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Götterdämmerung (I) (2009)

TV Movie  -   -  Music  -  1 September 2009 (Germany)
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Cast

Credited cast:
Christiane Bassek ...
Flosshilde
Catherine Foster ...
Brunnhilde
Susann Günther-Dissmeier ...
Wellgunde
Christine Hansmann ...
1st Norn
Mario Hoff ...
Gunther
Silona Michel ...
Woglinde / 3rd Norn
Renatus Mészár ...
Hagen
Tomas Möwes ...
Alberich
Norbert Schmittberg ...
Siegfried
Carl St.Clair ...
Himself - Conductor
Nadine Weissmann ...
Waltraute / 2nd Norn
Marietta Zumbült ...
Gutrune
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1 September 2009 (Germany)  »

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User Reviews

 
Weimar Ring Cycle: Part 4
24 July 2012 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In all honesty, I didn't think very much of the Weimar Ring Cycle. The best of the four productions was Siegfried for me- and Die Walkure the worst-, but that is not saying much. All four had their good moments, but mostly they all contained stark production values, staging that either was dull or didn't add anything to the drama(especially the walk-ons the stage director is seemingly obsessed with) and full of performers who are frankly ill suited to singing Wagner. So where would I put Gotterdammerung of the four? In chronological order, in order of best, I'd say Siegfried, Das Rheingold, Gotterdammerung and then Die Walkure. Again though that is not saying much as I didn't care at all for either of them(all below a 5/10 here).

Where does the Gotterdammerung rank against the other Gotterdammerungs I've seen? As of now, it's the worst, the others being the 1992 Bayreuth(the best one despite the ending), 1980 Chereau-directed, 1990 Met, 2009 Valencia, 2012 Met, 2006 Copenhagen and 2004 Stuttgart(in order of preference, I'll get round to watching the 2004 Teatro Del Liceu Ring cycle in due course).

Are there good things about the production? Yes, if not many. The best asset I found to be Catherine Foster's Brunnhilde. Even with the slight beat in her voice, which is true of a lot of Wagnerian sopranos I've come across actually, she sings thrillingly especially in the Immolation scene, and acts intelligently. Nadine Weissmann, an excellent Erda in Rheingold, is a moving Waltraute, dramatically her big scene with Foster fares best of the production. Renatus Meszar was undermined by Schulz's rather ridiculous idea to have Hagen as an abused child throughout(ridiculous as this is perhaps Wagner's most evil-incarnate character we're talking about here), but he does a noble job with the role, he is much more involved than he was as Wotan in Walkure and his dark and quite authoritative voice is ideal for the role.

The orchestral playing is reasonably good, though this was the production where it was at its weakest. Most of Act 2 was good(though there are more thrilling versions of Hagen's call elsewhere, primarily the 1990 Met), but the violin's intonation problems for the scene with Siegfried's first ascent at Brunnhilde's rock and the rather thin-on-the-ground sound(both orchestrally and chorally) in the Vassals scene proved disappointing. Carl St Clair's conducting is not exceptional but it is solid.

Apart from Foster and Meszar the rest of the cast don't convince. Norbert Schmittberg is an improvement over Johnny van Hal in Siegfried, but is still uneven. He is much more charismatic on stage so in the end he is a credible hero, and while he does improve considerably he does have a rather shaky start with strident phrasing, strained high notes and moments where he sounds under-pitch. Mario Hoff is the best he has been for the Weimar Ring cycle, the others were Wotan for Rheingold and Alberich for Siegfried(both of which he was entirely unsuited for), as he is a little more ideal vocally. This is saying little however, as I never found myself convinced by his Gunther even as a conspirator.

Marietta Zumbült's Gutrune is not much better than her very child-like Freia. I never felt Gutrune's sorrow or rage over Siegfried's death, and Zumbült's voice for my liking lacks warmth and sounds forced in the lower extensions of her register. There is one bit also where she covers her ears during Schmittberg's singing in Act 2, and no matter how out of tune it was, I still found it very unprofessional, no matter if it was intentional or not. Tomas Mowes' Alberich suffers from the same problem I had with him in the same role in Rheingold and his Wanderer in Siegfried, vocally he is wobbly and pitch-approximate and there is little of the skin-crawling quality of Alberich's character. The Norns are not so bad, but let down badly by the really shrill 3rd Norn of Silona Michel. The Vassals chorus lacks weight or any kind of thrills, the opposite of that of the Copenhagen Gotterdammerung.

Visually I have no better news. I still find the sets stark and too small in scale, and the costumes fail to stand out amidst this drab setting either. Michael Schulz's stage direction continues to infuriate. Again are the walk-ons of additional characters who are there for no reason, dramatic or not, at all. But other staging touches also bothered me, including at the end of the second act to incite that Brunnhilde and Gunther have sex, Gutrune's presence during Siegfried's Funeral March makes no sense whatsoever and only makes what's to come more nonsensical than it already is, the Immolation has no fire literally or dramatically and this is the production to have the single most underwhelming destruction of Valhalla of any Gotterdammerung existing on DVD.

In conclusion, has decent orchestral playing and conducting and three quite good performances(none great though), but the closing to an overall uninvolving cycle of productions continued to have the same problems as the previous productions(dull, unnecessary staging, cold production values, largely uneven cast) with little evidence of improvement. 4/10 Bethany Cox


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