Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Dohmen, Lukas, Bieber|
Richard Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen
Wagner's epic four-opera cycle is a work of extraordinary scale - a full performance takes place over four nights with a total playing time of approximately 15 hours. Based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas, it is... more »
Wagner's epic four-opera cycle is a work of extraordinary scale - a full performance takes place over four nights with a total playing time of approximately 15 hours. Based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas, it is a work that follows the struggles of gods, heroes, mythical creatures, and the eponymous magical Ring that grants dominion over the entire world. The music is richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds - Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments invented especially for the work. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus was constructed for this work to be performed in, with a specially designed stage that allows singers voices to blend with the huge orchestra without straining - essential for such long performances.
Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival in 2008, this production stars a host of international stars including Michelle Breedt, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Hans-Peter Konig, Linda Watson & Eva-Maria Westbroek. Christian Thielemann, one of the most sought-after conductors in the world, takes the baton with the Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra.
This 14-disc CD box set marks the first ever Opus Arte CD release, and the start of an exciting new direction for the company.
Not without its flaws... but overall a success!
Jukeboxtheater | Georgia | 12/05/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"We may as well make peace with the fact that the "Silver Age" for Wagner singers which occurred in the 1950's and 1960's is long gone, let alone the even earlier "Golden Age" represented by Flagstad and Melchior. Every subsequent Ring recording since the 1960's has been burdened with casting flaws, and unfortunately this recording is no exception. The question remains whether the casting flaws are of such severity that they effectively gainsay the merits of a particular recording, as was the case in the Barenboim/Bayreuth ring cycle.
Let's start with arguably the biggest casting weakness in this recording. Linda Watson has neither the notes nor the stamina for the role of Brunnhilde. Her voice is burdened with an unpleasant wobble and an uncomfortably wide vibrato. She also can be pitchy at times. She's not a disaster, but I much prefer Anne Evans in the Barenboim recording.
Next, Albert Dohmen gives a kind of Jeckyll/Hyde performance as Wotan. At times, such as in Wotan's Farewell, he can be quite moving and effective. Unfortunately, he tends to lose steam during the difficult passages such as in the confrontation with Erda (Siegfried) and can sound taxed. Basically, Dohmen possesses a light voice which, though adequate for the role, is not particularly memorable.
Despite these two questionable casting choices, I'm happy to report that the remainder of the cast range from more than acceptable to very good indeed. Special mention must be made of Stephen Gould as Siegfried. This may be the most satisfying portrayal of Wagner's hero I've heard since Windgassen! In fact, Gould's voice has an almost Windgassen-like timbre, but Gould is far more pleasant to listen to. No, he doesn't quite possess the great heldentenor's effortless range or zen-like understanding of the role, but he sings heroically in an appealing, youthful voice and (more importantly) has the necessary stamina.
Even more impressive is Eva-Maria Westbroek's moving performance as Siegliende and Endrik Wottrich's powerful, yet lyrical Siegmund. I enjoyed them even more than my previous favorites, James King and Leonie Rysanek on the Bohm recording. And judging by the Bayreuth audience's thunderous applause at the end of Die Walkure Act I (applause is included at the end of each act in this recording... a dubious decision), I'm not the only one who thought so!
Just a quick comparison with the other modern Bayreuth cycle, Barenboim from the early 90's. Barenboim has the (arguably) better Wotan in John Tomlinson and a much better Brunnhilde (Anne Evans). Thielemann has the superior Siegfried (never was a big fan of Jerusalem) and a night and day better Sieglinde and Siegmund. Then there's Hans-Peter Konig's show-stealing performances as Fafner and Hagen, among the best since the Silver Age. Kang for Barenboim is merely adequate. Other cast members again either strongly favor Thielemann or it's a toss-up. Overall, the nod has to go to Thielemann.
What of Thielemann's conducting? I have to admit this took some getting used to. Most unusual is Thielemann's bizarre ritards, the likes of which probably haven't been heard in Bayreuth since Knappertsbusch. But even Knappertsbusch wasn't this severe, the music at times seeming to come to a complete standstill (check out the Forging scene in Siegfried). But after repeated hearings, one tends to adjust to the tempo changes and they come to sound almost natural. Apart from this eccentricity, Thielemann conducts the music with a sure hand and possesses the ability to bring out seldom heard details in the score (undoubtedly helped out by the recording). Overall, I'd give the maestro a B+ for his effort, but I prefer Barenboim in this music.
The recording itself, like most modern recordings, is excellent. The only flaw is that the imaging can sometimes be erratic. At times the actors voices are apparently picked up by the far mike so it sounds like they've briefly teleported to the other side of the stage. (At first I thought that this was simply the actors moving about the stage, but later came to realize that the location changes were too abrupt for anything but Olympic sprinting.) But all in all, the recording presents a crystal clear window on the proceedings, and the Bayreuth acoustic is once again proven to be the only 100% correct one for staging the Ring.
Summing up, no modern Ring cycle is going to be perfect. The Thielemann Ring is never going to be judged one of the great ring cycles of all time. However, compared to all the other recent cycles I've heard (particularly the Barenboim recording), it must be judged a success. Your mileage may vary...
C. Tutton | Melbourne, Australia | 11/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Reviewing a ring cycle is always a slightly comical task because they're such immense undertakings and, forsooth, it takes a long time to soak up and analyse the great expanses - longer than almost any reviewer actually spends before reviewing; this is especially the case with new recordings.
I have several cycles, I have two Levines, which are saggy but pretty, a Boulez, a Barenboim, a Keilberth, and this. I've also heard many others.
So I'll give a basic impression for all the kids to read and take in their stride.
The first thing which struck me about this Thielemann cycle, which is recorded live (with an audience, unlike Barenboim's), was "jeez, the singing's pretty awful". I went to the old tester spots: Alberich burgles the Rhine, Donner's hammer, the flamin' rock, Siegfried meets a bird, Brünnhilde deals some scorn on the boys, and the nuclear strike at the end. The most positive thing was the conducting, which seemed to be a beautiful mix of Bayreuth bombastics and HvK's beautiful sound.
Having listened to the set much more over the past few weeks I've come to think this: The singers are generally weak and ugly (voice-wise), but they sing very beautifully in a dramatic and textual sense. I'm sure Thielemann is aware that he ain't got Hotter, Nilsson, or any other of the 1950s prime singers, but it seems that the people he HAS got have been well clued up in how to sing the Ring with gusto and meaning, despite their physical limitations. Once you get used to the different sound this cast makes as a whole, you stop hearing its shortcomings. You then begin to hear the beautiful flow of dramatic story telling and musical development which unravels over the four `evenings'.
Thielemann's conducting now sounds to me not just apt and comfortable (Barenboim's ring sounds a little pretentious to me, like a mocked-up `Furtwängler meets vintage Bayreuth Toot `n' Clash'), but also ingeniously paced and expressed (on a larger scale, rather than from second-to-second).
This is, probably at least for now, how Wagner is going to sound in Bayreuth -- not bad, just pragmatically interpreted.
Once you get used to it, this is a brilliant ring cycle, exquisitely conducted and with a high dramatic element in place of substantial voicing. I already place it alongside my Keilberth (with its screwy Rheingold) as my reference ring. I don't listen to the others much anymore; this one in effect replaces Barenboim's (being digital), which always seemed to me a little contrived and unnatural in terms of conducting - it seemed purposefully `correct'.
I think this cycle will, in the long term, grow in popularity, but it may be badly reviewed in the press. Buy it if you have the guts."
Some Shortfalls, Naturally, But Thielemann Tips the Scale!
Gregory E. Foster | Portland, ME, USA | 04/14/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As my reviews usually run on and on, I will try to make this one very short, sort of "black and white" versus my lengthy (Wagner-like) Sturm and Drang!
1. We are in generally sad times for Wagner today, due to a really sad short fall of singers who can navigate the parts written for them, and we know this, coming to this or any new recording.
2. Further, as we all know, with the mobility today of singers, there are many places where they can go to and sing for more money than the old traditional houses can afford to pay them...there no longer exists the "loyalty" and "honor" displayed in earlier days when accomplished singers would not think of not gracing Bayreuth's "Boards" with their presence, for the good of "Art"...it was a given...Nilsson, Windgassen, Konya, Grummer, Varnay...they simply would not disappoint the masses who gathered there every summer...it was unthinkable. Thus, even Bayreuth feels the sad pinch of accomplished singers willing to appear there.
3. So, we come to this recorded document of the Ring presented in 2008 at Bayreuth, with Christian Thielemann at the helm....
The man is a true genious, certainly nobody would doubt that. He is most assuredly the brightest star on the horizon, actually he is no longer on the horizon, but is streaking upward to becoming perhaps the first great German conductor of the new millennium. Everything this man touches becomes brilliant, shining like new again, whether it be a work of Strauss or of Wagner, he seems to be a great visionary...a great renewer, and we must be thankful for that, surely.
That said, the state of the singers is not the same story. We have a certainly somewhat uneven cast here, the saddest parts being the Wotan and Brunnhilde, sort of letting the sides down on this monumental work. However, I find on repeated listening that things are really not nearly as bad as one's first impression would lead them to think....remember, we are listening to this set with thoughts/memories of Nilsson, Windgassen, London, Hotter, etc., in our minds, always in sight, and we seem to ceaselessly always compare to them. In truth, these artists represented are singing and doing their jobs under conditions far different than those singers of the recent past. Today we have UGLY productions, Nasty Designs pervade the world that they populate and inhabit on the stage, and I for one refuse to believe that this does not have an effect on what a person's interpretation of a role may be. Plus, the sheer magnitude of maneuvering through something as difficult as Wagner's great multi-part work with today's ideas or "insights" certainly do not have the coherency of past generations. Luckily, on CD we do not have to be subjected to the visuals of productions.
On an overall standpoint, I would suggest reading other reviews here and elsewhere, and if you can, perhaps, listen to pieces from this set.
It is certain that Thielemann "has it" thumbs-down with this recording...you will not hear a better conducted or more beautiful sounding Ring. The singing certainly has its shortfalls, but truthfully, over all, this is still a darned good ring and it has its place in any staunch Wagnerian's collection.