Magazine article Gramophone

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Magazine article Gramophone

Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen

Article excerpt

Wagner [DVD] Der Ring des Nibelungen Thomas Jesatko bass-bar     Wotan/Wanderer Edna Prochnik mez           Fricka/Waltraute Iris Kupke sop              Freia Thomas Berau bar            Donner/Gunther Juhan Tralla ten            Froh Simone Schroder contr       Erda Endrlk Wottrich ten         Siegmund Heike Wessels sop           Sieglinde Jurgen Muller ten           Siegfried/Loge Manfred Hemm bass           Hunding Cornelia Ptassek sop        Gutrune Christoph Stephinger bass   Hagen Judith Nemeth sop           Brunnhilde Sung Ha bass                Fasolt/Fafner (Siegfried) Andreas Horl bass           Fafner (Rheingold) Karsten Mewes bar           Alberich Uwe Eikotter ten            Mime Katharina Gores sop         Woodbird 

Chorus and Orchestra of the Mannheim National Theatre / Dan Ettinger

Stage director Achim Freyer

Video director Rudij Bergmann

ArtHaus Musik (F) (7) [DVD] 107 553 (14h 19' * NTSC * 16:9 * PCM stereo * O) Recorded live, June-July 2013

Obtainable from the usual online sources, this live recording of the cycle from Wagner-year performances in Mannheim in 2013 is not officially available in the UK. But, as the first nonnarrative production of the work to make it to DVD, it's a significant release. Artist/ designer/director Achim Freyer, a one-time pupil of Bertolt Brecht, takes no prisoners in his depiction of the characters as visual symbols (or, better, signs). Their appearance and interreactions relate little to realistically chartable human emotions--and not at all to a century-plus's worth of tradition--while props are similarly abstract or sometimes absent at moments when, supposedly following the music, more conventional stagings make most use of them. As befits actors in a mythical drama, everyone is either masked or heavily made up. Wotan and Fricka, for example, have black and white cage-like head-dress masks, and there are many clowns: Alberich a Hider-like one, Siegfried (memorably) a full circus comedian with straw hair, white face, blue eyeliner and scarlet nose and lips, Flagen a ringmaster. Also, perhaps more literally following the motif-laden patchwork of Wagner's score, there are an awful lot of people present on Freyer's stage--if they're in characters' minds, the chances are that you'll see them, whether or not they're already dead or have, according to the libretto, exited.

In best modern-day Brechtian fashion, too, Thomas Mann's idea of The Ring as a late-19th-century novel of personal and political intrigue is ditched in total (ditto Shaw's political analogy and its Chereau updating). …

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