I have now had a chance to listen to the new SACD release of the 1965 Solti recording of Wagner’s Die Walküre. (For some reason Das Rheingold hasn’t arrived yet). I’m not going to do a detailed review of the performance since pretty much everything that could be said about it has been, and by people better qualified than me. As you might expect for a recording twice voted “recording of the century”. I’ve also already written about the technical details of the new transfer in my review of the sampler disk.
If you have been following this saga from the beginning you have probably already concluded that Herheim’s approach is radical in some ways and very, very detail oriented. If anything, in Götterdämmerung, it gets denser and more complex with some of the central production features used in somewhat different ways. It’s also spectacular. Not least because of the contributions of lighting designer Ulrich Niepel and video designer Torge Møller. They were important contributors to the first three operas. Here they are even more crucial. This opera also has more going on across the full width of the stage more of the time so it’s actually much harder to film. So let’s get into it.
So continuing our look at Wagner’s Ring at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, directed by Stefan Herheim, we move on to Siegfried. I think it’s fair to say that all the elements referred to in my introductory post are present in Siegfried with some more thrown in for good measure. Let’s look at it act by act.
The second instalment of Deutsche Oper Berlin’s Ring directed by Stefan Herheim, Die Walküre, carries on with much the same iconography as Das Rheingold. Once again the set is largely built up of suitcases, a crowd of refugees observes the action, there’s a piano at centre stage and a white sheet in various forms plays a key role in proceedings. Also, much of the time the characters are working off a score of the piece.
So here we go with the “preliminary evening” of the Deutsche Oper Berlin’s new production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen directed by Stefan Herheim. Das Rheingold opens before the music starts with a crowd of scruffily dressed people with suitcases; presumably refugees, filling a stage which is empty except for a grand piano. One of them starts to put on clown make up. We will soon see that this is Alberich. Another “refugee” sits at the piano and conjures up the first notes of the prelude from the pit. It takes a bit longer for us to realise that this is Wotan.
There’s a new recording out of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen recorded at the Deutsche Oper Berlin last year. Now the DOB claims a special relationship with the music of Wagner (the “Winter Bayreuth”) and it is, of course, in Berlin which adds an unavoidable dimension to the performance history there. It has also had, for more than twenty years, Götz Friedrich’s famous production in its repertoire. So, a new Ring at DOB is a big thing. Given that, what I want to do in terms of engaging with the recording is to bookend reviews of the four videos of the operas in the usual fashion with two general pieces; one laying out my expectations based on the “bonus” material in the boxed set and the booklets, and one as a sort of final conclusion having watched the whole thing. This post is, of course, the first of those.
Georg Solti’s recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle made between 1958 and 1966 has probably had more words written about it than any other classical recording. They are perhaps best. summed up by Gramophone Magazines comment that it is “The greatest of all the achievements in the history of the gramophone record”. It’s an amzing cast that no-one could afford to assemble for a studio recording today, it’s the Wiener Philharmoiker and, of course, Solti himself. But most opera lovers and certainly the audiophile ones will know all this. So why am I writing about it?
The COC’s 2022/23 season opened last night with a revival of David Alden’s production of Wagner’s Der fliegender Holländer with Marilyn Gronsdal directing. It’s been eleven years since this production was last seen and, if memory serves, it created some controversy back then, chiefly on account of the Dutchman’s “zombie” crew. Seeing it again it’s hard to see what the fuss was about. It’s actually a very straightforward production where sailing ships are sailing ships and spinning sheds feature textile workers. The only deviation from the libretto that I noticed was Senta’s death. Here she’s shot by Erik while holding up a picture of the Dutchman.
Dmitri Tcherniakov directed Der fliegende Holländer in Bayreuth in 2021 where it was recorded. It’s no surprise given (a)Tcherniakov and (b)Bayreuth that it’s not a straightforward production. I’m not sure I have fully unpacked it and there isn’t anything in the disk package to help (just the usual essay telling the reader what he/she/they already know/s).