I have always loved and appreciated Wagner's music, and all four operas of Der Ring Des Nieblungen(or what I call The Ring Cycle) are hugely compelling with magnificent music. I actually wanted to like this Stuttgart performance, it was a clever and ambitious concept but sadly the whole performance came across as dull. I give it brownie points for the music, the excellent orchestral playing- the wind and brass especially- and conducting- if at times overly-bombastic- and the mostly very good sound(apart from an occasionally dead-sounding stage-left). And there are three performances of note, Esa Ruuttunen's sincere and suitably evil Alberich, the exciting Mime of Eberhard Francesco Lorenz and especially Mette Ejsing's warning and vocally rich Erda.
The rest of the performances are not as successful. The Rheinmaidens don't really have much to do other than lurking about. Wolfgang Probst is for me the least noble Wotan I've seen on DVD, and while his voice is powerful it doesn't have any control. Robert Kunzli is a well-sung but humourless Loge, Michaela Schuster's Fricka is overemphasized and the giants Fasolt and Fafner while sung with sonority particularly by Roland Bracht were not imposing or menacing at all. The set is not so bad in look, but it gets dull after a while and doesn't do much to enhance the action. The costumes are not much better, I found it incongruous personally to see the Rehinmaidens in slacks.
But what made the performance dull was the lack of any true dramatic impact. One or two parts worked, such as the Rheinmaidens' humiliation of Alberich and the wrestling of the Ring from Alberich, but they weren't enough. Loge eating golden apples actually didn't fit with what he was singing about, Fricka reading tearing pages out of a book undermines any sense of drama, Alberich turning into a frog was pathetic(not even the 2007 Valencia production was this amateurish) and Mime's running around would be more at home in somewhere like MASH. Even worse was how Alberich's curse was handled, not exactly the staging but more so the camera work, the constant switching back and forth from Alberich to Wotan proved to be very distracting.
All in all, sadly dull production of such a great opera. Go for the Barenboim Bayreuth or Levine Met for how it should be done. Even the Boulez-Chereau production of the early 80s, 2010 Met production and Mehta Valencia production were better than this one. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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