Friday, 13 April 2012


Rienzi. DVD. 2009. Deutsche Oper Berlin. Production: Stölzl. Conductor: Sebastian Lang-Lessing. Cast: Torsten Kerl (Rienzi), Camilla Nylund (Irene), Kate Aldrich (Adriano)

A stunning production of a less than stunning work, one might say. Even Richard Wagner himself saw Rienzi as a youthful experiment, not worthy of performing in Bayreuth. And he was right of course. While many elements in both the libretto and music points forward, especially to Lohengrin, the history of the rise and fall of the Roman Tribune Rienzi in itself is just a bit too disorganized, dramatically as well as musically.

This Deutsche Oper production by Philipp Stölzl is even more stunning than his staging of Benvenuto Cellini some years ago in Salzburg.

By pseudo-historic video footage in the style of Riefenstahl´s propaganda films, Stölzl has created the universal dictator – however with an abundance of references to Adolf Hitler, to begin with the ouverture where we see the general Rienzi with imperialistic attitude surveying the mountains in a setting close to Berghof and ending with Rienzi´s downfall in a subterranean bunker.  The white angular R seen on helmets, banners and clothes of course represents Rienzi . With an ever so slight irony seen throughout the production as well: They did not use real historic footage, but rather stylish caricatures.

But what a streamlined production and what a good decision of the production team to shorten the opera to a little more than 2 hours (unabridged it would have been Wagner´s longest opera).

Torsten Kerl´s interpretation of Rienzi is almost uncanny and very believable and Camilla Nylund is becoming more and more mature voiced as the “heidi”–type sister Irene, with clear incestuous references. In contrast Kate Aldrich is a youthful and well-sung, though not large-voiced Adriano, in a trouser role not common for Richard Wagner.

I cannot imagine a better production of this opera.

The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):

Torsten Kerl: 4
Camilla Nylund: 4
Kate Aldrich: 4

Lang-Lessing: 4

Philipp Stölzl: 5

Overall impression: 5

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