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Das Rheingold [Blu-ray]
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The La Scala Rheingold in May 2010 inaugurated Guy Cassiers Ring- Cycle and introduces a completely new paradigm to this work. While before him Patrice Chéreau had laid his focus on a historical analysis from 1870 to 1930 Germany, Guy Cassiers Ring unfolds from our own present-day moment; it [takes] place in the now , the Jetztzeit (Walter Benjamin), placing our present and our future into the context of the promises and curses that we have inherited from history ... The Cassiers Ring shows how the globalized moment of 2010 continues to build on the Wagnerian vocabularies of 1870. (Michael Steinberg) Cast with a number of opera stars like René Pape, Stephan Rügamer, Johannes Martin Kränzle or Anna Larsson and conducted by Daniel Barenboim, this Rheingold is bound to put the audience under its spell.
There was no single point in the performance lacking tension, and Barenboim was able to guide the orchestra through subtle atmospheres, poetic nuances and evocative moments. (Musical Criticism)
The result is an unforgettable triumph which left the Milanese audience awestruck. (The Wall Street Journal)
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Du côté des chanteurs, on a connu des Wotan plus impressionnants que celui de René Pape, mais la voix est superbe, et si le metteur en scène (Guy Cassiers) lui impose un immobilisme presque permanent, c'est sans doute pour ne pas déstabiliser son couple, car Fricka (Doris Soffel) reste la grande bourgeoise en robe de soirée, magnifique et absente de toute démonstration dramatique. L'apparition d'Erda (Anna Larsson) émergeant du sol et s'élevant au-dessus des Dieux, est d'une grande beauté comme devaient être toutes les Pythies de l'Antiquité.Lire la suite ›
Après la somptueuse réussite de la Fura dels baus sous la direction de Mehta ( 2008-2009) à Valencia : celle plus discutée de Robert Lepage (2010-2011) dirigée par James Levine et Fabio Luisi au Met, voici le Ring de la Scala mis en scène par Guy Cassiers et dirigé par Daniel Barenboim.
Sont disponibles l'Or du Rhin, Die Walküre, la diffusion de Siegfried est prévue chez amazon.co.uk pour le 6 janvier 2014.
PROLOGUE: L'OR DU RHIN
Après les remarquables réalisations citées plus haut, réussites imposant d'ailleurs des approches très diverses ; je ne cache pas une certaine déception concernant l'entreprise de la Scala.
LA MISE EN SCÈNE :
La mise en scène de Guy Cassiers est certainement responsable de ce relatif manque d'intérêt.
La scénographe n'arrive pas à trouver sa voie. A aucun moment il impose une vision de l'œuvre : quelques ingrédients classiques, une pointe de modernisme (les projections devenues maintenant un poncif outrageusement exploité).
La scène de la Scala, pourtant profonde est coupée par un mur qui sert d'écran à ces projections qui dans l'excellent petit livret fourni avec le Blue ray sont présentées comme « une projection de notre propre vie intérieure sur l'œuvre » Ambitieux n'est ce pas ? Mais totalement subjectif.
La gestuelle des chanteurs est inexistante, remplacée par la chorégraphie de danseurs sensés réfléchir la psychologie des personnages.Lire la suite ›
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According to Steinberg in this Rheingold booklet,the mythic value of the Rhine,is the world before language and before meaning. The transition to the human world happens abruptly with the entrance of the first Rhine maiden,and the disruption comes as a shock. Something has been lost:the state of nature;the world before time. It is as if we had been given a momentary re-entry into a biological Eden,into our own infancy. We only understand this when it is over,and we understand this through the melancholy of loss which informs all earthly reality. What kind of human world are we in after Alberich's theft of the gold? The ring then examines three patterns of Human desire;lust,love;power;knowledge.However,Lee states" Original sinners of myth are ambivalent figures. Their primal offenses bring evil into the world but have ultimately positive effects. The wrestling of consciousness from Nature is associated with guilt,but the step had to be taken if the human race was to break with mothering Nature,keeping it unaware. The stage director and set designer Guy Cassiers views on Rhinegold and the Ring,require a lengthy explanation,so I will write the review first. I do own 10 Bluray and DVD rings,as well as Bohm,Solti,Keilberth 1955 Ring,also,the first ever recorded 1926-1932,cond Blech and Coates-Gala Vol 1&2. So I can state this Rhinegold could suit the traditionalists.
The staging is not over complicated. The Rhinemaidens have water beneath their feet and in the background. The next scene is a green rocky place. The underground is grey and red. Above ground there is a moon over the darken background,with what I think is Valhalla. When Erda comes into the scene,she stands tall above everyone else behind a dark Ultramarine background. Just before the Gods go into their new home,there is a blurred background of naked bodies. This could represent Valhalla created by the bodies of the dancers. The costumes are circa 1876(premiere of the Ring)or 1850,should be 1851 when Wagner started writing the Ring. Long skirts etc. Only Wotan wears a type of suit. There are dancers at various stages of the performances from the Eastman ballet company,Antwerp. For example,when Alberich becomes a snake and a frog,the dancers cover him and attempt to become these reptiles. The giants are represented by huge shadows,holding a shadow of Freia.Yet the singers taking the role of Fasolt and Fafner,are the usual size,and wear black suits. The Teatro alla Scala is conducted by Daniel Barenboim,who brings out the lyrical side of Rhinegold. His tempo's are quick and the music seems to flow and float. Barenboim's insight is far greater then it was in the Bayreuth Ring DVD he conducted years ago. Having an Italianite sound makes a difference.
The singers are all good and actually sing their roles;must be the Italian influence. Rene Pape is an excellent Wotan,who has a distinctive lyrical voice. Fricka-Doris Stoffel is one of the best mezzo's around and is up there with the Fricka of Randi Stene of the Copenhagen Ring cycle. I must make special mention of Loge Stephan Rugamer who makes much of the part with his beautiful tenor voice.Donner Jan Buckwald and Froh Marco Jentzsch are also very good. The Rhinemaidens are exceptional. Mime Wolfgang Sperrhacke makes much of his role. The outstanding Johannes Martin Kranzle is Alberich. He was Beckmesser in Glyndebourne's Meistersingers by Wagner. Fasolt Kwangchul Youn was Hunding in Thielemann's Bayreuth's Die walkure. Fafner Timo Rihonen. Erda Anna Larsson has become a contralto and her voice suits the role.She was Fricka in the Valencia Ring. Freia Anna Samull has a great future ahead of her. There is not a weak link in the various roles. The HD sound is fine. I heard Das Rhinegold through earphones and without them. I could hear all the instruments in the orchestra and the voices perfectly. If you do not take much notice of the ideas behind Cassiers staging,you will enjoy his Rhinegold and the rest of the Ring cycle;it looks good.
Recorded 26th May 2010. PCM Stereo-dts-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles:English.French,Spanish,Italian,Korean.16.9. Region: Worldwide. 1080i.
Wagner wrote the Ring's libretto backwards from Siegfrieds Tod,first written in 1848,becoming Gotterdammerung.The music was written forwards,starting with Das Rhinegold. In 1851 he decided to turn Siegfrieds Tod,into four dramas called the Ring of the Nibelungen. For he had read German,Scandinavian and Greek myths. But the idea of a four part cycle came from the ancient Greek festival of Dionysus at Athens. The related cycles of festival drama were borrowed from Aeschylus. The blending of politics and myth: the interplay of Gods and humans he owed to Prometheus bound. Wagner adopted the technique of STABREIM(the linking of words and lines by aliteration instead of end rhyme) as a new way of writing the texts of the opera's.Modern speech was not suitable for mythic drama he thought. Also,Wagner wrote that music cannot think-but she can materialize thoughts.So he created a system of musical motifs that both unify the drama and is capable of foreboding an emotion not yet defined in words(leitmotif's). Though in Opera and Drama,he writes that the poet dictates to the musican,however,apart from Das Rhinegold,he totally ignored the practice,music,came first;especially after reading Schopenhauer in 1854.
But the German philosopher who most influenced Wagner in the writing of the Ring was Feuerbach,who wrote that Man created the idea of God,and that we have given him all the virtues we would like to have;perfect,eternal,almighty. He did think that instead of love of God we should love Man. For Feuerbach it was the I-you relationship,for without it we do not develop any social responsiblity.Religion he thought told us about ourselves. Under this influence Wagner celebrated the fearless life enhancing ethos of Greek culture in the Ring. Here Guy Cassiers the stage director,made a mistake"the ring explores human desire,or rather human will,to use the Schopenhaurian word to which Wagner and his texts seemed ever more susceptible". The libretto was written in 1851-52 when he was under the influence of Feuerbach. Wagner only came across Schopenhauer in 1854 when he was writing the music for Die walkure. Then he thought his views were the same as the German philosophers without knowing it. He only attempted to change the ending of Gotterdammerung when he wrote the music for it,and found he could not. Instead he used a beautiful theme from Act 2 of Die walkure. However,Wagner stopped at Act 2 Siegfried,and wrote Tristan and Isolde-a true Schopenhauer work,along with the Meistersingers,to enable him to complete the Feuerbach ring.
Schopenhauer wrote that the world is evil,therefore it is bettter not to be born,but do not commit suicide,as that only makes it worse. He stated,one should be like the mystics,ignore life;take no part in it. He felt the will as he called it,was unknowable,and the world was a physical manifestation of this. When we die we all become One. Music he felt was uplifting and nearest to the unknowable. So after Wagner read this,music became more important then the poetry from Die Walkure onwards.
"Myth is timeless and is inexhaustible" wrote Wagner. but Cassiers states" Myth must have history,or else it avoids history's specific traumas and crimes". "Chereau showed the way forward in 1976 with his Ring,recasting the Ring from 1870-1930 at the moment of the Unification of Germany to the Weimar crisis and the rise of Nazism".However,Chereau based his ideas on Shaws view on the subject,'The perfect Wagnerite, where he wrote that the ring is about the evils of capitalism. Wagner started out with that in mind,but changed and saw it more about Man and his inner world. For the director of Rhinegold,states that his Ring unfolds from the present day global moment,placing our present and our future in the context of the promises we have inherited from history. So the audience will interpret what they see and project it back on to the Ring,depending on how we view Wagner and his Ring. Thus,we are influenced by the past,but interpret the now through this prism. Greed is here today and the artifical creation of desire in this world created by visual stimulation,like advertising. But there is hope. Maybe,through the experience of the ring we will view our faults,and see ourselves as we are. I think Cassiers has missed the point. Myth is not about history,it is about our inner life. Symbols of Myths help us to get underneath the subconscious barriers we put up and get to that quiet essence of existence.
REFERENCES: Batta,A.(Ed) Opera.2005.Konemann. Donington R. Wagner's Ring and his symbols.1976. Faber and Faber. Holden,A.(Ed). The Penguin guide.1995.Viking. Lee,M. Turning the sky around.1994. Limelight productions. New York. Millington,B. Wagner the sorcerer of Bayreuth.2012. Thames and Hudson.Steinberg,M. A Ring for the 21st Century-Das Rheingold.Booklet.Arthaus musik. Watson,D. Richard Wagner. A biography.1979. J M Dent and Sons.
I don't know what Wagner would have made of ballet being incorporated into Das Rheingold, but choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's work does help to draw out those deeper premonitory resonances within the work. In addition to the fine performance of the work on the surface level of the stage direction and the singing, the greater significance of what is being played out here is projected in abstract shimmering colours, textures and shadows on the background and in the movements of the dancers. On a straightforward level that means that there are giant-sized shadow counterparts for the giants Fasolt and Fafner, while the dancers meld together to form the Tarnhelm and its transformations, but the use of lighting, colours and abstract shimmering projections of water, rocks and gold also manage to convey a brooding mythological quality to the locations with premonitions of the dark consequences to the epic events that are about to unfold.
I wasn't sure that Johannes Martin Kränzle benevolent slightly comical appearance could carry off Alberich, even with the disturbing disfigurement of a "permanent smile" scar at the edges of his mouth, but he sings the role well and also manages to convey the right impression and tone for each scene. Stephan Rügamer is a sprightly Loge, clever but cautious, a spring in his step and in his voice. The use of shadowplay helps visualise the size and actions of the giants, but it's all there already in Kwang Chul Youn's much bigger sounding performance. The capabilities of Wotan and Fricke aren't tested here to the same extent that they are Die Walküre, but René Pape and Doris Soffel are fine if not quite outstanding in these roles here. Pape doesn't always appear to be as comfortable or authoritative in the role of Wotan as he probably ought to be, but how well he eventually manages to fulfils the role and whether that uncertainty is part of his character's make-up should become apparent in the subsequent parts of the Ring.
A BD25 disc might seem a little tight to cover an opera that is close to three hours long, but I detected no issues at all with the image or the sound. It looks great. There's no great benefit to the surround mix, which might even be a little bit too echoing even if it is mainly front-speaker based, but the stereo mix is strong, particularly when listened to through headphones. There are no extras on the disc, just an essay in the booklet that seems to have some rather high-flown ideas about the production. Subtitles are in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Korean.
Recently, I decided to give it a real shot and try to became familiar with "The Ring". I bought the Barenboim "La Scala" set as the reviews were pretty good and it was a new Blu Ray so I thought it would at least look and sound good. It was also sold at a good price.
I was correct about the look and sound which were fine although I could not hear much from my rear speakers in the 5.1 dts so I switched to stereo and played it back decoded into surround with a somewhat better rear channel effect.
Within the bounds of my limited experience with The Ring, I thought the performance was thrilling in many ways with Pape and Youn being the most outstanding, but all the rest also very fine. I didn't see any real weakness in the cast. The constant ballet lent a sort of a semi erotic nature to the proceedings and they sort of acted like mimes. The video and lighting effects were very effective adding to the fantasy of the opera. I thought the "Entrance of the Gods into Valhalla" was an absolutely thrilling conclusion to the music drama.The one thing I thought very strange was the change of the "magic ring" to the "magic glove; I don't understand what possessed the change from "The Ring Cycle" to "The Glove Cycle". In any case I no longer fear attacking the cycle and I look forward to viewing the rest of the cycle.
Just remember, this is my first experience with "The Ring" (Besides a terrible St Clair, Weimer "Siegfried" that I have seen but don't count and view as just a bad anomaly) so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt..
First of all the singers and the orchestra are all as good as they possibly could be. That is the hallmark of this entire La Scala production. There is not better sung, better played, better conducted production of the Ring out there, and I highly doubt there will be a better one any time soon. You would be mad to buy the travesty that was the met one over this just because it had more publicity, this is much stronger musically and flashier in the special effects department.
The staging is the least interesting here of the four operas. That seems to be on purpose with each opera more bombastic than the last. I was reminded of P. Craig Russel's comic book adaptation which begins with bright happy colors and ends up in dreary reds and blacks. It is my favorite visual interpretation of the ring, and I wish it would be made into a film or cartoon. This one is sort of the opposite, beginning sterile and minimalist and ending in Gotterdamerung in overloading your senses. The best idea of this area of the production is the dancers. They are on stage constantly here (I think representing the more mythical nature of this primordial world), later they remain behind solely to represent the tarnhelm. They form themselves into the various creatures the tarnhelm its wearers into, It works wonderfully and is so much better than any the various versions of dragons and toads I've seen previously. The throne they make is really cool as well. The only disappointing part is that you don't get to see the rainbow bridge, I can't imagine the reason for this decision. Especially since the projection techniques and special effects are so amazing throughout the set.
The costumes are terrible, there's nothing else to be said, and it's in this and every subsequent opera of the set.
The makeup is also bad in this opera, but it improves vastly, in the subsequent operas. Did they hire somebody new?
The only other thing negative to be said is that the cast changes through out. None of these singers show again--I believe. Wotan is different every time he shows up, but I was thinking if that weren't true of everyone else that might have been a good idea and said something about his character. Siegfried remains the same, thankfully, Nina Stemme in Brunhilde in parts 2 and 3, Irene Theorin in 4, Waltraud Meier meanwhile has three roles, two of which are in the same opera. She is of course wonderful in all of them. They all are. The people who cast this knew very well who was the best in the world for each role and got them.