In 1976, at Pierre Boulez’s suggestion, Wolfgang Wagner brought in the 31 year old progressive French stage and film director Patrice Chereau to produce a new “Der Ring Des Nibelungen” cycle for the centenary of the Bayreuth Festival, and aptly teamed him with Boulez as conductor. The result scandalized and shook the entire opera world. Conservative musicologists, such as arch conservative NY times critic Harold C. Schonberg, loudly expressed moral outrage and pointed to this production as an “opening of the flood gates” (some hysterically labeled this a Marxist “Ring”). Four years later, television director Brian Large filmed the Chereau/Boulez Ring and televised it over a period of a week. It was a ratings and critical smash.
Over 30 years later, this production’s power and legend remains undiminished. It was the first complete filmed “Ring” and is now looked upon by most as pioneering and the greatest of its kind.
The stand out cast, which includes Donald McIntyre, unforgettable as Wotan and Heinz Zednick as Loge personified,has hardly been bettered. Richard Peduzzi’s stage design and Large’s camera work are exemplary, but this remains Chereau and Boulez’s Ring.
Chereau, who was unfamiliar with Wagner and the work, endows this Ring with a fresh perspective. His is a penetrating, industrial age, Freudian ring, idiosyncratically interpreted in political, social and psychological terms.
The avant-garde advocate Boulez, who had previously conducted a radical, acclaimed “Parsifal”, brings an equally fresh perspective to this much interpreted work. The Bayreuth Festival Orchestra, accustomed to playing Wagner with opaque rolling thunder,came dangerously close to striking in protest or Boulez’s complex, brisk, diaphanous, minimalist approach. Continue reading “AVANT OPERA ON FILM”
It could very well be that maestro Daniel Barenboim’s greatest contribution to music has been in filmed performances. Perhaps, none of his Wagner opera recordings, though “generally” excellent, could be considered reference versions. Yet, his filmed Ring and Parsifal (with Harry Kupfer), and three excellent Tristans (Ponnelle, the much missed Muller, and the recently departed enfant terrible Patrice Chereau) have no serious competition in the DVD market (it remains to be seen whether Barenboim’s 2010 Ring with Cassiers, coming to DVD this year, will hold its own). Barenboim’s recordings of the Beethoven piano sonatas, again, while A contender amongst contemporary … Continue reading A lucidly filmed documentation of a mature Brucknerian’s energetic 4th
This is a no brainer. In the Teldec packaging, Barenboim’s complete Wagner operas are available at roughly three dollars per disc. No librettos are included, but at this price, one can easily obtain those elsewhere.
By “general” consensus, Barenboim is the greatest living Wagnerian. Dull ADD listeners are predictably apt to lazily compare him, unfavorably, to Furtwangler, but Barenboim merely is part of the same German romantic school, one that Klemperer, and others belonged to as well. The entire collection here is in clear sound, an important factor. Luckily, the conducting is as lucid and as animated as the recording quality.
This Ring is one of the best modern recordings available. John Tomlinson’s Wotan can join the elite and he gives his own rogue take on it. Siegfried Jerusalem is also a characterful standout as Siegfried, Graham Clark is so slimy as Mime that he leaves a trail and Waltraud Meier’s Waltraute is colored in earthy hues. Of course, this is the same Ring that is available on DVD (with Harry Kupfer’s apocalyptic design) and may be the overall best filmed Ring to date. It compares favorably to many audio Rings, especially the stereo sets, such as Solti, Karajan, Bohm, and Boulez. Barenboim’s Ring probably surpasses all but Solti here and may, arguably, surpass the famous Culshaw produced Decca version. The Barenboim Teldec does not rely on an overabundance of effects and so, musically, may be more pure, but one’s preference will be reliant on priorities. While I might historically rank the Rings from Furtangler, Knappertsbusch, Keilberth, and Krauss on a more elevated plane, sonically those Rings, of course, cannot compete.
Continue reading “THE WAGNER DEAL OF THE DECADE FROM OUR GREATEST LIVING WAGNERIAN”