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

          
   
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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Operas by Wagner on DVD/Blu-Ray/CD



    My advice:

    If you like your Tannhäuser with a complete overture instead of having it cut in half so that you're suddenly thrown right into the Bacchanal, don't buy this.
    If you like naked breasts, buy this (they're beautiful).
    If you hate Eurotrash, don't buy this.
    If you like your Venusberg to be a surrealistic Bosch-like nightmare with lots of naked breasts and a woman-eating crocodile who gobbles another topless woman, buy this.
    If you like your Hall of Music to actually look beautiful as intended, don't buy this.
    If you like your Heinrich Tannhäuser to be interpreted by a singer who is not 30 years past his prime and doesn't have an awful, embarrasing wobble like René Kollo in this production, don't buy this.
    If you like your Venus to be absolutely gorgeous looking, very sexy, the ultimate incarnation of seduction, the ultimate Goddess of Love with a beautiful voice to boot like Waltraud Meier in a breathtaking performance, buy this. (Sorry, *her* breasts are not part of the show, but at least she's got nice cleavage).
    If you don't like silly political symbolism like a big Berlin wall with the words Germania Nostra, don't buy this.
    If you like your opera videos to have a few more colors than black, white, and gray, don't buy this.
    If you love ugly depressing settings, buy this.
    If you want your Wolfram, your Landgrave, and your Elisabeth with good acting and singing skills (Bernd Weikl just a little passed his prime but still pretty good, and excellent Jan-Hendrik Rootering and Nadine Secunde, almost a show stopper), buy this.
    If you want a good conductor, don't buy this (it's Mehta - although he is not terrible here).
    If you like your choruses to be superb like the Chorus of the Bayerische Staatsoper, buy this.
    If you like your DVD to have a booklet that has more than just a list of chapters, don't buy this.

    So, obviously a mixed bag. It's almost worth buying for Waltraud Meier, but Venus doesn't stick around as you know. René Kollo pretty much ruins it, in spite of the notable effort by Weikl, Rootering, and Secunde to save it. If the Eurotrash aspects had been kept in the first act only, it would have been a valid contrast between Venusberg and Thuringia, but the way it was done pretty much ruined the whole thing - there is virtually no difference between the settings.

    I think in summary the negatives outweigh the positives, so if you're not a passionate fan of Waltraud Meier, stay away.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    A very, very, very short bubble about the Rings on DVD/Blu-ray that I know:

    Levine's = traditional, with ups and downs in terms of singing
    Boulez's = better singing, weird staging
    Copenhagen = evil!!! Brünnhilde has a baby at the end!!!! Tampering! Wrong ending!
    Valencia = visually interesting. That's about it
    Baremboim's = good singing, decent staging. My choice.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander on DVD (The Flying Dutchman)


    Spectacular overture, excellent orchestra (Nelsson conducting, Bayreuth orchestra), superlative singing, especially by Simon Estes and Matti Salminen, a dream cast. But the production is controversial. First of all, they show the original version so you won't listen to the redemption music at the end which Wagner added to the revised version which apparently became the dominant version, but Bayreuth did the original. Second, they make the entire thing be inside Senta's mind (she is present 100% of the time even when in Wagner's opera she is not supposed to be on stage). Apparently this production gave force to the dreaded Regietheater craze. And to top it all, they make of the Dutchman, two Dutchmen. I'm not sure if I like all this tampering.

    One weird aspect of this production: Senta keeps singing of the pale seaman, but Simon Estes, of course, is all but pale... it causes an unintended comic effect.

    Well anyway, controversy or not, there are several fine moments.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #4
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    This is an old review of Parsifal I wrote for another site (IMDb Classical Music) several years ago:

    ----------

    Wagner: Parsifal on DVD
    This is an old review that I wrote for another site while watching Parsifal for the first time.

    This was the production:



    What I remember is that it was a minimalist, modern staging that didn't have too many bothersome trickery and was effective enough, except for a couple of blunders that are detailed below. The singing, if I remember correctly, I found to be rather good.

    At the time, here is what I wrote (ever since, I grew more of an appreciation for Act I)

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

    I've just finished ACT I, and I'm having a little break before ACT II.

    Impressions so far: highly disappointing. I know that it is supposed to get better, but to be frank, ACT I is a bore.

    First of all, the leitmotifs repeat too often, and there aren't that many of them like in the Ring (that I know, the main ones are about 10 - Sacrament, Grail, Faithful, Spear, Kundry, Amfortas, Klingsor, Innocence, Parsifal, Bells), so it gets boring. Second, the pace is dreadful. Why do we need 1 h 46 minutes to have a rather simple (and far fetched) story told? Third, I'm sick and tired of hearing about blood and sin and how foolish Parsifal is.

    Anyway, not all is bad. I generally liked Gurnemanz's lines. Like Du konntest mordem, or Wo bist du her?. He's got appropriate gravitas. And Amfortas monologue is relatively interesting (more for the orchestration), Nein! Lasst ihn unenthüllt!. And definitely, I liked a lot Nehmet vom Brot during the communion scene, and there is no doubt that the orchestration ends the act in a much better way than the rather lame overture. I do like the Bells leitmotif, which is very prominent at ACT I's end.

    So, let's see the continuation. Maybe I'll like II and III more since the old psychological effect of too much expectation was definitely shattered by ACT I. I forgot to give a score to ACT I. Here it goes: C- except for the second half of the second scene which is a B+, so I guess the average is a B- or C+.

    ACT II
    Sc 1 - Boring start, boring dialogue between Klingsor and Kundry and the battle scene is rather lame, with unimpressive orchestration. B-

    Sc 2 - Better now: I like Komm, Komm, holder Knabe!, the song of the Flower Maidens. Funny, I've never seen this many women at once in a Wagner opera. A stageful of attractive young women. Very un-Wagner-like, LOL. Kundry comes calling 'Parsifal'.

    OK, it's getting seriously beautiful now. Dich nannt'ich seems to be the best piece so far. Very hypnotic with a recurrent melody. Parsifal responds, they talk about his origins, the dramatic tension increases exponentially, unlike everything that precedes this scene. I wish Wagner got rid of the three previous scenes and started his opera here. I understand the need to build up the tension, but it took too long to get to the goodies. Now I'm interested again. Long and beautiful scene as Parsifal learns that his mother died of grief when he left her. Touching.

    The kiss scene. His reaction. He rejects her. Gripping tension and perfect orchestration continues. Yes, we're in business now.

    This scene is a tour de force. Spectacular. It has a Greek tragedy's intensity. The music is beautiful. All this interaction between Kundry and Parsifal has been lasting for 30 minutes and it is continuously beautiful. Bravo, Wagner! A++

    A change in tone when Parsifal escapes his despondency and reaffirms his faith, Auf Ewigkeit wärst du verdammt, he is pretty harsh on her; beautiful moment too. It does get a little over the top - basically Kundry says, "OK, go redeem the world but what about a little sex before? Just a quickie?" LOL. Nope, says Parsifal, gotta find Amfortas. Oh come on, Parsifal, don't be such a prude. All work and no play makes Parsifal a dumb boy. It's hard to take this utterly ridiculous libretto seriously, Mr. Wagner.

    Kundry gets hysterical. Hilfe! Hilfe! Herbei!. I like it a lot less than before. Back to B-.

    OMG, the staging I'm seeing just got utterly ridiculous. You guys should see how the spear came flying, and then stayed there, dangling. So fake! Rather lousy special effect.

    Overgrandiose music, then curtain. OK, Act II was highly uneven, but at least had in its 40' core one of the most beautiful scenes I've seen in all of opera, so, it gets an A-.


    ACT III

    The prelude is the one I liked the most of the three. Good start.

    Sc 1

    And it continues with Gurnemanz who had already pleased me in ACT I, so, it looks promising. He is trying to wake Kundry up and the orchestration is very powerful. She does. More recitative from Gurnemanz.

    Very solemn music. I like it. Parsifal comes in, as a black knight. Suspense. He's selectively mute. The sounds from the orchestra are halting. Beautiful.

    The halting pattern comes to an end. Now Parsifal is giving an account of his adventures. Pretty beautiful too.

    But this staging has a nun wandering by - is it Kundry? Yes, it is. Whaaaat? I don't think she is supposed to have joined an order or something. Stage director shenanigans, as if the symbolism in the libretto wasn't obvious enough. Anyway, let's not let this blunder distract us.

    This ACT has entered a steady pace and is going a lot better in terms of sustained beauty, unlike boring ACT I and uneven ACT II.

    Old Gurnemanz continues to do a good job. O Gnade! Höchstes Heil!. Poor Parsifal is devastated with remorse.

    We get to Du wuschest mir die Füsse and the washing/anointing rituals. Wow, this is very beautiful. A++ again.

    The libretto continues to displease me. So, the fool is to become king because he is innocent and pure. Sugary.

    But the music is rapidly achieving sublime proportions.

    Now for the Good Friday music. This is very melodious and calm. Then my favorite, Gurnemanz, soars. Damn, this is one of the most sustained A++ stretches I've ever seen. I just wish the words didn't mention so much all this Christian sentimentality.

    I'm glad that I don't understand German. I'll be able to listen to Parsifal on CD without the libretto or subtitles, then I'll focus exclusively on the music.

    OK, end of scene 1. The best one so far as a whole, given the continuous high quality.

    Sc 2

    Spectacular procession music. Goosebumps. Chorus of the knights. Excellent. Can we have an A+++?

    I'm not looking forward to Amfortas' monologue; he's my least favorite character, always whining. For a Jesus Christ metaphor, Wagner could have given him better lines. But we'll see.

    OK, musically beautiful, but I just can't shake off the words and the whining. Holy blood this, holy blood that, blah, blah, blah. I can't get into the pathos, confessedly because of my own prejudices. And it doesn't help that he shows his wound so overdramatically.

    Here comes goody two shoes Parsifal to heal him. It's about time, maybe he'll stop whining.

    Oh come on, Parsifal: "supreme joy of this miracle" and more talk of holy blood. I definitely need to turn off the subtitles.

    Now the Grail will be uncovered, I brace for a bombastic finale. Everybody holds hands [Alma throws up].

    Last chorus: Höchsten Heiles Wunder!. Gulp. Sublime again, as well as the orchestration.

    Predicably, it ends in gorgeous, gorgeous music. A++ for Act III.

    --------

    In summary, C+, A, A++. This would be something like 79, 95, 105. 279, divided by 3, 93. Gets an A.

    The libretto, on the other hand, gets a D-.

    So, the opera makes it into the second tier of my favorites, but to listen only, without the libretto or subtitles.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #5
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Not a complete review, just a blurb.

    Modern staging. Solveig Kringelborn as Elsa acts well, and Klaus Florian Vogt as Lohengrin has a beautiful lyrical voice. Tom Fox is adquate. Waltraud Meier is excellent and steals the scene every time she is on.

    I liked this one a lot, and I especially enjoyed the opening scene which is on the cover picture. I thought that the minimalistic staging worked very well. As a matter of fact, minimalistic stagings always work well for Wagner, but instead of realizing this simple fact, directors tend to go overboard when they tackle Wagner, go figure.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #6
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen on blu-ray


    OK, folks. I saw the Valencia Ring. I'm mad. Really mad.

    For my review, I'll write a fictional piece: it's what I imagine is likely to have happened in real life, under the form of a rant by Video Creator Franc Aleu talking to Stage Director Carlus Padrissa. In Catalan, of course. But for the benefit of our non-Catalan speaking friends (me included) I'll provide the translation of the rant into English.

    ------

    "Carlus, how could this fiasco have happened? Didn't you talk about it with Helga?? [Almaviva's note: Helga Schmidt, Intendant of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia, Valencia, Spain] Wasn't she supposed to hire some good people to work with us? I mean, after all the spectacular work that you and I have done, shouldn't we have expected to deserve some good singers? A decent conductor??? I know, I know, our Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana is good for nothing, but maybe someone competent - unlike that moron Zubin Mehta - could have extracted something resembling Wagnerian sounds from those musicians. Or at least, could have impacted some soul on the performance, instead of that anemic disaster.

    And look, I know that music is that idiot Mehta's department, but as a stage director, couldn't you have talked to him about the casting? One knows that one is in trouble when Fricka is more attractive than Brünnhilde. It's supposed to be the other way around, Carlus!!! See, that Brünnhilde is supposed to ride a flying horse, but how would the horse lift from the ground 2 tones of fat tissue? The time of the fat lady with the breast plate is waaaay past, Carlus. A good Brünnhilde should be able to sing unlike that fat cow, and should try and look the part a little bit.

    And what in the hell were you thinking when you let Chu [Almaviva's note: Chu Uroz, Costume Designer] completely ruin the outstanding visuals you and I put together, with those ridiculous-looking costumes for the gods, made of plastic stripes? And give me some attractive Rhinemaidens, for Pete's sake! Roland [Almaviva's note - Roland Olbeter, Stage Designer] comes up with that fabulous idea of the three glass tanks for the Rhinemaidens; I provide the fabulous watery video background, and we get those plain looking women who couldn't sing if their lives depended on it, to be inside the tanks??? Then, the gorgeous idea of the golden baby in my videos symbolizing all the potential the Rhinegold gets completely wasted in a scene with an Alberich who doesn't look scary or despicable, and Rhinemaidens who can't convey any of their characteristics - seductiveness, playfulness, sillyness...

    This whole thing was miscast from beginning to end! I get the spectacular special effects of Wotan's and Loge's journey underground with the brilliant idea of Earth's image rolling in the background; I get the even more brilliant image of Nothung's tree made of the letters of Sigmund's name; you get the striking effect of real fire from flamethrowers around Brünnhilde in the final scene of Die Walküre, and also the industrial imagery in the Siegfried scene when the sword is being repaired followed by the beautiful crystals floating on the air once the sword is ready, not to forget the very effective rendition of Fafner as a dragon... and it all keeps being ruined over and over by that fat cow Brünnhilde and that stupid conductor?

    Look, you and I put together that human pyramid at the end of Rheingold... that suspended ball of naked bodies in the Ride of the Valkyries scene... the clever effect achieved with empty water bottles when Siegfried is traveling by boat on the Rhine... and to top it all, we do the MOST SPECTACULAR final scene of Götterdämmerung ever staged in the history of the Ring - that jaw dropping wall of fire that opens up to those bodies suspended on the air, while this time really attractive Rhinemaidens (since these didn't need to sing, we were able to get some really beautiful models this time) celebrate their recovery of the Ring... to have it all spoiled by an incompetent conductor, a mediocre orchestra, a horrible costume designer, and singers who not only don't look their parts but also can't sing?

    WHAT A WASTED OPPORTUNITY! My, oh my, why on Earth two extremely competent guys like you and me, Carlus, couldn't have associated ourselves with some good musicians? We could have had the best Ring ever. Instead, we got a nice visual show, coupled with a musical and acting disaster!

    ----

    End of rant.

    Edit, months later: interesting, I saw it again (Rheingold only) and this time didn't find the orchestra to be bad. And actually found the Rheinmadens better as well. Anyways, Rheingold in this version is better than the other three thanks to no fat Brünnhilde.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #7
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    My personal favorite Tristan und Isolde is this one:



    I love its minimalistic staging, and love Stemme's performance (good singing, excellent acting) although she doesn't get a worthy Tristan in Gambill to share the stage with her (but we do get Rene Pape as a bonus). There's also a very good documentary included. It's available on blu-ray as well.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #8
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    It’s not often that watching an opera DVD interferes with my everyday life – but this one did; when I watched it I had to keep rewarding myself with 15 minutes of Lohengrin for accomplishing each essential task of the day.

    This is definitely not one for the purists – no enormous swans, shining armour, medieval wimples here. But it totally brings alive the very human tragedy of the doomed love between Elsa and her Lohengrin. And that it did this so movingly and piercingly is mainly due to the shining, multifaceted and intimate performances of Anja Harteros and Jonas Kaufmann in the title roles, and the wonderful chemistry between them.



    Elsa here is no shrinking violet or loony halfwit, she is a true visionary, with a yearning for happiness and a strong will perverted by the effective if rather brassy Ortrud of Michaela Schuster. Lohengrin is part stalwart hero and defender of the weak, and part young man in love for the first time and hoping against hope for his fleeting change of domestic bliss. See him when he realises that his life will no longer include wife and children, see him when he first notices with a start the swan returning for him in Act three. Truly heart breaking, have hankies nearby.

    The singing of both these young people was totally satisfactory for me, I personally love Kaufmann’s unique timbre but I know that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Definitely some strained upper notes, but I don’t care. Harteros was wonderful, with a lovely creamy tone. Secondary roles were also strong, particularly the evil, violent Telramund of Wolfgang Koch. Now he was scary! All the way through I found myself thinking – “Elsa, don’t listen to them, this is a disaster, this will end in tears” even though I knew the ending.

    As I said, the production was definitely not traditional – set in some vague mid-20C hierarchical Germany, with Lohengrin in a T-shirt and Elsa at first in dungarees, but later so beautiful in fitted wedding-dress. Colours play a symbolic part, the mustard and maroon of Brabant contrasting sharply with the sky blue of Lohengrin and later of the whole state.

    The central conceit is the building of a house throughout the opera, symbolising first Elsa’s and then both the young couple’s desire for settled love. We first see Elsa in her dungarees defiantly laying the first bricks, and by the third act the young couple listen to the wedding march as the furniture is being moved in. When Lohengrin realises his hopes of love are gone, he sets fire to the wedding bed and crib!!

    One advantage of all this activity is that it provides a focus, whereas more traditional productions have a tendency to be very static (and my mind starts to wander)....

    All in all I would definitely recommend it, especially if the acting is as important to you as the singing, and if you are prepared to go beyond the traditional. If you are a fan of either Harteros or Kaufmann it’s a must anyway.
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Lohengrin



    This is another modern production of Lohengrin - all the men are wearing military uniforms except the title role who is got up in a strange stiff sparkly suit and the sort of wig that makes you look as though a small rodent has died on your head. And of course, no swan. However the blocking and acting was always interesting and I did enjoy watching it A LOT.

    Solveig Kringelborn is a sweet, naive and slightly deranged Elsa and Klaus Florian Vogt a very lyrical light-voiced Lohengrin, fairly stiff and heroic and no match in the acting stakes for Jonas Kaufmann. Tom Fox was convincing as the weak Telramund. But the entire action is really dominated by the wonderfully beautiful and haughtily evil Ortrud of Waltraud Meier. She made my blood run cold and I now can't imagine anyone else in this role. Worth getting just for her.
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    It is possible that this is an interesting production of Tannhäuser. I wouldn’t know because I’ve hardly seen any of it, due to the unspeakably awful video “direction” provided by Chloé Perlemuter, obviously a graduate of the Benoît Jacquot School of Ruining Opera DVDs.

    So what you do is, you find out who is playing the title role and then you train your camera on him in close up, no matter who else is singing, EVEN IF IT’S JONAS KAUFMANN.

    What I *can* tell you is that it must have been damn hot in the Zürich Operhaus that night, judging from the bucketfuls of sweat that continuously pour off Peter’s Seiffert’s rather meaty face.

    I can also tell you that conductor Frank Welser-Möst is married as there were a lot of shots of his left hand during the orchestral parts.

    Backstage at the opera house is pretty grim and institutional, judging by the frequent cuts to waiting singers during the opera when the viewer was supposed to be transported into a magical world by the music. Oh, and the backstage clock tells me they started late.

    Glad this one came from the library or I’d sue.

    EDIT: Judging from this review of Falstaff on Amazon it seems as though Ms Perlemuter makes a habit of this.
    Natalie

  12. #11
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Wagner: Der Fliegende Hollander on DVD (The Flying Dutchman)

    . . . the production is controversial . . . They make the entire thing be inside Senta's mind (she is present 100% of the time even when in Wagner's opera she is not supposed to be on stage). Apparently this production gave force to the dreaded Regietheater craze. And to top it all, they make of the Dutchman, two Dutchmen. I'm not sure if I like all this tampering.
    I think this production is absolutely brilliant. Here's why.

    First of all, it's not *all* in Senta's mind, but is about the conflict between her fantasy and an oppressive reality.

    I take it that the entire opening act between Daland, his crew, and the Dutchman is the repressed Senta's fantasy--her dream that her imaginary lover will materialize and win her father's approval. Hence her presence hovering over the action and responding to it gleefully.

    The trouble with fantasies, though, is that they run up against reality. Here's where I think Kupfer's concept is most brilliant.

    In Act II, Senta is excited at the prospect of her father bringing her dream lover to her. But when Daland appears with a mysterious, silhouetted stranger, she backs away, distressed and fearful, continually checking the portrait against this unexpected figure. The audience may feel a similar uncertainty at this point--is this Simon Estes, and if so, why are his features so obscured? After announcing that he has brought her daughter a suitor for her hand in marriage, Daland leaves the two of them alone.

    The point here is that Senta's father really does come home with a prospective husband for her. But this wooer is not Senta's fantasy Dutchman, but rather some ordinary, real man Daland has chosen. His features are obscured because Senta, lost in her romantic delusion, is unable--or refuses--to see him.

    Confronted with this unwelcome stranger, Senta reverts to her fantasy. A more flowery version of the magical ship appears upstage, revealing the Dutchman (Estes, of course, so that we now realize the shadowy figure is just a stand-in). Throughout the ensuing scene, Senta interacts with this romanticized illusion rather than with the actual man brought by her father. Estes/Dutchman sings words in keeping with this fantasy, announcing that he has sought such a young woman for restless ages and yearned for redemption. Senta, quite appropriately for this production, responds by asking, "Am I deep in a wonderful dream? What I see, is it mere fancy?" She too expresses her wish to bring salvation to this tormented soul.

    But then the shadowy figure steps forward, and for the one and only time in the scene mimes speaking for himself. As he does so, Estes sings, "Do you agree with your father's choice? What he promised, say, can I count on it?" This is the one down-to-earth, businesslike moment in the scene; Kupfer gives these lines to the shadowy figure to make it clear that in reality, Senta is talking to an ordinary man pursuing a mundane marriage contract.

    Put off by this intrusion of reality, Senta immediately reverts to her fantasy: the silhouetted figure steps aside, and the fantasy Dutchman sings "Could you give yourself to me for ever and offer your hand to a stranger? Shall I, after a life of anguish, find in your loyalty my long-sought rest?" We are back in the romantic dream world of the accursed, tormented soul in need of redemption. It is he whom Senta finds irresistible, and he whom she agrees to wed. It is only by maintaining this split between fantasy and reality that Senta can keep any sort of psychic equilibrium. I find this notion quite powerful, since of course there's an element of this dichotomy in all romantic love.

    This idea of a fantasy Dutchman is executed brilliantly throughout the production, without having to alter any of the text. Another notable instance is the final scene of Act III, where Erik and the Dutchman both castigate Senta. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that in Kupfer’s production, Erik and the entire assembled crowd don't see the Dutchman—only Senta does. And again, it works perfectly with the text.

    In the end, of course, Senta chooses her fantasy over both her father's candidate and the hapless Erik. But the only way to keep hold of such a delusion is to break with reality completely--through either insanity or death. Senta chooses the latter, though perhaps she has flirted with the former all along.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    One weird aspect of this production: Senta keeps singing of the pale seaman, but Simon Estes, of course, is all but pale... it causes an unintended comic effect.
    I also think the casting (even apart from vocal considerations) serves the production beautifully. Lisbeth Balslev, in both looks and behavior, is perfect as a repressed old-maid schoolmarm of a Senta.

    And yes, some may object that Simon Estes doesn't look like any kind of "pallid" Dutchman. But presented as a fantasy figure--a towering, handsome, virile black man (appearing in chains on a slave ship), he only makes Senta's feverish longings seem all the more exotic and transgressive.
    Last edited by Amfortas; January 2nd, 2012 at 11:19 PM.

  13. #12
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Parsifal, (ein Bühnenweihfestspiel - A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage)

    The Metropolitan Opera/James Levine.
    Parsifal - Siegfried Jerusalem



    Wagner didn't use the "opera" for this work. Easy to see why. This four hour plus piece had strong religious themes, especially in Acts I and 3, which I thought was well captured by the relatively traditional stage production, though the best scene was in Act 2, with the Flower-maidens and their floral garden seducing Parsifal (front cover pictured above). So staging wise, I thought the production worked well, effective for the story's plot and was non-distractive.

    Levine did a predictably "safe" interpretation though it didn't feel arresting, perhaps the religious theme might have something to do with it? I don't know. The singers did a fine job. Singer Jerusalem (Parsifal) was the strongest, the rest were fine. Only one role for the soprano, singer Waltraud Meier (Kundry) did her best at seducing Parsifal in Act 2 and conveyed her somewhat tragic role well. I kind of felt sorry for Kundry.

    Overall, I enjoyed it. Considering it was Wagner's last opera, it didn't feel as epic as some of his other pieces composed before, but perhaps that had to do with the strong religious themes going through it? Parsifal is currently my favourite Wagner opera (has been for a while). This version is probably not the strongest around musically, but I think the best part of it was its staging, so I "justified" its purchase in hindsight.

  14. #13
    Senior Member Involved Member Couchie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    My personal favorite Tristan und Isolde is this one:



    I love its minimalistic staging, and love Stemme's performance (good singing, excellent acting) although she doesn't get a worthy Tristan in Gambill to share the stage with her (but we do get Rene Pape as a bonus). There's also a very good documentary included. It's available on blu-ray as well.
    I'll add my own thoughts:

    - The production is gorgeous. If any opera can pull off minimalism it's the near-actionless Tristan. The concentric-ringed stage is beautiful and looks well-built. With changing lighting they were able to subtly enhance the drama and keep the set interesting.

    - Stemme is a fiery, defiant Isolde. This makes for a sensational Act 1 but limits the sympathy we feel for her later on. Still, she is probably incomparable in this role today, and she does not fail to deliver.

    - Gambill didn't really sell me on the first 2 acts. His and Stemme's voices do not meld as well as Jerusalem and Meier's in the Barenboim DVD. I had written him off after Act 2 and begrudgingly prepared for my least favorite, Tristan-centric part of the opera: Act 3. And holy **** was I ever mistaken. HE OWNED IT. Pure enthrallment. With Kollo or Jerusalem the eyelids start to get heavy during this act. Here, Tristan's death was arguably the highlight of the entire opera. Revelatory.

    - Brangäne, Kurwenal, Marke: All exceptional.

    - There is about 10 minutes cut from some of the most sublime music in Act 2. Why it was necessary to cut 10 minutes from a 4 hour opera I'll never know. It occurs right before the Liebesnacht and for people familiar with the opera the whole duet goes on to feel premature.

    - Visual quality is quite poor for blu-ray. The only thing high definition would seem to be the subtitles. On closeups especially there are noticeable artifacts and ghosting of the image. This is a relatively minor complaint and doesn't really affect overall enjoyment.

    - Audio quality is divine. Some people seem to complain the singers are drowned out listening in surround sound. I listened in stereo with headphones, and was greeted with rich orchestra and always-audible singing. The conductor and sound engineers bring out details you can't hear on the older famous CD recordings.

  15. #14
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Yes, you're right that Gambill improved in the third act. This is overall an excellent production. Darn, I didn't notice the 10-minute cut, it's a shame that they did this.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  16. #15
    Senior Member Involved Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Parsifal, (ein Bühnenweihfestspiel - A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage)

    The Metropolitan Opera/James Levine.
    Parsifal - Siegfried Jerusalem



    Wagner didn't use the "opera" for this work. Easy to see why. This four hour plus piece had strong religious themes, especially in Acts I and 3, which I thought was well captured by the relatively traditional stage production, though the best scene was in Act 2, with the Flower-maidens and their floral garden seducing Parsifal (front cover pictured above). So staging wise, I thought the production worked well, effective for the story's plot and was non-distractive.

    Levine did a predictably "safe" interpretation though it didn't feel arresting, perhaps the religious theme might have something to do with it? I don't know. The singers did a fine job. Singer Jerusalem (Parsifal) was the strongest, the rest were fine. Only one role for the soprano, singer Waltraud Meier (Kundry) did her best at seducing Parsifal in Act 2 and conveyed her somewhat tragic role well. I kind of felt sorry for Kundry.

    Overall, I enjoyed it. Considering it was Wagner's last opera, it didn't feel as epic as some of his other pieces composed before, but perhaps that had to do with the strong religious themes going through it? Parsifal is currently my favourite Wagner opera (has been for a while). This version is probably not the strongest around musically, but I think the best part of it was its staging, so I "justified" its purchase in hindsight.
    I like this dvd a lot, but I kind of wish I had other more engaging interpretations in my collection. I've seen clips of younger Jerusalem's Parsifal, and it's definitely better than here. I think Waltraud Meier's performance in this is sublimely exceptional. Possibly even moreso than in the clips of the Nagano/Lehnhoff I've watched on youtube. But yeah Levine plays just as safe, contemplative, and minimal as Schenk. Which is why it matches and I think functions perfectly for what it is. And I didn't really appreciate Levine's Wagner until I saw Luisi's Götterdämmerung. He may not have gone wild with it, but he sure as heck believed in it, and I think it's easy to take that for granted.

    On Amazon I could trade it for credit and get half off of the Wolfgang Wagner dvd at Bayreuth (also with Jerusalem) or the aforementioned Nagano/Lehnhoff bluray, and I have often considered it. But then I realized, man, I might miss it. The Earthy literal no-nonsense approach is just so sublime to me, but I think the finer points of Schenk's style are things that don't sing on a dvd. Just the way I imagine it.

    Does anyone know the availability of Barenboim/Chereau '09 La Scala Parsifal on dvd or bluray?

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