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Thread: Operas by Wagner on DVD/Blu-Ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #301
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Oh yes, the "Tannhäuser on the Planet Zork" (as I like to call it) from Baden Baden, with costumes that remind me of some "B" 1960s Hollywood sci-fi film. But I love Nylund (Elisabeth), Meier (Venus), and Milling (Landgrave), and Gambill is fine as long as he's singing in his mid-range at moderate dynamic levels. (Unfortuntely, when he sings in his upper register or at forte, he reminds me of Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion singing "I am the King of the Forest" in the Wizard of Oz.) Aside from the costumes, though, the staging sticks close to Wagner's libretto and doesn't take liberties with the characters, which to me counts for a great deal nowdays.

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  3. #302
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, music drama in three acts, sung in German, on DVD
    Music and libretto by Richard Wagner; original story invented by the composer himself
    Premiere at the Königliches Hof-und National-Theater, today's home of the Bavarian State Opera, in Munich, on 21 June 1868

    This DVD contains filmed opera, recorded in 1970 over Hamburg State Opera sets, and produced for NDR TV in 1971



    Conductor Leopold Ludwig
    Adapted for TV by Joachim Hess
    Artistic Director Rolf Liebermann
    Set Design Herbert Kirchhoff
    Costumes Rudolf Heinrich
    Make-up Karl-Heinz Wolf and five others

    Orchestra - Philharmonisches Staatsorchester - Hamburg
    Chorus - Hamburgische Staatsoper; chorus master Günther Schmidt-Bohländer

    Cast

    Hans Sachs - Giorgio Tozzi
    Veit Pogner - Ernst Wiemann
    Sixtus Beckmesser - Toni Blankenheim
    Fritz Kothner - Hans Otto Kloose
    Walther von Stolzing - Richard Cassilly
    David - Gerhard Unger
    Eva - Arlene Saunders
    Magdalena - Ursula Böse
    Nachtwächter - Vladimir Rudzjak
    Kunz Vogelgesang - Willy Hartmann
    Konrad Nachtigall - William Workman
    Ulrich Eisslinger - Wilfried Plate
    Balthasar Zorn - Kurt Marschner
    Augustin Moser - Jürgen Förster
    Hermann Ortel - Franz Grundheber
    Hans Schwarz - Carl Schultz
    Hans Foltz - Karl (Carl) Otto

    DVD released by ArtHaus Musik and Studio Hamburg
    Sound PCM Mono
    Subtitles English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
    Picture format NTSC 4:3 Color, 2x DVD 9
    Region Code 0, worldwide
    Running time 240 minutes

    The insert contains two black-and-white production pictures, credits, list of tracks/musical numbers with title in German, roles, and duration. There is a 3-page essay by Kurt Malish, a 2-page synopsis, followed by 4 pages of blurbs about the performers. This is all repeated in English, French, and German.

    This product is currently out of stock on Amazon.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    In the context of getting ready for the upcoming Met Live in HD and my second interview with Paul Appleby who will be in that performance, I'm re-watching this very charming DVD; I like to think of it as the quintessential "oldie but goodie" - a historical document from the prolific and creative Leopold Ludwig who directed the Hamburg opera for 20 years and whose numerous successful productions unfortunately were rarely preserved (all that I've seen are very compelling). It is very nicely filmed (for the time) and sung. The image is surprisingly good for a video recording from 44 years ago. It has quite nice definition, color, and clarity. The mono sound unfortunately is less good and feels like listening to an old and somewhat scratchy vinyl at times, lacking fullness. While the (rather beautiful) voices of the singers are rendered correctly, the orchestra gets a bit drowned in the background at times - and at other times becomes overwhelming; oh well, modern sound engineering didn't exist at the time. One gets used to it, though, and like I'll say later, this is not exactly the real downside here.

    Sets and costumes are very realistic, looking and feeling like one would imagine the real events, if they were real, and the filmed opera aspect with the camera walking around the performers (rather than the from-a-distance on-stage recording we usually get from modern DVDs) adds to the feeling that one is witnessing the events and helps with the immersion in this charming story. This is a no-gimmicks traditionalist filming that actually seems paradoxically refreshing after so much Regie we've been getting with Wagner pieces.

    Some of the singers are a bit long in the tooth to be portraying their youthful characters (Walther can hardly be considered a young man; much the opposite..., and Eva is not very young either - the same can be said of David) - but the important thing is that they all sing well.

    Acting is for the most part rather good without being stellar, and the weakest acting comes from the Heldentenor himself, our Walther, Richard Cassily, who is a bit stiff. Vocally he is in good shape, though. Our Pogner is a bit nasal, but enthusiastic.

    Comprimario roles (such as the various Meistersingers) are manned by people who obviously enjoy the music and the production, with a sort of joyous delivery that makes the spectator watch this with a constant smile. For example, the riot street scene is very well done. The Nightwatcher is excellent.

    Giorgio Tozzi is a lot of fun as Hans Sachs. Some people accused him of being miscast but he pulled it off, with very good German, beautiful voice and sensitive phrasing, as well as very decent and dignified acting, although like I said it all looks a bit odd because he looks the same age as the singer in the role of Walther when the plot requires him to be significantly older, which is part of the point regarding why he gives Eva up.

    The most unfortunate problem with this DVD is not the mono sound or the age of the performers - it's the cuts. Full 30 minutes of the opera are done away with, and the bad thing is that one of the most compelling scenes - and one that is quite important to set the psychological environment - gets entirely cut - David's instructions about the Meistersingers' song rules! Why in the hell did they cut that? There's plenty of other parts that could have disappeared if cuts were absolutely necessary, but not this scene! Go figure! Ballet music is gone too (which is OK).

    Our Beckmesser could be a bit more pompous and lecherous and funny, but again, Toni Blankenheim does a fine singing job. Eva and Magdalene are both fine, vocally; our Eva is not particularly attractive (our Magdalene looks better if not for a, well, prominent nose) but it's nothing terrible. The David is vocally outstanding - Gerhard Unger, who was a specialist in the role for many years - which makes it even more painful that the cuts affect his role.

    Anyway, the important part is how glorious Wagner's vocal music in this charming and delightful opera comes forward in this performance, with the enthusiasm part I've mentioned, and the general high level of singing we get from these seasoned artists. The orchestra is quite hectic in this DVD, with a frenetic pace. While this is not how I usually think of the Meistersingers score, I confess that I like the tempo, because, well, as much as I love this opera, it can be a bit long and draining, so the fast tempo adds to the excitement and helps with keeping one's attention from drifting.

    Overall, I'd give this DVD an A- rating, recommended for the high singing values, the enthusiastic delivery, the general pleasant and entertaining feeling, the good documentation, and the historical aspect, but losing a few points for the cuts and the poor sound engineering especially regarding the orchestra.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 8th, 2014 at 03:37 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #303
    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Thanks, Luiz - it sounds like it's worth a view.

    FYI, it is currently available on archivmusic.com

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  6. #304
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    much Wagner today...

    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I must confess, after all these years I've still never listened to the Böhm Ring. Please let us know how you think its individual operas stand up in head-to-head comparison with the Solti.
    Okay, so very simply

    I am comparing the recordings of Der Ring des Nibelungen by Solti and Böhm.

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    The Solti recording is a studio recording recorded between 1958 and 1965 on the Decca label and the Böhm recordings are taken from the Bayreuth festivals in 1966 and 1967 under the same label.

    The Solti comes in a hard box, with each day in its own separate hard box with a booklet containing a brief introduction, track listing, synopsis, the full libretto and a few pictures. The Böhm recording is 14 discs in paper envelopes in a box containing a booklet with a brief introduction, track listing and synopsis. Of course prices vary enourmously but as an example Presto Classical sells the Solti for GBP 123 and the Böhm for GBP 31 (currently 50% discount).

    I have heard the Böhm cycle six times and am only on my second hearing of the Solti, I am still quite new to Wagner so please excuse if any of these thoughts are against convention.

    I start with Die Walküre, today’s listening. The Solti was recorded 1965 and the Böhm 1967.

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    Wiener Philharmoniker, Sir Georg Solti
    Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), James King (Siegmund), Régine Crespin (Sieglinde), Hans Hotter (Wotan), Gottlob Frick (Hunding), Christa Ludwig (Fricka), Vera Schlosser (Gerhilde), Berit Lindholm (Helmwige), Brigitte Fassbaender (Waltraute), Helen Watts (Schwertleite), Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde)

    Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele, Karl Böhm
    Birgit Nilsson (Brünnhilde), Theo Adam (Wotan), Leonie Rysanek (Sieglinde), James King (Siegmund), Gerd Nienstedt (Hunding), Annelies Burmeister (Fricka/Siegrune), Gertraud Hopf (Waltraute), Helga Dernesch (Ortlinde), Elisabeth Schärtel (Grimgerde), Sona Cervená (Rossweise), Sieglinde Wagner (Schwertleite), Liane Synek (Helmwige), Danica Mastilovic (Gerhilde)


    Both have very good sound quality. The Solti was remastered (or hiss removed from tapes) by engineer James Lock (1997) but there are no notes on this subject for the other. There is a little noise on the live recording but it is mostly theatrical imagery and not distraction (except one part, comment to follow).

    The Solti does have the advantage of the depth of sound being a studio recording, bass notes and generally more dynamic. However, sometimes the theatrics of the stage recording can add to the scenery, such as the howling wind noise in the opening storm scene.

    The Solti recording is almost eighteen minutes longer at 3 hours and 49 minutes. I do not know if this is relevant (is there any thing missing from the other recording?) but it does sound slower, more deliberate. The tension build up in the prelude for example is thrilling. Orchestration is better with the studio and Solti.

    James King (amongst a couple of other cast members) sings the same role in both recordings, though it is quite surprising the difference between two performances. The Solti recording is a more contemplative Siegmund where as he is a more impetuous character on the stage, more muscle on the biceps than between the ears. I prefer the later stage recording

    Régine Crespino is a pretty Sieglinde but Leonie Rysanek is a more pathetic Sieglinde (Böhm) with frailty. Her voice is more romantic and is very attractive here.

    On the Solti recording Hans Hotter sing a Godly Wotan on the Solti recording next to a Fricka that is Christa Ludwig, who is a strong character to match. On the Böhm, Theo Adam is a more Kingly Wotan with more powerful character with a touch of human foolhardiness. Annelios Burmeister sings a beautiful wife next to him, made strong through pain. Again it is these two that I prefer.

    Brünnhilde is sung by Birgit Nilsson on both recordings. Her character is the same for both recordings and stunningly beautiful.
    …in my ears echoed.. …caused my heart to tremble deep within my breast…
    Only on the Solti recording she is more pronounced and exaggerated. The Solti definitely has the better here. Also the slight bit of noise I mentioned before; when Brünnhilde lies prostrate before Wotan in Act 3, there should be silence. Studios can do silence so much better…

    With the other Valkyries, I can’t comment on the individual voices but as a group are much more dynamic, with a spectrum of characters on the stage recording. Again I prefer the Böhm here.

    So in summary, I agree that both recordings are great but one is a studio recording with its merits and the other is a stage recording with what I interpret as more colour and if I had to choose between the two…

    Well today it is the Böhm recording.

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  8. #305
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Some interesting info on the Solti ring:


    Revisiting the first act of the 1964 Georg Solti/Decca Götterdämmerung is to be reminded of this first-released Ring’s virtuoso orchestral playing at the service of the score, inventive casting, and the bold attempt by John Culshaw’s recording team to use (and sustain for long periods) distinctive acoustics on the voices in particular scenes and “block” out an aural stage production with wide cross-speaker stereo moves.
    From: http://www.gramophone.co.uk/editoria...n-wagners-ring

    Additionally, I was told that Culshaw used electronic filters to change the quality of some voices at certain points such as when Alberich becomes "invisible" and whips Mime in Rheingold Scene 3 and, more controversially perhaps, "roughening" of Wolfgang Windgassen's timbre when Siegfried assumes the persona of Gunther whilst wearing the Tarnhelm.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

  9. #306
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    Additionally, I was told that Culshaw used electronic filters to change the quality of some voices at certain points such as when Alberich becomes "invisible" and whips Mime in Rheingold Scene 3 and, more controversially perhaps, "roughening" of Wolfgang Windgassen's timbre when Siegfried assumes the persona of Gunther whilst wearing the Tarnhelm.
    I think most of the production team's sound-effects contributions, such as the Rheingold anvils, the Siegfried sword forging, and the Götterdämmerung steer horns, are highly effective. The examples of vocal manipulation you mentioned are dramatically apt for their moments, and represent an extremely small portion of the fourteen-hour cycle.

    Culshaw's contributions provide an occasional boost to the drama but, to my mind, never detract from the music.

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  11. #307
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    I think most of the production team's sound-effects contributions, such as the Rheingold anvils, the Siegfried sword forging, and the Götterdämmerung steer horns, are highly effective. The examples of vocal manipulation you mentioned are dramatically apt for their moments, and represent an extremely small portion of the fourteen-hour cycle.

    Culshaw's contributions provide an occasional boost to the drama but, to my mind, never detract from the music.
    It is just that a few parts sounded strange to me on first listen. Kind of a detraction for me. It is a great Ring cycle though.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

  12. #308
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    OK, OK. And keep in mind I haven't heard them all! But the one that I have heard that I just cannot rate any higher than the bottom rung of the Ring ladder is the old ABC LP set conducted by Swarovsky. It is the one that had the really odd cover photos, including three nude Rhinedaughters for the cover of Rheingold. It was my first Ring when I was twelve years old, and I didn't know any better, but it is just not competitive nowadays, considering what else is available. It is the kind of performance that, if you heard it live in the house, you wouldn't exactly scream for your money back, but it is provincial and lacklustre. Individual performances are decent, especially Gerald McKee as Siegfried, but overall it lacks sweep and grandeur. What it does not lack, though, is drama, and to be fair, none of the vocal performances is really horrible. I should add that, as I said in an earlier post, anyone who can get together a Ring company and actually perform the thing is already going to be at a certain level of competence, and this Ring does not offend. I think it has been remastered onto CD by Denon. So: IMO, the worst recorded Ring, but only in the sense of not being better than any of the other available sets.
    The opinions on the Swarowsky Ring are polarized. Some love it. Others hate it. An interesting comment from this page says,
    Looking at various discussions, I find a majority opinion which holds that the ramshackle playing of the pick-up band and the unevenness of the equally pick-up cast rule it out of serious consideration. However, a minority view maintains that Swarowsky’s control over tempo relationships overrides these drawbacks to create one of the most satisfying recordings of all. Given Swarowsky’s concern for tempo relationships, one may surmise that he undertook such an enterprise, though knowing full well that neither his orchestra nor his cast could possibly match the recently-completed Solti and Karajan recordings, because he was convinced that others were getting these relationships wrong and he wanted people to hear the right ones.
    By the way, it has recently been re-released (2013) on CD in a very nicely packaged set (no soft-porn Rheinmaiden images though, unless they are on the individual disk sleeves):
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  13. #309
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    Some interesting info on the Solti ring:

    From: http://www.gramophone.co.uk/editoria...n-wagners-ring

    Additionally, I was told that Culshaw used electronic filters to change the quality of some voices at certain points such as when Alberich becomes "invisible" and whips Mime in Rheingold Scene 3 and, more controversially perhaps, "roughening" of Wolfgang Windgassen's timbre when Siegfried assumes the persona of Gunther whilst wearing the Tarnhelm.
    I later learned that for Fafner's voice as the dragon they did not use an electronic filter, but the singer was put in a room to make him sound like he is in a cave, and then of course they needed to amplify the voice to get it back to an audible level for the recording. It also seems that this type of voice manipulation for the Fafner dragon is present on a number of recordings. It appears to be the case on Sawallisch's 1989 set and the Goodall Ring. I no longer have a problem with it for the Fafner dragon. Was just a matter of getting used to it I guess. Not sure about the other voice manipulation parts on Solti as I have not revisited it yet.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

  14. #310
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Das Liebesverbot on blu-ray disc



    This is my first encounter with this Wagner early opera on visual medium (well, duh, it's its first DVD/blu-ray release). I knew it from audio only and quite liked it. I'm not convinced that the images have added anything to my appreciation of this work, unlike what I usually think and what is actually part of my sig here (see below). The issue is, what makes or breaks an operatic performance regardless of the other theatrical aspects is still the musical side: the singing, and the playing/conducting. What we have here (with one exception) is, well, uninspired. So, the magic is lost.

    I have always sustained that when listening to this opera we need to forget that it was composed by Wagner. It is perfectly fine if we manage to do so. It is enjoyable in itself. Now, if you try to spot some sort of early hint of Wagner's subsequent genius and style, you'll be disappointed. That embryo is just not there (even though some of the music did get recycled into Tannhäuser of all things). What we have here is a very young composer, not at all familiar or experienced with the medium, trying to imitate French and Italian light operas. For this kind of effort, it is fine. Try to compare it to Wagner's mature operas, and you'll end up suspecting that someone else who happened to be homonymous with the great composer penned this piece and fooled all the musicologists and historians into thinking that this is a true Wagner piece.

    So forget the name attached to "music and libretto by" and just listen to it. You might like it.

    But try to get a better vocal performance than this one. I have the impression that almost the whole cast is kind of mediocre, except for the shining star Christopher Maltman (in the role of Friedrich), who is so many light-years ahead of his peers here, that it must have been painful for him to share the stage with them. Except that he is a rather nice guy and would never confess to it. The chorus is fine (better than the singers).

    Peter Lodahl in the role of Luzio freaks me out because he looks like a non-blind Andrea Bocelli. Yikes! He does sing less poorly than Bocelli. The female singers are very bland.

    Orchestral playing by the Orchestra of the Teatro Real de Madrid and conducting by Ivor Bolton are utterly anemic and forgettable especially in the first act (a bit better in the second one).

    Staging on the other hand by the great Kasper Holten does have some very nice touches, starting with the genial idea of showing one of the famous Wagner portraits reacting to the overture (through CGI) with winks and head movements. Some insider jokes are available with hilarious costume and props details including breast plates and helmets mixed with iPhones.

    Lighting is admirable, and after Chris Maltman's performance, is arguably the second best feature of this production. With lighting changes only, we get some striking shifts in atmosphere. We can go from a bordello with neon lights to a convent pretty much just changing the lighting, under the same sets. Neat. It should be a good example for teaching of lighting in theatrical production schools.

    Another great point in favor of this product is the 4-page essay included in the insert, entitled "No sex please, we're Germans" by Chris Walton. This can only be called inspired, to balance the uninspired musical side. It's a very funny and informative essay that almost justifies the purchase of this disc regardless of the rest.

    All things considered I guess it's a 3 stars out of 5, or barely recommended, but still valuable for Wagner fans who haven't experienced this work yet. It's a welcome addition to the collection given that this opera had never been released on DVD/Blu-ray before. I just wish they had hired better singers instead of only one good one (Maltman).

    -------------

    Runtime 2 hours 40 minutes. All regions. Sound LPCM 2.0 or DTS-HD master audio (poor balance singer/orchestra in some scenes, with the singers barely audible). 1080p HD image, good quality. No extras except for a photo gallery. Subtitles, surprising NOT in Spanish for this Teatro Real de Madrid performance! English, French, German, Japanese and Korean are available. The essay and synopsis are in English, French, and German.

    ----------

    Das Liebesverbot, oder die novize von Palermo. Grosse Komische Oper in two acts. Sung in German.
    Music and Libretto by Richard Wagner, based on the comedy Measure by Measure by William Shakespeare.
    Premiered at the Stadttheater Magdeburgh, 29 March 1836.

    An Opus Arte release, filmed at Teatro Real de Madrid on 3 & 5 March, 2016

    Coro y Orchestra del Teatro Real de Madrid - conductor Ivor Bolton, chorus Master Andrés Máspero
    Co-production Teatro Real de Madrid, Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and Teatro Colón Buenos Aires

    Stage Director Kasper Holten
    Set and Costume Designer Steffen Aarfing
    Choreographer Signe Fabricius
    Video design Luke Halls
    Lighting Designer Bruno Poet
    Directed for the screen by János Darvas

    Cast

    Friedrich - Christopher Maltman (Opera Lively interviewee)
    Luzio - Peter Lodahl
    Claudio - Ilker Arcayürek
    Antonio - David Alegret
    Isabella - Manuela Uhl
    Mariana - María Miró
    Brighella - Ante Jerkunica
    Danieli - Isaac Galán
    Dorella - María Hinojosa
    Pontio Pilato - Francisco Vas

    Available on Amazon for $35 blu-ray disc, $30 DVD.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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