Of the various productions I've seen of Das Rheingold, I do prefer the 1990 Met, 1980 Chereau-Boulez, 1992 Bayreuth and 2007 Valencia productions. However, it is far better than the 2003 Stuttgart performance. I did much like the staging and costume and set design. Those looking for a traditional staging will want to look away, but those who don't mind so much will perhaps like it very much. The roaring-20s-style costumes and sets aren't traditional, but they are also not ugly like with Stuttgart either. The camera work, the case with all four productions actually, does show some very detailed direction and a lovely view of the panoramic waterfall front, however a lot of is very close-up and somewhat shaky.
As for the stage direction, there may be a couple of controversial points- though not as much as Gotterdammerung which had one or two touches similar to the sometimes bizarre staging of the Stuttgart Gotterdammerung- such as Brunnhilde in her father's attic at the start, however I did feel this worked to highlight the feminine story-telling aspect. However other touches are very impressive indeed, showing detail and an ability to make all the actors do something even when they're not singing, highlights being Loge constantly looking for his lighter(something that did work better than the Loge in Valencia who was constantly stroking his goatee and whizzing around on a scooter), Wotan cutting off Alberich's arm and Alberich tearing out the heart of the Rhinegold.
I was very impressed overall with the musical aspects. The sound is excellent, and the orchestral playing, always lush and powerful while sounding driven in the Niebelheim scene, sounds glorious because of that. Michael Schonwardt's conducting is perhaps a little lighter than that of Barenboim for example, but it is a commanding and never too passive reading. The Rhinemaidens were very well-blended, and I liked the idea of them being clad in Charleston dress in the swimming pool. Of the singing, there were a couple I wasn't so taken with. Johan Reuter does have a beautiful voice and good technique, but for a role as authoritative as that of Wotan I did find him almost too naive. I'll be honest in saying I found the Wotan of the Copenhagen Walkure and Siegfried superior.
Michael Kristensen sings Loge very well and plays the role more than competently. He just lacks that sense of edge and irony, that's all. Sten Byriel fares much better as a splendidly-characterised Alberich, his voice may lack power to start with but once Alberich puts on the Tarnhelm(again more convincing than Stuttgart and by far the musical highlight of this Rheingold) to make himself invisible Byriel's vocal production is much more convincing. Christian Christianssen is a very solid Fafner, but as the softer(perhaps) character of Fasolt Stephen Milling-one of the highlights of the Copenhagen Walkure also- is superb. Randi Sten is a stylish and witty Fricka. Susanne Resmark is a formidable and warning Erda, and Froh and Donner while more impressive vocally than dramatically- I found the drama diminished a bit once Alberich left the stage- are good.
In a nutshell, interesting but rather uneven for me and not my first choice. 7/10 Bethany Cox
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