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I know that that this Pierre Boulez-conducted Ring Cycle was seen as controversial at the time, and may not please everybody. However, I found myself thoroughly enjoying all four productions with Die Walkure being my favourite. This Siegfried is not as good, and I do prefer the 1990 Met and 1993 Bayreuth(with Barenboim conducting) performances. However I thought it was wonderful. I loved the costume and set design, the forest set design was like looking at a set for a sumptuously-designed fantasy movie which was an effect I loved. The stage effects are mostly good, with the conjuring of the Waldvogel(Woodbird) most effective. The dragon Fafner was decent, not as menacing as he sounded to start with but not a botched job like in the recent Met production.
With the DVD, the camera work is very good, as is the sound. The colour quality could have been brighter and clearer though. Musically, it is magnificent. Wagner's score is my personal favourite from the Ring Cycle(though Die Walkure with Wotan's Farewell has the single best scene of the entire cycle), and the orchestra are powerfully blended and play brilliantly throughout. I have seen the production criticised before for tedious pacing, perhaps because it is Siegfried is perhaps a longer opera than the previous two operas of the cycle and that it suffers due to the amount of energy the production of Die Walkure did, but I found that Pierre Boulez's conducting was enigmatic and never rushed or dragged.
You couldn't have asked for better performances either. I'd say my personal favourite individual voice was that of Norma Sharp as the Woodbird, bright, clear and pure in tone, just gorgeous. Manfred Jung and Gwyneth Jones have both been seen as controversial casting, but while I can see why I have to say I liked them both. Jung's voice is perhaps not powerful enough for Siegfried and some of his phrasing is a tad strident, not as problematic as the prologue to Gotterdamerung but compared to the voice of Jones in the final scene here he doesn't quite seem up to the music's demands. He is mostly very musical though, and doesn't resort to blustering and straining like some Siegfrieds(and Tristans) do. His acting is very engaging and natural and he does actually try to create a complex character, trying to make Siegfried go on a journey in terms of character.
Gwyneth Jones' high notes may not be to everybody's tastes, as huge as they are, and not the screeching kind of loud, they can have a tendency to sound under the note. On the other hand, it is such a powerful voice that sears with poignancy and intensity with her uttering of Sei Mein coming across as genuine. But it is her acting in the role of Brunnhilde that makes me love Jones, throughout the Ring Cycle her manner on stage is intense and surprisingly subtle too and Siegfried is no exception. Heinz Zednik is a strong Mime, though I prefer his Loge in Das Rheingold. He may have a tendency to overdo it with the acting, though this is probably compared to the more naturalistic presence of Jung, but you can tell he is very involved, he is always interesting to watch and the voice is in good shape.
Donald McIntyre is a firm and authoritative Wanderer, a powerful voice that phrases music beautifully and a compelling presence. Of the 1980-1981 productions of the Ring, I found McIntyre's strongest performance to be in Die Walkure, but he is consistently great in Das Rheingold, Die Walkure and Siegfried. Fritz Hubner is a slightly woolly but sinister Fafner, Ortrun Wenkel is a touching Erda and Hermann Becht is an effectively skin-crawling Alberich. Overall, wonderful. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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