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Das Rheingold: Berliner Philharmoniker (Karajan) [DVD] 
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This 1978 studio production of the prologue to Wagner's masterpiece is the only segment of the famous Salzburg Festival/Metropolitan Opera productions, first seen in the 1960s, that made it to film. Based on one of those original productions, Georges Wakhevitch produced stage settings and transformations that supported Karajan's concept with every possible means. Herbert Von Karajan's staging is in the epic style of another age, emphasizing the dignity of the gods rather than their all too human failings. With the singers - foremost among them Peter Schreier - Karajan had an ensemble that fully conformed to his intentions.
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Top Customer Reviews
If it looks similar to the Met Opera production also available on DVD, this is because it was co-designed by the Gunther-Schneider Siemssen who directed the Met's production, but with Karajan's input this is the version to see rather than the stodgy, uninspired museum piece seen in New York. Thomas Stewart's Wotan and Peter Schreier's Loge dominate the work throughout. Indeed Shcreier is barely reognisable, with his shaved head and red outfit, capturing Loge's wily mannerisms and cunning to perfection, it's a powerhouse performance. Stewart too is on excellent form as Wotan, even if Karajan (who also directed the film incidetally) too often cuts to reaction shots - the fact that Stewart can muster quite a variety of reactions in close-up to the various events depicted is truly a testament to his acting ability as well as his singing! In smaller roles, Brigitte Fassbender is an acceptable if unmemorable Fricka and Jeanine Altmeyer a stunning Freya, beautfiul to look at and singing with the right touch of terror and sympathy when confronted by the lumberig giants.Read more ›
The positives first. Orchestrally and vocally this is an unsurpassed RHEINGOLD. Karajan's 1968 DG recording is often acclaimed for its color and fantasy, but it features three pieces of much-criticized casting: Fischer-Dieskau's underpowered Wotan, Manglesdorff's squally Freia, and Stolze's rasping character tenor as Loge. This DVD replaces them with Stewart, Altmeyer, and Schreier, all distinct improvements. The enclosed booklet claims that the film's soundtrack was recorded in Salzburg's Grosses Festspielhaus during the 1973 Easter Festival. But it wasn't taped during a performance or even a dress run: there are no audience noises, no stage thumpings, and the singers don't budge from their microphones. Just like the earlier DG set, this is clearly a studio effort -- and since its producer and head engineer are the same individuals who generated Karajan's EMI opera recordings, one wonders if the UK firm considered releasing it audio-only.
In any case Stewart is in bronzen voice here, a little tight at the bottom but with top notes that soar over the orchestra with an exciting spin and gleam -- he makes the best recorded case for a dramatic baritone rather than a high bass in this role, and he etches the text with imagination: his Wotan is imperious, temperamental, smugly amused, and in the end deeply shaken by Fasolt's murder.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The giants are superbly sung, with Karl Ridderbusch the most velvet-toned of Fasolts . . . Birgit Finnilä is an imposing . . . Erda . . . Read morePublished 20 months ago by MR LINKS
This is really good, this was panned on its release, yet this will only surely be for the visuals which admittedly may not be to everyone's tastes. Read morePublished on 23 Oct. 2010 by Milkshock
I bought this out of curiosity. It makes a nice period piece, but I wouldn't watch it again.
According to the booklet this had a bizarre gestation. Read more
First, a word of warning: As I write this Amazon show the DVD as being in PAL format, but it's actually NTSC, so make sure your system is compatible. Read morePublished on 24 Mar. 2010 by Cheshire Gent
I have seen Ring live at the Met but I really do prefer this DVD to the live performances. Wagner's operas are very intimate - they are in my view, films for the stage. Read morePublished on 24 Nov. 2009 by Amazon Customer
This is a studio production - not a televised stage performance. Well, actually it's a mixture of filmed and staged sections. Read morePublished on 31 Jan. 2009 by Doug Urquhart