Magazine article Opera Canada

Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Magazine article Opera Canada

Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Article excerpt


DGG 440 073 4770


As a result of following its evolution for The Wagner Journal, I saw the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's epic three times over about 18 months--twice in the theatre and once in Live in HD cinema transmissions. Now I can watch it again at will on the small screen at home with its speedy release on DVD in a boxed set that also includes Susan Froemke's Wagner's Dream, the feature-length movie about the making of this Ring cycle.

In some respects, this whole set .documents the making of the Ring rather than the final product as exemplified by the first performances of complete cycles at the Met in spring 2012. I'm sure many readers attended the Live in HD transmissions, which are the source of this release. So Das Rheingold is from Oct. 2010. Die Walktire from May 2011, Siegfried from Nov. 2011 and Gotterdammerung from Feb. 2012. (Intermission interviews from the movie transmissions are also included among the extras on these DVDs.)

As a result, none of the adjustments to the staging made after the stand-alone performances of each opera and before the complete cycles are recorded here. I mention this mainly for the record because the changes made were intended to improve the way Robert Lepage's staging came across in the theatre. This video document really isn't Lepage'S staging so much as Lepage's staging as channelled by video director Gary Halvorson (with input likely from Met General Manager Peter Gelb, who usually sits in the truck that serves as a production studio for the movie transmissions).

Also as a result of sourcing these Mins from the orginal productions, Met Music Director James Levine conducts Rheingold and Walkiire while Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi is on the podium for Siegfried and Gatterdaminerting. This makes for an interesting contrast, with Levine tending to slower tempi and an emphasis on the grandeur of Wagner's music while Luisi aims for a leaner, more nimble sound with clearer textures. He was also conducting these pieces for the first time in these productions, so his approach and interpretation as recorded here should also be taken as works in progress.

This production was not the unalloyed success that Lepage and Gelb were doubtless hoping for, with many .critics, including Patrick Dillon for Opera Canada, finding it static, shallow, technologically overblown and generally paling in comparison to other recent productions--such as that of La Fura dels Baus in Valencia--or even its immediate predecessor at the Met, the long-running staging of Otto Schenk.

The oft-cited villain of Lepage's piece is the so-called Machine, designer Carl Pillion's 24-plank unit set, which revolves and reconfigures to serve as both stage area and projection space. It is in many ways a remarkable creation, and some of the effects it made possible are spectacular in the theatre and on screen--the descent down the steps to Nibelheim in Rheitwold, for example, or the bird's-eye view of Brannhilde on her fiery rock at the end of Walkare. Quebec City-based Lepage and his Ex Machina production team upped the technological ante again in Siegfried by turning the planks of the Machine into a forest floor that was alive in 3D with slithering snakes, crawling insects and running water. …

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