Der Ring des Nibelungen / John Brocheler, Graham Clark, Chris Merritt, Henk Smit, Reinhild Runkel, Albert Bonnema, Hartmut Haenchen, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, Opus Arte

Der Ring des Nibelungen / John Brocheler, Graham Clark, Chris Merritt, Henk Smit, Reinhild Runkel, Albert Bonnema, Hartmut Haenchen, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, Opus Arte

This stunning production of The Ring from Het Muziektheater Amsterdam blends the lyrical, mythical and philosophical qualities of Wagner’s work into a profound unity.

Pierre Audi’s stage direction is inspired and amazing sets by George Tsypin and wonderful costumes by Oscar-winning Eiko Ishioka complement singing and playing of great intensity from the cast and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under Hartmut Haenchen’s visionary musical direction.

This is a Ring to remember.

This is an 11-DVD set

Product Features

  • ISBN: 978-0-7697-0702-0
  • Color
  • Running Time: Approx. 17 Hours
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese
  • Sound: LPCM/DTS

2 thoughts on “Der Ring des Nibelungen / John Brocheler, Graham Clark, Chris Merritt, Henk Smit, Reinhild Runkel, Albert Bonnema, Hartmut Haenchen, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, Opus Arte

  1. harmless drudge
    harmless drudge says:

    Not Radical but with Enough Novelty to Thrill (or Infuriate) In evaluating this Ring cycle I am using the Barenboim/Bayreuth, Boulez/Bayreuth, and Levine/New York cycles as references. (I have also seen the Walkure from the Stuttgart cycle, but that one falls into an entirely different genre, closer to parody/comedy.) Turning to the Amsterdam cycle:Visual/Lighting — The Amsterdam cycle is consistently well lit with bright, primary colors usually in agreement with what the text suggests. I found that to be highly enjoyable and a refreshing change from the dismal, everyone put on Nilsson’s mining helmet, lighting of the Barenboim Bayreuth cycle.Visual/Sets — The most distinctive feature of the Amsterdam cycle is the staging. Overall, the stage looks smaller than the Met and certainly shallower than Bayreuth; what’s unique is that the main stage is extended out and circles the orchestra with a narrow walkway. That has two consequences: 1. the orchestra is in view for all full stage scenes (only disappearing for close ups of the singers) and 2. action as well as entrances can be spread with some singers behind the orchestra and others in front. This unique staging sometimes leads to vocal imbalances, and some may object to the presence of the orchestra. I thought it was a stroke of genius and made the orchestra a visual as well as vocal partner to the events on stage. In addition, some of the scenes have multi-layered platforms canted or suspended over the main stage. As for the settings, there is no obvious time period, sort of like Barenboim rather than Boulez’s industrial revolution cycle or Levine’s more realistic Norse mythology.Visual/Costumes — Costumes are generally colorful (again, not the pervasive darkness of the Barenboim Bayreuth cycle — the reason I pick on that cycle is because it is so well cast but sabotaged by the sets and costumes) and are somewhat out of time (that is, flowing robes and gowns that could be mythological but could also fit with some contemporary fashion; an exception being Gutrune who in some scenes is dressed like she stepped out of a Jane Austin novel). The robes of the gods in Rheingold miss the mark, looking cumbersome and inelegant. While I’m on a roll, the costumes for the poor Rhinemaidens are hideous (writhing about the stage in tight body suits — the anguish is probably real).Acting — As is often the case in Ring cycles, the “bad guys” are the more entertaining and convincing actors — Alberich, Mime, Hagen. (But as Milton observed, Satan was more interesting than the angelic hosts, so…). But the “good guys and gals” also throw themselves into their parts with general enthusiasm — Fricka (on second thought, maybe a “bad girl”), Wotan (in Walkure and Siegfried, but very uncomfortable and stilted in Rheingold), and the incestuous pair (S & S) deserve special mention. Brunnhilde is also energetic (as are her peers in the competing cycles — Evans, Behrens, and most of all Jones).Singing/Conducting — For an audio recording, of course, this is the only category of importance. Fortunately, a well-staged and interesting visual production can compensate (or distract) from a less than ideal singing/playing combination. Such is the case here. First, the orchestra’s contribution is definitely a plus; however, compared to some of the first class audio recordings from Bayreuth, Vienna, or New York, the Amsterdam cycle’s players are not always in the same league when it comes to thrust and execution; it’s the difference between top notch and very good. When it comes to the vocal end, the singers as a whole are also not at the same level as those found in the better audio recordings (be it live ones such as Keilberth, Knappertsbusch, Bohm or studio ones such as Solti or Janowski). Speaking of Janowski leads me to the Brunnhilde, Jeannine Altmeyer — who assumed the role in Janowski’s audio recording made in the early 1980s. Not surprisingly, the years have taken a toll. She still manages to do a decent job overall but clearly she’s not the woman she was twenty-five years earlier (who is?). I thought she was splendid in Walkure but below par in both Siegfried and Gotterdammerung. Compared to those in the other cycles noted above, I would put her overall performance (acting and singing) behind her competitors (Evans, Jones, Behrens) but not by all that much. (The makeup crew should be shot; obviously Altmeyer is no longer a spring chicken, but the makeup used actually accentuates her age, making her appear like a middle aged Goth.)Siegfried has the physique of Melchior but, alas, not the vocal splendor; he gets through the part but I would rate him below Jerusalem with Barenboim yet above Jerusalem with Levine. He’s competent in the manner of Boulez’s Jung. Sieglinde and Siegmund are more than adequate in both the vocal and acting departments.All in all this is a solid ring cycle with, for me, a unique staging that has been mostly well thought through. As with most…

  2. Pekinman

    Fascinating production, excellent performances As a previous reviewer has done I have also used the Levine, Barenboim and Boulez films of the Ring as comparisons. The Levine is really not truly comparable to these other three as it is a very traditional production by Otto Schenk. And it’s a very good traditional production. My enjoyment of that filmed cycle was muted by some bad casting, notably the ponderous physical presences of Gary Lakes and Jessye Norman as Siegmund and Sielinde. She sounds glorious but is not as impassioned as she is on the older Janowski recording from the 1980s. Lakes is not bad but he’s huge, and the two of them together make for a highly stodgy-looking first act of ‘Walküre’. And Christa Ludwig’s Fricka is well past her great prime and looks and sounds more like Wotan’s old auntie than his young wife. Levine’s conducting can be very turgid as well which doesn’t help. The great pluses of his version are the wonderful performances by Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried) and Matti Salminen (Hagen). Hildegard Behrens was a good Brünnhilde but she always looked to me like her head was going to explode when she sang full tilt, a bit disconcerting to watch over long stretches.The Boulez and Barenboim productions (Chéreau and Kupfer respectively) are a mixed bag in the same way as Levine’s.The Chéreau production is beautiful and interesting to watch with very few scenic flops (notably, the Giants and their dead-weight totally fake looking arms). The cast is mostly excellent, though Siegfried Jerusalem (both the Levine and Barenboim films) is far preferable to Manfred Jung. Gwyneth Jones is very exciting to watch and her singing was under better control than it is on some other recordings, and she’s a formidable, magnetic actress. Anne Evans (Barenboim) is much more passive but had a beautiful voice, more suited to lighter roles than Brünnhilde, but she too acts convincingly.If I had to choose between those last two I’d plump for the Boulez. As for Wotans I think James Morris (Levine) is far preferable to John Tomlinson’s (Barenboim) woofy sound and uncertain top notes. Donald McIntyre (Boulez) is, on the other hand, lighter voiced but a fine actor with a steady, attractive more baritonal sound than the deeper, more gravelly voices of Morris and Tomlinson.As it is the Audi/Haenchen film is easily the most recommendable of all these productions, in spite of minor disappointments in some of the singers. Compared to the Barenboim and Boulez productions I found Audi’s brilliant, innovative and wildly creative sets to be far more attention-grabbing and thought-provoking than those two other ‘modern’ versions from Bayreuth. Audi has utilized the beautiful Amsterdam opera theater in a ground-breaking manner. He circles the stage out into the audience, the orchestra and conductor placed within the circumference of the wide swinging ramps that loop out into the theater, placing them in full view of the audience. It’s similar to a Noh theatre approach and it works! The orchestra and conductor do not detract from the stage action in the least, in fact they enhance it in a strange way. They become, like the Japanese Noh orchestra, part of the drama.The sets and costumes for Rheingold and Walküre are the most successful, especially Walküre. The bathing helmet-like wigs are a little much, they make the gods look a bit like kewpie dolls, but one quickly gets used to them. The stage for all four operas is largely sparse and uncluttered by props. Audi has paired everything down to the minimum, allowing the cosmic nature of the sets to create a timeless atmosphere within which these gods walk amongst the human race. The sets are high tech and do not indicate any specific historic time. I LOVED this production. Audi relies heavily upon flying buttresses and gorgeous lighting. And his solution to the almost insoluble problems presented by the giants and the dragon are brilliant. The giants are especially arresting in their golem costumes, even rather sexy as both singers are tall and slim and their rocky bodies exude a primordial sexuality that might attract someone like Freia, at least in this production where she is shown to be very much in sympathy with Fasolt’s amorous devotion.Hartmut Haenchen is a very fine Wagnerian and his orchestras (which change with each opera) are superb. They easily survive comparison with the more famous orchestras that have recorded this work, though clearly they aren’t the Vienna Philharmonic, nor is the fine Dutch chorus on the same level as the chorus of the Bayreuth Festival or Bavarian State opera.What is most appreciated in Haenchen’s direction is his high-lighting of many beautiful details, especially in the woodwind section. He is fleet-footed in his direction, like Boulez and Böhm, but never glip, or merely sliding over the surface of the more profound moments.The…

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