A fictionalized account in four segments of the life of Japan's celebrated twentieth-century author Yukio Mishima. Three of the segments parallel events in Mishima's life with his novels (... See full summary »
In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story of five mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality blurs as the tale advances.
I have always loved and appreciated Wagner's music, and the mammoth Der Ring Das Nibelungen is dramatically and musically a feast. Of the four, which I love to death, Die Walkure is the most accessible and contains the best scene in my opinion of the entire cycle in Wotan's Farewell but my personal favourite is Siegfried. Of the Ring cycle productions my favourites are the 1992-3 Bayreuth and 1990 Met. The 1980 Chereau-Boulez performance is also worth noting, as is the interesting 2007-9 Valencia performance. The 2010-2 Met productions had their good points also. However there is one to avoid and that's the 2003-4 Stuttgart Ring, Siegfried especially was a huge disappointment.
Before I start the review I know that it is for Das Rheingold, but seeing as I saw all four Amsterdam Ring productions I do wish to leave a comment on all four productions, if that's alright. The Amsterdam Ring is not perfect with some singers better than others and so forth and the picture quality lacking clarity for all four performances, but it was a fascinating production. Of the four, I was especially taken by Die Walkure. The stage itself is unique, small and somewhat shallow but extended out so that it circles the orchestra with a walkway, and in some scenes there is effective use of a multi-layered platform. In all four productions, the orchestral playing is lush and very powerful, especially in climaxes, if just lacking the mysterious approach for the beginning of Gotterdammerung for instance. The conducting is not as enigmatic for example as Boulez or Barenboim but still superb.
Das Rheingold: The opera that starts the cycle off, and while solid enough I did get the sense from some performances that there was a sense of still settling in or something. I found it especially true of John Brochelor's Wotan, a fine voice but Walkure and Siegfried gives the character more to do, and while he is convincing in the finale there are places where he's a little stiff. Chris Merritt's Loge was oddly disappointing, the role is ironic but I found Merritt verging on bizarre. His high notes is uncharacteristically unsteady too, usually I find it ringing. The tight-looking costumes for the Rhinemaidens are also hideous. However there is still much to like, such as Graham Clark's nasty Mime, Anne Gjevang's warning Erda, Henk Smit's skin-crawling Alberich, Carola Huhn's poised Freia and Carsten Stabell's resonant and very menacing Fafner(he and Fasolt actually look as imposing as they sound).
Die Walkure: For me the best of the four. The costumes are much more flowing and the lighting is beautiful, making the sparse sets more appealing than they actually are. Of the performances, Jeanine Altmeyer, while I prefer her Sieglinde and Gutrune, gives her best performance of the three operas Brunnhilde appears in(I didn't like her much in the other two), I think the role is too heavy for her but she has charisma and sings confidently here. Every bit as good is Brochelor as Wotan, much better than he is in Rheingold. His voice is rich and he is a fine actor here, with an outstanding Wotan's Farewell and a moving Act 2 monologue. Reinhild Runkel is an outstanding Fricka, witty and thrilling. Nadine Secunde is an affecting Sieglinde, John Keyes a heroic Siegmund. Kurt Rydl is an unyielding Hunding also.
Siegfried: Just as good, though Altmeyer sounds very tired and flat this time round. However despite his physical appearance(not as disconcerting as Jon Frederic West for Stuttgart) Heinz Kruse as Siegfried has a fine voice. Brochelor once again is an excellent Wotan, Gjevang is as warning as she was in Rheingold. Stabell sounds really sinister here, and this production manages to get past the potential problem of how Fafner should look. Clark's Mime is both nasty and sympathetic, and Smit brilliant as Alberich. Casting a boy soprano for the wood-bird has proved to be controversial casting but one that paid off in my view. Stefan Pangratz looks adorable and sings with great beauty of tone.
Gotterdammerung: There are two things I didn't like here. Altmeyer's Brunnhilde is sadly no improvement over her performance in Siegfried, considering that this is the opera where Brunnhilde for me comes into her own that is a big problem. And having the Norns with bald heads is a cliché that I am not very fond of. However, I did like the idea of Gutrune not wandering away this time but Hagen turning on her as well as Gunther. Both of the performers are convincing enough but not definitive. Kruse shows he still has the heft and power to sing Siegfried and Gjevang is a very moving Waltraute in her short scene between Brunnhilde. Rydl's Hagen despite the wobble, though not as problematic as it would become later, is outstanding, very menacing indeed.
Overall, fascinating with enough good performances and musical values to impress. Bethany Cox
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