened for the first time to this opera and was concentrated on this Erde scene, was utterly flabbergasted by Birgitta Svenden - the 1990 production - he swore he never thought a white female voice can sound so low, vibrant and full-bodied).
Unfortunately, Patricia Bardon's voice does not made the right Erde impression and certainly misses on the drama and mystery the role calls for.

There is another problem with this production: The singer's voices is not competed against the orchestra in any traditional theatrical way: Every singer has his own discretely attached microphone(much like a pop/rock concert) - with the consequence that there is no real theatrical-opera house acoustic properties in general and certainly no bloom to the sound in particularly.

The added bonuses are not very impressive either; The very short orchestra/singer rehearsal cut does not help any in understanding the creation of this production (except maybe showing us how the singers are dressed in day to day clothing...) and the decor-master explanations of how the stage planks are moved with the computer generated work of the lightening etc, all this does not really contribute for a better appreciation of the production.
The very short interview something like a two minuets bubble with Bryn Terfel does not amount to much either.

The better performances are to be found on the Metropolitan Opera production of 1990 with James Levine conducting, or with the 1991 Bayreuth Festspielhaus conducted by Daniel Barenboim.
All in all - a Blu-ray DVD disappointment.
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