Monday 19 January 2009

Nibelungen Ring on DVD

Nine versions of the Nibelungen Ring are commercially available on DVD, of which eight (save the Weimar Ring) are as of now extensively reviewed on this site.

In chronological order (ranking by my personal preference in the parenthesis):

1. Bayreuth 1980: Chéreau/Boulez
The legendary "Centenary Ring" from 1976, commemorating the centennial of the world premiere of the Ring. Notable for Patrice Chéreau´s very vivid and detailed stage direction. Even after 30 years this Ring shows no sign of aging. (Ranked: 2)

A better Walküre Act 1 I have never seen (Peter Hoffmann and Jeannine Altmeyer):
2. Metropolitan Opera 1989-90: Schenk/LevineThe only "traditional" staging of the Ring available on DVD. Though most agree it is a rather dull affair, for those placing major emphasis on "stagings Richard Wagner would recognize", this is the set to get. (Ranked: 6)

Below, Matti Salminen in Hagen´s Watch. If the entire Tetralogy was like this, the ranking would be significantly higher than 6:
3. Bayreuth 1991: Kupfer/Barenboim
Daniel Barenboim´s first assumption of the Ring in Bayreuth. Notable for the superb orchestra playing and for Harry Kupfer´s detailed direction and very bleak view of the work. Also known as the "Laser Ring", main features are an endless road and laser projections. (Ranked: 1)

Below, the greatest execution of the greatest scene in all of opera, no less. (John Tomlinson and Birgitta Svendén, Siegfried Act III prelude and scene 1):
4. Amsterdam 1999: Audi/Haenchen
The Amsterdam Ring is notable for the almost ethereal beauty of the sets, where Audi has extended the stage to all sides of the orchestra, placing the players in the middle. Much, however, is musically disappointing. (Ranked: 5)

Audi´s epic spaces come fully to their right in Götterdämmerung:
5. Stuttgart 2002-3: Various/ZagrosekThe epitome of the Regietheater Ring, dividing the Tetralogy between four directors and different sets of singers for the first time in history. Essential viewing for those with an interest in ground-breaking music theater. (Ranked: 7)

The beginning of Peter Konwitschny´s Götterdämmerung (Luana DeVol is a rather fine Brünnhilde):
6. Barcelona 2003-4: Kupfer/de Billy
Harry Kupfer´s second Ring assumption after Bayreuth. First shown in Berlin in the 1990´s. Notable for Kupfer´s approach, which centers around the World Ash. Musically, however, it is more than disappointing.
(Ranked: 8, due to the musical quality. Judged by the staging alone it would be number 1).

Kupfer´s gleamingly beautiful Rheingold:
7. Copenhagen 2006: Bech Holten/Schønwandt
Known as the "Feminine Ring", feminine aspects are not really dominating this Copenhagen Ring production, apart from in interviews. On stage, we see a Ring taking us through the history of the last Century. The musical quality is furthermore high. (Ranked: 3-4)
Promotional video with clips from all four operas (don´t miss the controversial ending):

8. Valencia 2007-9: Fura del Baus/Mehta

A visually stunning Ring Cycle, directed by Catalan theater group Fura del Baus, relying heavily on video projections, while at the same time adhering to Richard Wagner´s stage directions. The intention was to "restore the mysticism" to Wagner and the result a spectacular Cycle looking like a mix of The Lord of The Rings, Star Wars and street theater. (Ranked 3-4).


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more about the fact (and it really is fact, not opinion) that the opening of Siegfried, Act 3 is just the height of perfection!

Bogda said...

I've seen all of these productions, but the Amsterdam Ring, and would basically agree with you on the rankings. Though, my list would probably have only one, but major distinction. I would change the places of Copenhagen and Stuttgart rings. Musically I believe Stuttgart ring is far better, with some nice orchestra and some fine to good singing. Conceptually and as Regietheater far more intriguing and interesting than the Copenhagen ring. Though I also find the Copenhagen ring to be quite a good one.

Anonymous said...

I've seen the Barenboim/Kupfer, the Barcelona and the Met Ring, and I must say that I totally agree with you. Now for my own list I would also add the Stockholm Ring, but that's because I've made my own DVDs of it when it was broadcast on Swedish tv. I'm very anxious to get my hands on the Copenhagen Ring though.

Anonymous said...

I'd be very curious, Mostly, to hear an elaboration on your favorite scenes and why they are so meaningful to you: Wotan-Erda, Wotan's Farewell, Alberich-Hagan, Ortrud-Telramund, etc. Perhaps you might even add one or two from Parsifal and Tristan. Maybe as a topic for a future post? It would be interesting to compare with my own as well as other readers.

Anonymous said...

Toshiba-EMI issued another Ring-DVDs, which are available in Japan only.

Sawalisch/Munich 1989. Produced by Lehnhoff. The Sound is the same with CDs issued by EMI.

mostly opera... said...

Ghandharva: NOT Wotans Farewell, and generally I have never been excessively fond of Walküre. My favourite Walküre section by far is Wotans monologue. From Siegfried you may add the Wanderer-Alberich confrontation.

From Parsifal it would have to be the "gesegnet sei" and "mittag" section from Act 3.

From Tristan, it would have to be Tristan´s Act 3 monologue, but only with Jon Vickers. I haven´t heard a truly smashing Tristan on stage, unfortunately, and more often than not, the act 3 is a walk in the desert. Otherwise, King Markes monologue. But NOT Isoldes liebestod.

Great idea with a future post on this..

Anonymous said...

How would the ring (metropolitan opera) from 2012 be ranked, anyone??

Blog Dude said...

I saw the 2012 Met Walkure on stage (not the performance on on video), and watched the others when broadcast. I haven't seen all of these others to compare, but I thought Walkure Act 1 was outstanding. Brunnhilde and Wotan were not among the best, though. The much-hyped machine set was mostly a distraction and disappointing when it was in motion, especially during the ride of the valkyries. It was fine as a moveable set, it made the scene transitions interesting, and it's a fine background for the excellent projections which were mostly textures from nature, which brought a much needed touch.

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