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Wagner: Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, Rienzi Box set, Limited Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Wolfgang Sawallisch
  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Audio CD (3 Jun. 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 9
  • Format: Box set, Limited Edition
  • Label: Orfeo
  • ASIN: B00CP57CZO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 353,442 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Product Description

Product Description

In this year of his 200th birthday, Richard Wagner s three early operas are enjoying unusual prominence: several staged productions of 'Das Liebesverbot' are planned, while his breakthrough work 'Rienzi' and even his first opera, 'Die Feen', are to be spotted (although the latter is usually given in concert performance). However, to this day it is a rare thing to find all three played at the same opera house, in the same season, under the same conductor as was the case at the Bavarian State Opera in 1983 under Wolfgang Sawallisch. Sawallisch, who passed away just a few weeks ago, was the Director of the State Opera for many years. In all three of these operas he confirmed his Wagnerian reputation as a supreme proponent of a marvellous, fluid style of music-making that was devoid of pathos. This was to the benefit of his ensemble of singers, who were largely spared the dangers of a heavy, cumbersome Wagner performance style, even though several of their roles undoubtedly demanded great dramatic ability. This requirement was fully met by Linda Esther Gray as Ada in 'Die Feen' and by Sabine Hass as Isabella in 'Das Liebesverbot', for example. With René Kollo as the title hero in 'Rienzi' and Hermann Prey as the governor Friedrich in 'Das Liebesverbot', these operas featured German singing stars of the day who both had a lyrical approach to Wagner and to whom great clarity of text was paramount. Arindal in 'Die Feen', the other murderous tenor role that is to be found in Wagner s 'sins of youth', was sung by John Alexander, who established his international career primarily in Italian repertoire. This was also the case with June Anderson, who sings the role of Arindal s sister, Lora. Both in 'Die Feen' and in 'Rienzi', the 'younger' generation of Cheryl Studer and Jan-Hendrik Rootering made a lasting mark, and, in the State Opera ensemble under Sawallisch s direction they were inexorably led towards future stardom. This new CD box from ORFEO, in which these operas, hitherto released individually, are now available in a limited special edition. This is more than just a contribution to the Wagner year; it is a homage to an era of opera in Munich.

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These three performances - "Die Feen" in concert, the subsequent two fully staged - have previously been available separately and have now been re-mastered to form a commemorative 9 CD box set. They all date from midsummer 1983 which was of course the bicentenary of Wagner's death. Sawallisch proves to be an ideal conductor, the Bayerischen Rundfunks plays flawlessly and the sound is excellent. They offer the fullest versions of all three scores ever likely to be available, insofar as Sawallisch gives us an abridged but still sizeable edition of "Das Liebesverbot" running to over two and a half hours and a judiciously cut four-hour version of "Rienzi". I cannot get as excited as some commentators about what has been omitted; I suspect that Sawallisch has retained everything worth hearing in both operas and that the original, six-hour "Rienzi" which ran over into two evenings and is now indubitably lost, would prove to be a bloated beast. (For a fuller account of its performance history of "Rienzi" and Sawallisch's choices here, I refer the reader to fellow-reviewer Stewart Crowe's excellent review under the separate Orfeo issue.)

For all its interest, I'm not sure I would have been inclined to purchase this at the current asking price; I rather obtained mine for considerably less on eBay. I am in no doubt that for all his regrettable moral deficiencies Wagner was an incomparable musical genius but he had to learn his craft and there is ample evidence here to explain why these youthful works are not included in the "Bayreuth Ten". perhaps it tells its own story if I remark that I would have reviewed this set sooner had I not kept dropping off every time I started playing the discs.
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Wagner's first three operas - Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, and Rienzi - have been forgotten by the public and most record companies.
This is especially surprising in the case of Rienzi - Wagner's most popular opera during his lifetime.

Adolf Hitler may have inadvertently killed Rienzi when word got out that it was his favorite opera.
This seems unfair:
After the war, his valet reported that Hitler's favorite movie was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
yet Snow White seems to have survived unscathed.

Three conductors have recorded the mini-cycle of three early operas:

- 1976: Edward Downes, BBC - This is the most complete, and includes German libretti and English translations. *

- 1983: Wolfgang Sawallisch, Munich Opera - The box under review. This is abridged, and omits the text and translations, but it has the best singers. **

- 2011-2014: Sebastian Weigle, Frankfurt Opera - This is the least complete, omits the text and translations, and doesn't have the best singers. Not Progress.

Since these operas are such rarities, I can only recommend recordings that are both complete and come with a libretto and English translation.
Curiously enough, the oldest recording (Downes, 1976) is the only one to meet these minimum requirements.
Since then, the operas have gotten progressively shorter.
I sometime think I am the only person who cares about this.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x93b278f4) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x936fa180) out of 5 stars Wagner's Overlooked First Three Operas 31 May 2014
By John Fowler the Obsessive Compulsive Reviewer - Published on Amazon.com
Wagner's first three operas - Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot, and Rienzi - have been forgotten by the public and most record companies.
This is especially surprising in the case of Rienzi - Wagner's most popular opera during his lifetime.

Adolf Hitler may have inadvertently killed Rienzi when word got out that it was his favorite opera.
This seems unfair:
After the war, his valet reported that Hitler's favorite movie was "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"
yet Snow White seems to have survived unscathed.

Three conductors have recorded the mini-cycle of three early operas:

- 1976: Edward Downes, BBC - This is the most complete, and includes German libretti and English translations. *

- 1983: Wolfgang Sawallisch, Munich Opera - The box under review. This is abridged, and omits the text and translations, but it has the best singers. **

- 2011-2014: Sebastian Weigle, Frankfurt Opera - This is the least complete, omits the text and translations, and doesn't have the best singers. Not Progress.

Since these operas are such rarities, I can only recommend recordings that are both complete and come with a libretto and English translation.
Curiously enough, the oldest recording (Downes, 1976) is the only one to meet these minimum requirements.
Since then, the operas have gotten progressively shorter.
I sometime think I am the only person who cares about this.

"Die Feen"
3 hours, 20 minutes = Downes 1976
2 hours, 46 minutes = Sawallisch 1983
2 hours, 53 minutes = Weigle 2011

"Das Liebesverbot"
3 hours, 02 minutes = Downes 1976
2 hours, 35 minutes = Sawallisch 1983
2 hours, 29 minutes = Weigle 2012

"Rienzi"
4 hours, 40 minutes = Downes 1976
3 hours, 17 minutes = Sawallisch 1983
2 hours, 36 minutes = Weigle 2014

* Edward Downes was first broadcast on the BBC in 1976.
"Die Feen" and "Das Liebesverbot" received their first official CD release in 2012: Wagner Complete Operas - Thirteen operas on 43 CDs at a ridiculously low price.
The German libretti and English translations are downloadable at Universal's website (instructions and password are in the booklet).
- But instead of the Downes/BBC Rienzi, this box includes the Hollreiser/EMI Rienzi, the second-longest recording (3 hours, 38 minutes).
Boo!
Let's hope the BBC is planning an independent release of the Downes/BBC Rienzi, the most complete Rienzi to date.
In the meantime, it's available as a download (6 euros) on
opera-club.net
Unfortunately no libretto or translation included.

** The original 1987 CD issue of Sawallisch's "Die Feen" included the libretto and translation, but his "Liebesverbot" and "Rienzi" omitted this vital information, as does the three opera box under review.

P.S. I have prepared detailed discographies of Wagner's early operas: Die Feen , Wagner: Liebesverbot [Michael Nagy, Charles Reid, Franz Meyer] [Oehms Classics: OC942] , and Wagner: Rienzi
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x928704e0) out of 5 stars More for the Wagner completist but containing many incidental beauties 27 Oct. 2013
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
These three performances - "Die Feen" in concert, the subsequent two fully staged - have previously been available separately and have now been re-mastered to form a commemorative 9 CD box set. They all date from midsummer 1983 which was of course the bicentenary of Wagner's death. Sawallisch proves to be an ideal conductor, the Bayerischen Rundfunks plays flawlessly and the sound is excellent. They offer the fullest versions of all three scores ever likely to be available, insofar as Sawallisch gives us an abridged but still sizeable edition of "Das Liebesverbot" running to over two and a half hours and a judiciously cut four-hour version of "Rienzi". I cannot get as excited as some commentators about what has been omitted; I suspect that Sawallisch has retained everything worth hearing in both operas and that the original, six-hour "Rienzi" which ran over into two evenings and is now indubitably lost, would prove to be a bloated beast. (For a fuller account of its performance history of "Rienzi" and Sawallisch's choices here, I refer the reader to fellow-reviewer Stewart Crowe's excellent review under the separate Orfeo issue.)

For all its interest, I'm not sure I would have been inclined to purchase this at the current asking price; I rather obtained mine for considerably less on eBay. I am in no doubt that for all his regrettable moral deficiencies Wagner was an incomparable musical genius but he had to learn his craft and there is ample evidence here to explain why these youthful works are not included in the "Bayreuth Ten". perhaps it tells its own story if I remark that I would have reviewed this set sooner had I not kept dropping off every time I started playing the discs. Mr Crowe finds more to enthuse about in "Rienzi" than do I but as a canary-fancier, I find the most exciting things here to be the performances of sopranos Linda Esther Gray and Cheryl Studer: both are superb, yet they have very different voices.

It is one of the great might-have-beens had Gray been able to continue with her career but just what she left us is remarkable; indeed her Act 1 Cavatina and the extended aria in Act 2, "Weh mir" are easily the most arresting of the highlights in "Die Feen". She had the most extraordinary power and intensity and the kind of vibrancy possessed only by the greatest Italian dramatico-spinto sopranos. She takes thrilling risks and never falls off her high-wire; you can hear how the audience respond to her attack and vehemence.

Studer is all silvery purity and brilliance; quite the best singer in pure vocal terms and touchingly vulnerable as Rienzi's devoted sister, Irene.

Both sopranos are ably supported by two strong-voiced tenors in John Alexander, best known for his recording of "Norma" with Sutherland and Robert Schunk, who eventually sang Siegmund for Sawallisch. Hermann Prey is excellent as Friedrich (the equivalent of Angelo in "Measure for Measure", upon which the libretto is based) and it is good to hear Bavarian regular Sabine Haas before her vibrato loosened and, sadly, cancer cruelly shortened her life.

Otherwise, musically neither "Die Feen" nor "Das Liebesverbot" has so much to offer; the overweening musical influence of Weber - especially "Oberon" - and the thematic and structural model of Marschner are much in evidence but not a great deal is memorable. The overture to the latter is somewhat prescient of "Die Meistersinger" and the opening scene, with its percussion employed to convey a riotous carnival mood, is arresting, but melodies tend to meander or peter out; it is a relief to turn to the noble overture to "Rienzi" and instantly recognise the melodic gift and authentic voice of the mature Wagner. Kollo as Rienzi is in good, clear voice but has an annoying tic of scooping up to notes while the option of casting a baritone rather than a mezzo as Adriano works musically but although he has a good legato and sound musical instincts, John Janssen's voice is dry and, as the Italians complain, "ingolata".

So there is much here of interest and as a group these operas form a fitting tribute to a great, recently deceased conductor who left a remarkable recording legacy. Nor will you find these works more conveniently packaged or in better sound. There are no librettos - only synopses - but you can download that for "Das Liebesverbot", in German only, if you search online.
HASH(0x936f9f78) out of 5 stars I just completed the mini-cycle. One comment on Rienzi ... 5 Sept. 2015
By ya zhang - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I just completed the mini-cycle.
One comment on Rienzi . In original Wagner production, Adriano should be a mezzo-soprano. It was played by Janis Martin, a mezzo-soprano/ soprano in the Hollreiser’s Rienzi with der Staatsoper Dresden.
Interestedly, this production by Sawallisch, Adriano was played by John Janssen, a baritone.
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