21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Much too much of a mixed bag,
This review is from: Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen [Blu-ray]  (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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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 Sep 2012 11:23:10 BDT
Thank you for an interesting review. I know what you mean about Luisi's conducting, I thought that the closing moments of Gotterdammerung were particularly weak, but I suppose it is all a matter of taste.
I am sure you did not intend to say that Siegmund was sung by John Botha, it was, as you know, Jonas Kaufmann.
In reply to an earlier post on 5 Oct 2012 16:15:12 BDT
J. Manger says:
Apologies! You are right, of course. What was I doing!!
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Mar 2013 01:14:42 GMT
dieter s. says:
He did not say this! He clearly stated that Sigmund was sung by Jonas Kaufmann. And it was a superb review.
In reply to an earlier post on 13 Mar 2013 18:09:48 GMT
The error concerning Kaufmann was corrected after my comment. I agree it is an excellent review
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