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Der Ring des Nibelungen

 

Wagner's Parsifal

 


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Wagneropera.net - with a passion for Richard Wagner's operas

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Wagner audiences are special, I think. It’s their music – but in a positive way; it’s a passion.
René Pape on Wagner audiences

Important years in Richard Wagner's life

1813 born in Leipzig
1834 Die Feen completed
1843 Holländer premiere
1845 Tannhäuser premiere
1850 Lohengrin premiere
1852 text of Rheingold and Walküre
1854 Das Rheingold completed
1856 Die Walküre completed
1859 Tristan completed
1865 Tristan premiere in Munich
1868 Meistersinger premiere
1869 Das Rheingold premiere
1870 Die Walküre premiere
1871 Siegfried completed
1874 Götterdämmerung completed
1876 First Festival in Bayreuth
1882 Parsifal premiere
1883 Wagner dies in Venice

 

Wagnerians recommend Richard Wagner
on CD or DVD

Wagneropera.net asked a selection of Wagner scholars, directors, singers and writers to recommend five Wagner CDs or DVDs. Here are their recommendations.

 

Nicholas Vazsonyi recommends Wagner

I hesitate to recommend Wagner recordings, because almost all of them fall short in one way or another. For instance, there is, in my mind, no ideal recording of the Ring. Aspects of the Solti, the Karajan, the Levine, and the Janowski Rings are immensely powerful and satisfying. The ideal Ring for me would be a combination of the four. Same for Die Meistersinger. The Karajan recording is excellent, save for a very mediocre Theo Adam as Sachs. Helen Donath is a totally charming Eva. I melt each time I listen to her singing the role. And, for me, René Kollo simply IS Walther. If only Fischer-Dieskau could be extracted from the Jochum recording and inserted into Karajan, we might have something approaching perfection.

Tristan und Isolde FurtwänglerHaving said this, I would recommend the following CDs as being close to definitive performances:

  1. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler (1952).
    Kirsten Flagstad, Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
  2. Die Walküre, Act One, cond. Bruno Walter, with Lotte Lehmann, Lauritz Melchior, and Emanuel List
    walkure walterA thrilling ride from start to finish. It was perhaps this recording more than anything else, that got me hooked on Wagner as a teenager.

    As for DVDs, I am never completely happy with video recordings of stagings, however great or interesting the staging may be, because I find the camera limiting, too authoritarian, and often disturbing. I need the physical aura of the theater. No DVD can ever deliver that total sensory experience: sounds, smells, vibrations, lighting, and sheer expanse. However, there are some Wagner DVDs that I find to be powerful additions to the total Wagner-experience, and which I highly recommend:

  3. The Golden Ring: The 1965 BBC documentary film on Solti's recording of the Ring.
    Behind-the-scenes look at recording sessions in Vienna for parts of Götterdämmerung, including interviews with the performers: Solti, Fischer-Dieskau, Birgit Nilsson, etc. Absolutely riveting!
  4. Winifred Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975
    Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's epic interview with Winifred Wagner in 1975. Just put in the DVD and get ready to be spellbound!

    ... and, this last one is definitely the most controversial:

  5. Hitler: A Film from Germany, a.k.a. Our Hitler, dir. Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
    Syberberg: HitlerSyberberg made a film of Parsifal, but instead, I recommend this 7-hour film. For all its imperfections, its unreasonable demands on the viewer (in German: Zumutung), its potentially dangerous romanticization of Hitler, it is nevertheless a Gesamtkunstwerk in the Wagnerian sense of the word. Syberberg uses a lot of music, but Wagner is center stage for a whole set of reasons that go far beyond the iconic image from the film, where Hitler, dressed in a tunic (Rienzi), rises from a tomb marked with the letters “RW.” Syberberg uses parts of the Ring, Rienzi, Tristan and Parsifal in masterful combination with words and images, revealing much that is at the core of these works in a way that no critical analysis can ever achieve. In the process, Wagner (and Hitler) become a lens through which we come close to some of those heartbreaking issues that have haunted Germany. To use a cliché: the total effect is much greater than the sum of the parts – it is simply overwhelming and deeply moving.

Nicholas Vazsonyi is Associate Professor of German & Comparative Literature at University of South Carolina. His most recent book is Richard Wagner: Self-Promotion and the Making of a Brand (Cambridge 2010).

    

 

 

Sven Friedrich recommends Wagner

  1. Ring SoltiDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Vienna Philharmonic / Georg Solti.

     Simply the best, musically and technically, an acoustic festival in your CD-Player. Should be known as Culshaw-Solti-Ring, because John Culshaw is the real creator and genius of this "sonic stage"... Read more
  2. Lohengrin (CD)
    Rudolf Kempe (EMI).
    Jess Thomas, Elisabeth Grümmer, Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, Otto Wiener
     A subtle interpretation by one of the best Wagner conductors, unfortunately less known than worse. And Elisabeth Grümmer's Elsa seems to be unreachable...
  3. tristan furtwanglerkleiber tristan Tristan und Isolde (CD), conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler or Carlos Kleiber
     It's too hard to decide between red and white wine sometimes. But fortunately both make drunken...
  4. "Richard Wagner" and "Wagner's Ring-motifs"
     Audiobooks by auricula. Wagner for beginners, the wagnerites of tomorrow. Written by an author, who should have known better...
  5. Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975 (DVD)
    Hans-Jürgen Syberberg.
     But yes, folks, it must be! Dealing with Wagner sometimes (often?) means not to walk on the sunny side of the street...

Sven Friedrich is the head of the Richard-Wagner-Museum and National Archives in Haus Wahnfried, Bayreuth. Publications about Wagner, his works and cultural effects. Editor of CD-ROM with Wagners works and writings, author of audio-books, currently one about Gustav Mahler.

     

 

 

Norman Lebrecht recommends Wagner

  1. Ring coverDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Vienna Philharmonic / Georg Solti.

     The first Ring made specifically for record, a visionary project with historic voices - Flagstad, Nilsson, Windgassen, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau, more. Read more
  2. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (CD)
    Rafael Kubelik / Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
    Thomas Stewart, Sándor Kónya, Gundula Janowitz, Brigitte Fassbaender, Friedrich Lenz.
     The version DG recorded and then suppressed, with Thomas Stewart unsurpassable as Sachs, the young Brigitte Fassbaender, Gundula Janowitz, Thomas Hemsley and a conductor who does not labour the jokes.
  3. Wesendock Lieder (SOMM)
     It's Flagstad and Beecham. Why look elsewhere?
  4. Tristan und Isolde (EMI)
     I'd go for both Furtwängler and Pappano versions, half a century apart. Late Flagstad, early Stemme: tough choice.
  5. Parsifal Good Friday Music (Sony)
     This is a wonderful, autumnal recording by Bruno Walter, coupled with Dvorak 8th symphony.

Norman Lebrecht is a prolific and influential cultural commentator and an award-winning novelist. Lebrecht's most recent book is The Life and Death of Classical Music: Featuring the 100 Best and 20 Worst Recordings Ever Made (Vintage), an account of the rise and fall of the record industry. He is working on a cultural biography of Gustav Mahler.

         

 

 

Hans Jürgen Syberberg recommends Wagner

  1. Tristan und Isolde FurtwänglerTristan und Isolde (CD)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler (1952).
    Kirsten Flagstad, Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
    ...and:
    Liebestod, orchestra version, Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler.
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Herbert von Karajan. Christa Ludwig, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jon Vickers, Helga Dernesch, Jess Thomas
  3. Parsifal (DVD/CD)
    Winifred WagnerPrague Philharmonic Chorus, Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Armin Jordan.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Bayreuth Festival, 1980.
  5. Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975 (DVD)

Hans Jürgen Syberberg is a German film director who filmed Parsifal in 1981. Other films include "Ludwig - Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König", "Winifried Wagner und die Geschichte des Hauses Wahnfried von 1914-1975" (documentary), "Hitler: A Film from Germany" and "Die Nacht".

     

 

 

Hartmut Haenchen recommends Wagner (sorted by release date)

  1. Leo Blech. Potted Ring CycleThe 1927-32 HMV "Potted" Ring cycle bei Pearl (GEMM CDs 9137)
    Frieda Leider, Friedrich Schorr, Göta Ljungberg, Walter Widdop, Florence Austral, Lauritz Melchior, Maria Olszeska, Ivar Andrésen, etc.
    Berlin State Opera, London Symphony Orchestras/Karl Alwin, John Barbirolli, Leo Blech, Albert Coates, Lawrence Collingwood, Robert Heger & Karl Muck Pearl GEMM9137 7CDs AAD 929:42

     ... to understand what has happened regarding the mistaken development of slower tempi after the time of these recordings.
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Clemens Krauss, Bayreuther Festspiele, 1953.
    Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, Ramón Vinay, Astrid Varnay, Wolfgang Windgassen
    Krauss Ring ... resumes the righteous Wagner tempo traditions, and stands out with numerous excellent singers.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Carlos Kleiber, Staatskapelle Dresden (DGG, 1982).
    René Kollo, Margaret Price, Brigitte Fassbaender, Kurt Moll, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
  4. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Woldemar Nelsson, Bayreuth, 1985.
    Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.
     Although Kupfer’s ingenious scenic production does not find an adequate musical equivalent here, this is a milestone in the theatrical presentation of a Wagner music drama.
  5. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Hartmut Haenchen, Amsterdam, 2005
     All the elements of Wagner's musical desires that have been passed down by his assistants are here combined with the achievements of the New Wagner Edition. The story is being told, not celebrated, and the balance between the orchestra and the soloists reflects the experience Haenchen Rheingoldin the auditorium. It is also the first 5-channel recording of the work.

Hartmut Haenchen is particularly well-known for his distinguished interpretations of Richard Strauss, Wagner and Mahler. He has considerable understanding of how these composers structured their music, which comes across when he conducts.
In October 2008 Hartmut Haenchen was awarded the Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music and the arts. The Award was presented at a ceremony in Berlin by the German President Horst Köhler.

         

 

 

 

Peter Konwitschny recommends Wagner DVDs and CDs

  1. Götterdämmerung DVD coverGötterdämmerung (DVD)
    Peter Konwitschny / Lothar Zagrosek (2000)
    Luana DeVol, Albert Bonnema, Franz-Josef Kapellmann, Roland Bracht
  2. Lohengrin (DVD)
    Peter Konwitschny / Sebastian Weigle (2006)
    John Treleaven, Emily Magee, Luana DeVol, Hans Joachim Ketelsen. Read more
  3. Tristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Peter Konwitschny / Zubin Mehta (1998)
    Waltraud Meier, Jon Fredric West, Kurt Moll, Bernd Weikl, Claes H. Ahnsjö, Marjana Lipovsek
  4. Parsifal (CD)
    Pierre Boulez / Bayreuth Festival Orchestra (1970)
    Thomas Stewart, Karl Ridderbusch, Franz Crass, James King, Donald McIntyre, Gwyneth Jones, Marga Höffgen
  5. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Franz Konwitschny / Leipzig Gewandhaus (1950)
    Ludwig Suthaus; Margarete Bäumer (Isolde); Gottlob Frick (King Mark); Erna Westenberger (Brangäne); Karl Wolfram (Kurwenal); Theodor Horand (Melot)
  6. Tannhäuser coverTannhäuser (CD)
    Franz Konwitschny / Staatskapelle Berlin (1960)
    Hans Hopf, Elisabeth Grümmer, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Fritz Wunderlich, Gottlob Frick
  7. Der fliegende Holländer (CD)
    Franz Konwitschny / Staatskapelle Berlin (1960)
    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gottlob Frick, Marianne Schech, Rudolf Schock, Sieglinde Wagner, Fritz Wunderlich

Peter Konwitschny is one of the most important and influental opera directors of our time. His imaginative productions are often provoking, like his Lohengrin where the characters appear as children in a classroom. The chapter about Konwitschny in "Opernregisseure heute" has the telling title "Immer sollst du dich befragen" (You should always ask yourself). Konwitschny is principal director of productions at Leipzig Opera.

 

Lioba Braun recommends Wagner CDs

  1. Kubelik Meistersinger coverDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg (CD)
    Rafael Kubelik / Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
    Thomas Stewart, Sándor Kónya, Gundula Janowitz, Brigitte Fassbaender, Friedrich Lenz.
     A refreshing recording with no false emotionalism, Thomas Stewart as Sachs is a master of the lyrical.
  2. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler / New Philharmonia Orchestra London. 1952.
    Kirsten Flagstad, Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Blanche Thebom, Josef Greindl, Edgar Evans, Rudolf Schock, Rhoderick Davies.
     Still absolutely unique, despite not so strong cast for the role of Brangäne.
  3. Tristan Furtwängler coverLohengrin (CD)
    André Cluytens / Bayreuth Festival 1958
    Leonie Rysanek, Sándor Kónya, Astrid Varnay
     Gripping conducting by Cluytens, Rysanek’s passion meets Varnay’s spiteful poison.
  4. Der fliegende Holländer (CD)
    Antal Dorati / Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Operahouse, Covent Garden. 1961.
    Leonie Rysanek, George London, Giorgio Tozzi, Karl Liebl, Rosalind Elias, Richard Lewis.
     George London remains unequalled, Rysanek represents the fulfillment of great singing.

Lioba Braun is a celebrated mezzo-soprano specializing in Wagner roles like Kundry (Parsifal), Brangäne (Tristan und Isolde), Fricka (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre), Waltraute (Götterdämmerung) and others. She sings regularly at the best oper houses in the world. She also has a large concert repertoire. Lioba Braun sang regularly at the Bayreuth Festival between 1998 and 2003. In 2009 she will sing Brangäne in the highly acclaimed La Scala production of Tristan und Isolde by Patrice Chéreau.

    

 

 

Penelope Turing recommends Wagner

  1. Krauss Ring coverDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Clemens Krauss, Bayreuther Festspiele, 1953. Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, Ramón Vinay, Astrid Varnay, Wolfgang Windgassen
  2. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Herbert von Karajan, Bayreuther Festspiele, 1952. Ramón Vinay, Martha Mödl, Ludwig Weber, Hans Hotter, Ira Malaniuk, Hermann Uhde.
  3. Lohengrin (CD)
    Joseph Keilberth, Bayreuther Festspiele, 1953. Josef Greindl, Wolfgang Windgassen, Eleanor Steber, Hermann Uhde, Astrid Varnay, Hans Braun, Gerhard Stolze, Josef Janko, Alfons Herwig, Theo Adam
  4. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (DVD)
    Parsifal coverWolfgang Wagner / Horst Stein, Bayreuther Festspiele.
    Bernd Weikl, Hermann Prey, Siegfried Jerusalem, Graham Clark
  5. Parsifal (DVD)
    Wolfgang Wagner / Horst Stein, 1981, Bayreuther Festspiele. Siegfried Jerusalem, Eva Randova, Bernd Weikl, Hans Sotin, Matti Salminen
     I like these two DVDs particularly because they are excellent examples of Wolfgang Wagner's designs and production.

Penelope Turing is the author of New Bayreuth. This book includes a description of every Festival from 1951 to 1970, covering all the productions. Turing is an expert on the Bayreuth Festival, and has attended the Festival almost every year since 1952 (!). She is also an authority on Hans Hotter, and has written the biography Hans Hotter - Man and Artist and several other books.
Read the interview Wagneropera.net did with Penelope Turing in Bayreuth 2008

   

 

 

Kasper Holten recommends Wagner

  1. chereau ringDer Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Bayreuth Festival, 1980.
     Unavoidable reference production for all later stagings of the Ring.
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Georg Solti.

     The one and only original classic! Read more
  3. Tannhäuser (DVD)
    David Alden / Zubin Mehta.
     Pioneer production from München. Groundbreaking aesthetics and interpretation.
  4. Lohengrin (CD)
    Rudolf Kempe (EMI).
    Jess Thomas, Elisabeth Grümmer, Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, Otto Wiener
  5. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Woldemar Nelsson.
    Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.
     An all-time classic!
  6. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    The Stuttgart Ring.
     A Ring that opens eyes, is incoherent, twisted, strange and irritating, but at the same time entertaining and makes you see the Ring in totally new ways.

Kasper Holten is Artistic Director of the Royal Danish Opera and director of The Copenhagen Ring.

        

 

Kasper Bech Holten discussing the Copenhagen Ring with the Queen of Denmark

Kasper Holten discussing the Copenhagen Ring with the Queen of Denmark. This conversation is included as bonus material on the DVD release of the Ring.

 

Anne Evans recommends Wagner

  1. Ponnelle Tristan coverTristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Jean-Pierre Ponnelle / Daniel Barenboim.
    René Kollo, Johanna Meier, Matti Salminen.
     A ravishing production from Bayreuth..
  2. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Woldemar Nelsson.
    Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.
     A wonderfully theatrical Holländer directed by Kupfer, also from Bayreuth.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Carlos Kleiber, Staatskapelle Dresden (DGG, 1982).
    René Kollo, Margaret Price, Brigitte Fassbaender, Kurt Moll, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
     Margaret Price as Isolde may never have performed the role in the theatre, but her singing of it here is sublime.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Herbert von Karajan. Berliner Philharmoniker.
    Régine Crespin, Helga Dernesch, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jess Thomas, Jon Vickers, etc.
     Karajan's complete recording of Der Ring is worth hearing for the glorious playing of the CoverBerlin Philharmonic alone.
  5. Szenen aus Götterdämmerung (CD)
    Thomas Beecham / London Philharmonic Orchestra.
    Frida Leider, Lauritz Melchior, Emanuel List, Herbert Janssen, Kerstin Thorborg. (Preiser 90266)
     Leider and Melchior at the height of their powers in Götterdämmerung Act 2, captured live at Covent Garden in 1936 with Thomas Beecham conducting - probably the most exciting Wagner recording I have ever heard. For me, Leider’s inspired and inspiring performance here has never been equalled.

Anne Evans sang Brünnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival with Daniel Barenboim from 1989 to 1992, a role she also sang to great critical acclaim in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Covent Garden, Buenos Aires, Nice, Welsh National Opera, in concert with the Cleveland Orchestra and Christoph von Dohnanyi, and in semi-staged performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London with Bernard Haitink. She has sung all the other major Wagner roles for soprano from Senta to Isolde.

        

 

Anne Evans as Brünnhilde

 

Barry Millington recommends Wagner on DVD

  1. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    chereau ringPatrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Bayreuth Festival, 1980.
     The Patrice Chéreau/Pierre Boulez centenary cycle from Bayreuth (1976–81) was a trailblazing production that I was fortunate to see twice during its run in the theatre. On video the immediacy of the acting is every bit as thrilling.
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Staatsoper Stuttgart, 2002-2003.
    Directors: Joachim Schlömer, Christoph Nel, Jossi Wieler, and Peter Konwitschny.

     The Stuttgart Ring of 2002 was notable for the combining of its four directorial visions. Peter Konwitschny’s Götterdämmerung challenges the orthodoxies is an especially thought-provoking and satisfying fashion.
  3. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Pierre Audi / Hartmut Haenchen.
    John Bröcheler, Jeannine Altmeyer, Heinz Kruse, Graham Clark, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam.
     Pierre Audi’s Amsterdam cycle is full of arresting images, one of which we use on the home page of The Wagner Journal.
  4. The Copenhagen Ring (DVD)
    Royal Danish Opera 2006. Director: Kasper Bech Holten. Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.
     Among more recent cycles, that of Kasper Bech Holten in Copenhagen has attracted a good deal of comment, and rightly so: it’s a wonderfully imaginative, witty and moving approach, placing Brünnhilde at the centre of things.
  5. Lohengrin (DVD)
    Peter Konwitschny / Sebastian Weigle.
    John Treleaven, Emily Magee, Luana DeVol, Hans-Joachim Ketelsen
     More Konwitschny, but this time Lohengrin: his celebrated ‘schoolroom’ production first seen in 1998 and finally filmed in Barcelona in 2006. Humour is also a tool here, but this is a terrifying examination of the irrational fervour of a crowd and the charismatic power of a leader. EuroArts 2056008. Read more

coverBarry Millington is the author/editor of seven books on Wagner, including The Wagner Compendium; he also wrote the entries on Wagner and his operas for both the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera.

With Stewart Spencer he has published Selected Letters of Richard Wagner, Wagner's 'Ring of the Nibelung': A Companion and Wagner in Performance.

Barry Millington is the editor of The Wagner Journal, a periodical that seeks to examine Wagner and his works from a variety of perspectives – musicological, historical, literary, philosophical and political – and to illuminate the unique appeal of this endlessly fascinating composer.

      

 

 

 

Erling E. Guldbrandsen recommends Wagner

  1. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez
    Bayreuther Festspiele 1980

    Ring Chereau Although some of the costumes may today look unavoidably ”1970s” in theatrical taste, Chéreau’s wonderful production remains an indisputable reference for all later Rings, and even (as the author J L Borges might have said) for all earlier ones as well! Today I can see that Chéreau’s emotionally intelligent ”Personenregie” is even more important than his historical re-reading of the drama. In his humanization of the roles, he brings out psychological nuances, ambivalences, doubts and desires that are matched (and surpassed) only by the relational complexity of the musical score itself.
    Boulez’s famous transparency in orchestral texture, his rhythmic precision, lighter tempos, and his preference for woodwinds over strings, all contribute to a Gallic clarity of interpretation, evoking a modernist understanding pointing back to early French wagnerism and to Baudelaire’s aesthetical writings on Wagner in the 1860s. Still, in his conducting, Boulez is less avant-garde, less distanced and more emotionally expressive than he used to be before his Bayreuth experience started in 1966.
    This Ring comes out extremely well on DVD, not least due to its humour, and to Brian Large’s magnificent TV production with its frequent close-up filming.
  2. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Daniel Barenboim, conductor. Berliner Philharmoniker etc., 1995
    Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem, etc
    .
     Waltraud Meier’s Isolde first came into my life in Bayreuth 1997, in Heiner Müller’s unforgettable, tristan barenboim covershattering production. The blow of that experience left me speechless for hours and forever changed my relation to this work, which has been my ever-deepening favourite work right since Ibought my first Tristan LP box back in the mid-seventies. Compared to Birgit Nilsson’s never-bending force, Waltraud’s nuanced singing came out as a warming beam of light that made my brains and body shiver. Just listen to her articulation of words like ”wundervoll” or ”untertauchen” in the (so-called) ”Liebestod”, or to the indescribable empathy of her ”elend im Sterben lag”, describing the wounded Tantris in the first act. This devastating Waltraud, together with a Siegfried Jerusalem at the height of his vocal and scenic powers, surely made out the ideal love-and-death couple to me, and still do.
    Since Müller’s ascetic stage production scarcely gives out its best on a DVD, I recommend the CD from 1995 with more or less the same casting, save that Barenboim is here conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker instead of the Festspielorchester, leading them with feverish expressivity and fluctuating tempos. Matti Salminen’s Marke, Falck Struckmann’s Kurwenal, and Marjana Lipovsek’s Brangäne all contribute to this peak of aesthetic experiences.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Böhm TristanKarl Böhm. Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele 1966
    Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Christa Ludwig, etc.

     This recording remains a classic between classics. When hesitating between this one and Furtwängler’s recording from 1952, I finally chose this one because of its better sound quality and because of Birgit Nilsson and Christa Ludwig. The problem of sound quality may sound as a rather trivial reason to turn down Furtwängler, and today I openly confess that Furtwängler’s feeling for musical form, mystery and long-distance hearing (”Fernhören”) no doubt outwits Karl Böhm’s less intriguing interpretation. Still, Böhm’s is the Tristan I grew up with, and every detail of Birgit Nilsson’s voicing and articulation is forever inscribed in my musical appreciation. Nilsson’s interaction with Ludwig, and the latter’s ”Habet Acht” in the Second Act has scarcely been surpassed. As for Windgassen and his slightly strenuous tenor – well, for years he was the only Tristan I knew. The biographical reasons for musical preferences and appreciation should not be under-estimated, at least not in a web site like this.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Georg Solti.
    George London, Eberhard Wächter, Waldemar Kmentt, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Kurt Böhme, Kirsten Flagstad.
     For much of the same reasons as the Böhm Tristan of 1966, the Solti Ring remains a classic of classics. Solti RingFirst and foremost, Solti mustered a team of singers that is unprecedented to this day. In addition to Birgit Nilsson and Christa Ludwig, there is Kirsten Flagstad and Hans Hotter, Sutherland, Fischer-Dieskau, Crespin, London, Frick, and Neidlinger. The recording actually presents the leading Wagner singers of an epoch. Much has been written about these famous studio sessions, and the technical sound production is splendid. On a personal level, like in the case of Böhm’s Tristan, this is the Ring that I grew up with. During the years, I have realized how much Solti’s conducting is leaning towards bombast, and how much his rendering of musical violence and brutal brass is unecessary and even misleading in Wagner. However, the front side of the coin is clarity, and control, letting the Wiener Philharmoniker drown you in the euphony of wonderful string playing. Read more
  5. Wagner in Bayreuth, eine Dokumentation (CD)
    Höhepunkte – Highlights
     This CD (with a thick booklet) is my fifth choice here, although I am usually allergic to all such compilations of ”highlights”. The CD had to be listed simply because it brings together ten absolutely splendid extracts from the ten grand works of the Festspiele – all live productions from Holländer to Parsifal. The CD cannot be commercially achieved any more, but you may find it in music libraries. By going through my iTunes Music Library I realized that this is the Wagner record I have listened to most frequently by far during the last couple of years. There must be a reason, and the reason is just the sheer quality of the performances, be it by the singers, the conductors, or by the Festspielorchester in unforgettable productions from 1962 to ’92. This is sheer musical pleasure, depth, ecstasy, or fulfillment.

Erling E. Guldbrandsen is a Wagner scholar, professor at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo, and Music critic in the Norwegian Broadcasting and in Morgenbladet, Norway.

       

 

 

 

Detlef Roth recommends vintage Wagner

  1. Keilberth 55 RingDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    The 1955 Joseph Keilberth Live Bayreuth Ring.
    Chor und Orchester der Bayreuth Festspiele
    Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, Rudolf Lustig, Ludwig Weber, Astrid Varnay, Gré Brouwenstijn, Ramón Vinay, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hans Hotter, Paul Kuen, Josef Greindl, Hermann Uhde
     This Ring Cycle on Testament Label with Josef Keilberth conducting; great sound and for my taste the best overall recording of the Ring.
  2. Das Rheingold (CD)
    Georg Solti (cond.), Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
    George London, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Kirsten Flagstad.
     Das Rheingold on Decca - studio recording (1959) with Sir Georg Solti conducting and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; George London and Gustav Neidlinger make this very special for me. Read more
  3. Parsifal (CD)
    Hans Knappertsbusch. Live recording from Bayreuth (1951).
     I just adore George London and for me he is maybe the most incredible Amfortas ever; this recording makes it special as it was his Parsifal Knappertsbuschdebut year in Bayreuth. Martha Mödl is just fascinating - great phrasing and diction; what a voice! Knappertsbusch's conducting is legendary anyway.
  4. Parsifal (CD)
    Hans Knappertsbusch. Live recording from Bayreuth (1962).
     An interesting comparison to the 1951 recording. London is still the Amfortas, Jess Thomas is wonderful: I think this might be the best overall recording of Parsifal. Knappertsbusch's tempi are a bit more fluent than in '51 - fantastic.
  5. Tannhäuser (CD)
    Wolfgang Sawallisch, Bayreuth Festival 1962. Wolfgang Windgassen, Anja Silja, Eberhard Waechter and Grace Bumbry.
     Eberhard Waechter is for me the most noble Wolfram ever and he is singing the part. To sing a beautiful 'Abendstern' is one thing, to master the whole role a total different one - and Waechter does do both. In addition Prof. Sawallisch's musical approach is amazing.

Detlef Roth is a celebrated opera and concert singer. His Wagner roles include Wolfram in Tannhäuser, Heerrufer in Lohengrin, Donner (Das Rheingold), Gunther (Götterdämmerung) and Amfortas (Parsifal). Roth made his Bayreuth Festival début in 2008 as Amfortas in Stefan Herheim's production of Parsifal.

Detlef Roth as Amfortas

     

 

 

 

Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach recommends Wagner

  1. Tristan und Isolde
    Böhm Tristan coverBayreuther Festspiele 1966 (Philips) with Nilsson, Windgassen, Ludwig, Talvela, Waechter under Karl Böhm
     A passionate, ardent live recording. The duet of the fiercely radiating Nilsson with the overwhelmed, yet powerful Windgassen remains one of the most touching interpretations of this scene.
  2. Parsifal
    Bayreuther Festspiele 1970 (Deutsche Grammophon) with King, Jones, Ridderbusch, Stewart, McIntyre under Boulez
     A stirring, dramatic interpretation of the work. Quite in contrast to the quiet celebration of the music which Gatti offered last year in our production. We started out with this recording and ultimately found a completely different work of art...
  3. Wagner: Polonia Overture, Rule Britannia, American Centennial March, Imperial March
    Naxos 1983 under Varujan Kojian
     These functional compositions by Wagner are without a doubt not his strongest ones, but it is fascinating to listen to the rather common Centennial March knowing that he worked simultaneously on Parsifal... Personal inspiration vs. moneymaking venture...
  4. The Anna Russell Album
     Re-edited from the original in 1992 and 2005: the great comic classic shines in her unique analysis of the entire Ring. This is the ultimate proof that authentic love to Wagner's music does not have to suffocate in serious stiffness...

Prof. Dr. Alexander Meier-Dörzenbach teaches American studies at the University of Hamburg, with particular emphasis on American literature, painting and music, and also lectures on dramaturgy at the city's Academy of Applied Sciences, while pursuing a freelance career giving classes on art and culture. He has worked regularly with Stefan Herheim since the latter's graduate production of Die Zauberflöte, notably on I puritani and Don Giovanni in Essen, Madama Butterfly in Vienna, Giulio Cesare in Oslo, La forza del destino in Berlin, Das Rheingold in Riga and Bergen and Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival.

     

 

 

 

Iréne Theorin recommends Wagner

  1. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Solti Ring coverGeorg Solti / Wiener Philharmoniker
    Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter, George London, Berit Lindholm, Eberhard Wächter, Waldemar Kmentt, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Kurt Böhme, Kirsten Flagstad.
     Fantastic singers and a wonderful conductor. This recording is always with me wherever I travel around the world. Birgit Nilsson, Kirsten Flagstad, Berit Lindholm – three of my favourite sopranos! Read more
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen - The Copenhagen Ring (DVD)
    Royal Danish Opera 2006. Director: Kasper Bech Holten. Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.
    Stig Andersen, Gitta-Maria Sjöberg, James Johnson, Iréne Theorin, Stephen Milling, Randi Stene
     No comment  
  3. Der fliegende Holländer (CD)
    Georg Solti / Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    Janis Martin, Norman Bailey, René Kollo
     Maestro Solti again, and in addition a wonderful soprano.
  4. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Karl Böhm. Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele 1966
    Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Christa Ludwig, Eberhard Wächter, Martti Talvela etc.
     I seldom listen extensively to opera recordings, but when I do I usually prefer older recordings – with Birgit Nilsson. Nilsson's voice is primarily the one I can identify myself with.
  5. Parsifal (CD)
    Georg Solti / Wiener Philharmoniker.
    René Kollo, Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hans Hotter, Christa Ludwig, Zoltán Kelemen
     Georg Solti and the Wiener Philharmoniker creates a wonderful atmosphere. The singers are exceptionally good, especially Gottlob Frick as Gurnemanz. He was almost 70 when this recording was made!

Iréne Theorin is a critically acclaimed dramatic soprano. Theorin has been singing regularly at the Bayreuth Festival since 2000. She gave her debut as Isolde at the Festival in 2008. She sings all three Brünnhildes on the Copenhagen Ring DVD.
Read interview with Iréne Theorin from Bayreuth here

     

 

Irene Theorin as Brünnhilde in the Copenhagen Ring.

Iréne Theorin as Brünnhilde in the Copenhagen Ring (Götterdämmerung).

 

Kupfer's HolländerNila Parly recommends Wagner DVDs

  1. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Bayreuther festspiele 1985.
    Director: Harry Kupfer. Conductor: Woldemar Nelsson.
    Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.

     Because it tells the story from Senta's point of view and because it is strongly critical of society.
  2. The Copenhagen Ring (DVD)
    Royal Danish Opera 2006.
    Director: Kasper Bech Holten.
    Conductor: Michael Schønwandt.
     Because of its human approach and feministic angle.
  3. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Staatsoper Stuttgart, 2002-2003.
    Directors: Joachim Schlömer, Christoph Nel, Jossi Wieler, and Peter Konwitschny.
    Parsifal SyberbergConductor: Lothar Zagrosek

     Because of its postmodernist experiments.
  4. Parsifal (DVD)
    Film, 1982. Director: Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
     Because of its virtuosity in its images and its use of symbols, and its thought-provoking gender shift of the Parsifal character.
  5. Wagner's Ring Cycle in Anna Russell: "The (first) Farewell Concert", live 1984 (DVD)
     Because it is so funny.

Nila Parly is a research fellow in music and theatre at the University of Copenhagen.

        

 

 

Mostly Opera blogger recommends Wagner

Determined not to live in the past (!), the current list only includes releases by currently active artists, all of which I believe may stand comparison with the greats of the past as well as stand the test of time.

  1. Ring coverDer Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Daniel Barenboim, Bayreuth Festival 1991
    John Tomlinson, Siegfried Jerusalem, Anne Evans, Graham Clark, Günter von Kannen, Poul Elming, Matthias Hölle, Philip Kang.
     The grandiose performance from the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim combined with the convincing (though depressing) direction of Harry Kupfer, makes this my overall first choice for a Nibelungen Ring DVD.
  2. Tristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau  / Daniel Barenboim, 2007.
    Waltraud Meier, Matti Salminen, Ian Storey.
     The overall finest Tristan and Isolde on DVD. Barenboim´s compelling reading combined with Chéreau´s both sombre and moving staging and Waltraud Meier´s simply mesmerizing Isolde is unbeatable despite a somewhat lower quality of the performers in supporting roles.
  3. Parsifal (CD)
    Christian Thielemann, Wiener Staatsoper (live), 2005
    Plácido Domingo, Waltraud Meier, Falk Struckmann.
     Christian Thielemann's glittering reading of Parsifal is among the finest in history.
  4. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (CD)
    Georg Solti, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1995
    José van Dam, René Pape, Ben Heppner, Karita Mattila.
     While Sir Georg Solti obviously is not currently active, several of the protagonists in this, his second Meistersinger recording, are. I'd recommend this as an overall first choice.
  5. René Pape: Gods, Kings and Demon (CD, 2008)
     The Wagner singing (Marke's Klage and Wotan´s entrance to Valhalla) on this disc arguably is among the finest of all times.

Opera blogger Mostly Opera

  

 

 

Vincent Vargas recommends Wagner

  1. Solti RingDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Sir Georg Solti.
    George London, Eberhard Wächter, Waldemar Kmentt, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Kurt Böhme, Kirsten Flagstad.
     Most Wagnerians of my generation first heard the operas of the Ring via these historic recordings. John Culshaw achieved the kind of stereophonic sound that was truly a breakthrough and it captured the likes of Birgit Nilsson, George London, and Wolfgang Windgassen in their prime. A must own. Read more
  2. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    The 1955 Joseph Keilberth Live Bayreuth Ring. Hans Hotter, Gustav Neidlinger, Rudolf Lustig, Keilberth 55 RingLudwig Weber, Astrid Varnay, Gré Brouwenstijn, Ramón Vinay, Wolfgang Windgassen, Hans Hotter, Paul Kuen, Josef Greindl, Hermann Uhde
    Chor und Orchester der Bayreuth Festspiele

     A precursor to the Solti Ring, unheard for generations and finally issued on Testament CD's. This was the first stereophonic recording made live at the Bayreuth Festival, capturing such historic Wagnerians as Astrid Varnay and Hans Hotter exactly as audiences heard them. A great record of a historic Bayreuth summer.
  3. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez Centennial Ring
     A landmark production that begins the age of the director in modern opera staging. All the recent experimentations in Wagner can be traced back to this phenomenal and controversial staging. Although tame by today's standards, Chereau's Ring caused a furor and modernized the way that opera is staged nowadays.
  4. Parsifal (CD)
    The 1951 Wieland Wagner Hans Knappertsbusch Parsifal
     With his incredible production the Bayreuth Festival rose like a phoenix out of the ashes of World War II. Wieland, Wagner's grandson achieved a new look of the operas that would influencedirectors and designers for decades. Wonderful performances by George London as Amfortas and Wolfgang Windgassen in the title role. Pity that there is no video of this landmark staging.
  5. Parsifal (DVD)
    The 2004 Nikolaus Lehnhoff Baden-Baden Parsifal
     A beautifully filmed rethinking of Wagner's last opera puts us in a post-apocalyptic world where the Holy Grail seems to be the afterglow of a nuclear blast, and redemption is sometimes not as easy to find as in the original libretto. This staging takes liberties with Wagner's work, and it is not for purists. Incredibly good performances by Thomas Hampson as Amfortas, Matti Salminen as Gurnemanz, and Waltraud Meier as Kundry. Christopher Ventris is Parsifal and Kent Nagano conducts the opera.

Vincent Vargas is the editor of WagnerOperas.com and blogs on Wagneroperas.blogspot.com

    

 

 

 

Mark Berry recommends Wagner

To choose five Wagner recordings – on CD and/or DVD – is no easy task. Not only is there such a huge number from which to choose, but the combination of various elements in the performance of a Gesamtkunstwerk would apparently militate against anything so fail-safe or indeed banal as a ‘definitive’ recommendation. Yet here goes.

  1. Furtwängler Tristan coverTristan und Isolde (CD)
    Wilhelm Furtwängler (1952). Kirsten Flagstad, Ludwig Suthaus, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
     Certainty seems impossible, save for the question of the greatest recorded Wagner interpreter. Can anyone doubt that this would be Wilhelm Furtwängler? Through gritted teeth, I shall restrict myself to one Furtwängler recording, which I feel has to be his Tristan und Isolde. I shall contradict myself already, for this legendary recording must surely at the very least approach the ‘definitive’. Furtwängler’s understanding of the Wagnerian melos and his long-range hearing (Fernhören) are unparalleled, even in this studio recording, the product of a practice he so detested. If ever there were a musical drama in which the orchestra comes so close to supplanting the singers entirely, it is Tristan; it is surely no coincidence that this Furtwängler recording has become his most celebrated, at least when it comes to Wagner. With Walter Legge as producer and the Philharmonia Orchestra at the top of its form, Furtwängler and his cast could hardly fail; nor do they. Kirsten Flagstad’s Isolde may miss some of the biting sarcasm that Birgit Nilsson would bring to the role, but there is a musical dignity that is purely Flagstad’s own. Ludwig Suthaus may not be Lauritz Melchior; yet his is a fine performance that puts to shame most of those since and any of those one might hear today. And then there is the young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Kurwenal.
  2. Parsifal (CD)
    Hans Knappertsbusch (1962). Martti Talvela, Hans Hotter, Jess Thomas, Gustav Neidlinger, Irene Dalis, Gerd Nienstedt, Gerhard Stolze, George London, Gundula Janowitz, Anja Silja.
     Furtwängler declined to return to Bayreuth to conduct Wagner following the Second World War. (No one could ever forget his incandescent Beethoven Ninths.) Hans Knappertsbusch proved something of a fixture there until his death in 1965, above all in Parsifal. Various live recordings now exist; I cannot claim to have listened to them all, but one that has long meant a great deal to me is that from 1962. Knappertsbusch ParsifalAs with Furtwängler, albeit far from identically, the long line impresses most of all; indeed, Knappertsbusch can prove on occasion surprisingly casual with colouristic details. Yet any minor reservations pale into insignificance when one considers the masterly presentation – the musico-dramatic flow seems so ‘right’ that the word ‘interpretation’ sounds almost presumptuous – of Wagner’s final work. Inner strength and a sense of true spiritual depth are more than a substitute for more obviously ‘dramatic’ accounts, such as that of Kna’s successor in Bayreuth, Pierre Boulez. Hans Hotter is a truly unforgettable Gurnemanz – no Wagner collection could command respect without examples of his artistry – and George London is hardly impressive as Amfortas. There can be few better examples of the work of the legendary Wilhelm Pitz’s Bayreuth chorus. Listen out too for Gundula Janowitz and Anja Silja, no less, as Flowermaidens.
  3. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (CD)
    Rafael Kubelík / The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
    Thomas Stewart, Sándor Kónya, Gundula Janowitz, Brigitte Fassbaender.

     It took an unpardonable length of time, in the face of contractual wrangles that would even have shamed the Rheingold Wotan, for Rafael Kubelík’s Meistersinger once again to see the light of Midsummer Day. Kubelik MeistersingerLet us give thanks that it did, for this is a triumphant vindication for the supremely musical virtues of a much underrated Wagnerian, indeed a much underrated conductor. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra did nothing finer than this for Kubelík – and it did very many fine things indeed. There is such orchestral warmth from the opening prelude onwards that one can readily imagine oneself in Nuremberg in June. Thomas Stewart is a dependable Sachs, indeed in many respects rather more than that. Sándor Kónya, another underrated artist, proves a properly ardent Walther and who could resist Janowitz as Eva, or indeed Brigitte Fassbaender’s Magdalene?
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Herbert von Karajan. Berliner Philharmoniker.
    Régine Crespin, Helga Dernesch, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Jess Thomas, Jon Vickers, etc.
     My fourth recommendation will doubtless be considered more contentious: Herbert von Karajan’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. There is Karajan Ringan irreconcilable core of Karajan-haters who will dismiss almost everything, with the possible exception of his 1950s work with the Philharmonia, he did. It is certainly true that Karajan’s recordings are variable but it is equally true that there is much of great value. I could not claim that I think this Ring superior to Furtwängler at La Scala, but a self-denying ordinance prevents me from choosing more than one example of any conductor’s work and this recording has many of its own virtues, not least its far superior sound. Karajan’s highly innovative ‘chamber-music’ approach reminds us how lightly scored much Wagner is, without stinting on the bigger moments. Many voices are also lighter than the norm, certainly than those to which the world had been accustomed through Sir Georg Solti’s recording (well sung and played yet, quite apart from its tiresome audio ‘effects’, unlistenable for me on account of Solti). Wotan is first sung by Fischer-Dieskau and thereafter by Stewart. Janowitz and Jon Vickers prove an unforgettable pair of Volsung twins. Other highlights of the singing include Josephine Veasey’s Fricka, Gerhard Stolze’s controversial Mime who sometimes edges towards Sprechgesang, and the Brünnhildes of Régine Crespin (Die Walküre) and thereafter Helga Dernesch.
  5. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Bayreuth Festival, 1980.
     Finally, I come to my sole DVD choice, another Ring: the legendary – sorry to use that word again, but it really is justified here – Bayreuth collaboration, launched for the work’s centenary but recorded in 1980, between Boulez and Patrice Chéreau. Chereau RingFor anyone who would accuse Boulez of being a ‘cold’ conductor, listen to Act One of Die Walküre, once again with an unforgettable – not least visually – Siegmund and Sieglinde from Peter Hofmann and Jeannine Altmeyer. This is some of the most passionate Wagner one will ever see and hear. Boulez’s phenomenal ear clarifies textures yet, like Karajan, he is perfectly willing to broaden the scale and to intensify the emotional level when required. There is a host of other memorable performances, not least Donald Macintyre’s Wotan and Gwyneth Jones’s Brünnhilde. Yet it is the epoch-making nature of the production, resulting initially in death-threats for Boulez and Chéreau, which truly makes this mandatory viewing. Chéreau’s Personenregie is more or less unrivalled. His connection of the drama to its nineteenth-century political and social context is never didactic and often, even now, quite revelatory. Joachim Herz may have done something not entirely dissimilar in Leipzig but now the rest of the world had the opportunity to witness a searing mythological, historical, and contemporary drama, which unfolds mesmerizingly from the opening mise-en-scène (designer: Richard Peduzzi) of a Rhenish hydroelectric dam. Wagner production was transformed forever.

Mark Berry (boulezian), an intellectual and musical historian, is the author of Treacherous bonds and laughing fire: politics and religion in Wagner’s ‘Ring’.

        

 

 

 

Mike Ashman recommends Wagner

  1. Muck Parsifal Parsifal Act III and excerpts from Acts I and II (CD)
    Karl Muck / Berlin State Opera and Bayreuth Festival Orchestras 1927/28.
    Now best heard on Naxos.
     Because this is perhaps the nearest we can get, in excepts of reasonable length, to the conducting of which Wagner dreamed. It’s not ‘slow’, it’s not ‘fast’; it has both amazing weight and lilt.
  2. Tannhäuser (CD).
    Wolfgang Sawallisch / Bayreuth Festival 1962.
    Wolfgang Windgassen, Anja Silja and Grace Bumbry
    .
     Because it’s Wagner’s Portrait of Dorian Grey; he spent his whole life retouching the work, and this hybrid edition (made by Wieland Wagner and, probably, his choreographer wife Gertrud) gets something of all those changes in style and atmosphere. Also because it’s a piece of music I can’t live without. Now in a big, cheap Decca box.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (DVD or video)
    Wieland Wagner’s “Henry Moore” production filmed by Japanese TV at Osaka in 1967 with Windgassen, Nilsson and Hans Hotter as Konig Marke. Find it on Bel Canto video or a DVD from Premiere Opera.
     Because no written account of the production mentions the most important factabout it - everyone (including Brangane, Marke and Melot) are in the grip of an uncontrollable, Copenhagen Ring coveroften erotic passion.
  4. The Copenhagen Ring (DVD)
    Royal Danish Opera 2006. Director: Kasper Bech Holten. Conductor: Michael Schønwandt. Iréne Theorin, James Johnson, Stig Fogh Andersen.
     Regrettably there are no official DVDs of the important and non-narrative stagings by Richard Jones in London or David Alden in Munich, so let’s have the Ring in Decca’s recently released Royal Opera, Copenhagen production by Kasper Bech Holten with that amazing roster of in-house talent conducted by their music director Michael Schønwandt. A constantly intelligent and gripping contemporary narrative staging with a terrifically high performance level and excitingly interventionist filming.
  5. Tristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau  / Daniel Barenboim. Waltraud Meier, Matti Salminen, Ian Storey.
     Because it’s the work of several older masters, Mlle Meier included.
  6. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (DVD)
    Katharina Wagner Meisterisnger DVD coverKatharina Wagner / Sebastian Weigle, Bayreuth 2008.
    Klaus Florian Vogt, Michael Volle, Norbert Ernst, Franz Hawlata.

     Because, after her dramatic inversion of the story in Act III (Walther’s and Hans Sachs’s victory becomes a conservative sell-out), it’s impossible to think of the work so simply any more, and that’s a fine tribute to a production.
  7. Parsifal (unreleased)
    Bayreuth Festival 2000. Christoph Eschenbach
     Musical radicalism from Christoph Eschenbach in the unreleased (and, I suspect, likely to remain so) broadcast of his 2000 Bayreuth Parsifal because, although one of the principal singers quit after the Generalprobe, in the words of another his unforgettable detailing of the score was “very slow but very good”.

Mike Ashman has directed the Norwegian premiere of the Ring, three productions of Der fliegende Holländer, and much 20th-century and contemporary music-theatre. He also writes on music for Gramophone and Opera magazines and for historical CD releases on Testament and Medici.

     

 

 

 

Intermezzo blogger recommends Wagner DVDs

  1. Parsifal SyberbergParsifal (DVD)
    Film, 1982. Director: Hans-Jürgen Syberberg
     Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Parsifal is I think the most complete, intelligent and profound attempt to explore any Wagner opera on screen, and moreover one which exploits the medium of film to the full while respecting the theatrical genesis of the work. Not musically the finest, but that's what CDs are for...
  2. Tristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Jean-Pierre Ponnelle/Daniel Barenboim. René Kollo, Johanna Meier, Matti Salminen.
  3. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Daniel Barenboim. John Tomlinson, Anne Evans, Siegfried Jerusalem, Graham Clark.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre.
  5. Lohengrin (DVD)
    Nikolaus Lehnhoff / Kent Nagano. Klaus Florian Vogt, Waltraud Meier, Tom Fox, Hans-Peter König, Roman Trekel.

Intermezzo.typepad.com

        

 

 

 

Tristan BöhmEva Märtson recommends Wagner

In the moment I only have one answer of my favorite CD:

  1. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Bayreuth Festival 1966. Karl Böhm. Birgit Nilsson and Wolfgang Windgassen.

Prof. Eva Märtson is President of The International Association of Wagner Societies

 

Francesca Zambello recommends two Wagner recordings

  1. Germaine LubinGermaine Lubin sings Wagner
     I love the texture the French singer brings to Wagner
    Germaine Lubin on Amazon
  2. Reginald Goodall conducts Meistersinger
     A masterfull Wagnerian conductor.
    Reginald Goodall: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

Both make me sit up and listen for their theatricality and characters. Even though not in German!

Francesca Zambello is an American opera and theatre director. Zambello has worked at the Metropolitan Opera, the Washington Opera, Houston Grand Opera, the Bolshoi, Teatro la Fenice in Venice, the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and the Paris Opera. She is Artistic Advisor to the San Francisco Opera.

 

Mike Scott Rohan recommends Wagner

Aficionados don’t really want to know. They’ve generally formed their own ideas very solidly, and only come to a feature like this to have them confirmed, to find some really obscure version (heard that 1916 wax-recorded Act II Tannhauser in Farsi?) or to sneer at everyone else’s bad taste!

So I’d much rather think of how this might be helpful, and address total newcomers, who’ve perhaps stuck Wagner in their search engine and been brought to this site. What recordings would be of most use and interest to them?

  1. Bleeding Chunks
     The most recommendable record of Wagner excerpts – for me this would be Donald Runnicles’ live recording with the Dresden Staatskapelle, on Teldec originally and recently reissued (unfortunately I don’t have the number to hand).
    Karajan overture collections on both EMI and DG are stunning.
  2. The most accessible opera – Der fliegende Holländer
     The excellent Naxos recording conducted by Pinchas Steinberg, with Alfred Muff and the late Ingrid Haubold, with a first-rate supporting cast – superb value.
    The famous Otto Klemperer recording with Adam and Silja would also be excellent, but not everyone prefers the early version with much less in the way of redemption themes.
  3. Ring coverThe greatest – Der Ring des Nibelungen
     Georg Solti on Decca -- not the most fashionable choice, but the most accessible, recommended for newcomers for its superb cast and sheer sense of drama, and a sound that’s still gripping half a century later. Read more
    The Keilberth Ring, on Testament, is almost as accessible, with the advantage of the Bayreuth acoustic, but has a much thinner sound and too much stage noise, and it’s far too expensive. For English-speakers inclined to be put off by hours of singing in German, the Goodall Ring on Chandos brings you face to face with the drama, and his slow (but not dragging) tempi have a compelling power of their own.
  4. The most sublime – Parsifal
     The many Bayreuth versions by Hans Knappertsbusch all have their claims, but for general listening the recording quality of the Philips version is best.
    The Solti studio set is also sadly underrated.
    Arguably a newcomer might do better to try Meistersinger first, in which case the Rafael Kubelik set, if it can be found, or the DVD versions conducted by Horst Stein (glitzy Bayreuth staging) and Charles Mackerras (appropriately down-home staging) would suit. Tristan they should probably leave for a little while....
  5. The finest video version
    cover The Bayreuth Tannhauser, very well cast, staged by Götz Friedrich and conducted by Sir Colin Davis, is perhaps the most immediately compelling Wagner opera on video – the more so as the opera itself is just about the least popular today. This staging makes what can seem fustian seriously gripping and psychologically comprehensible, with Tannhauser as an ordinary man tormented in the toils of Eros and Thanatos.
    The recently released 1970s Hollander film with McIntyre, conducted by Sawallisch, is also striking, very much in the Hammer Films manner, but rather creaky.
    I would rule out all the current Ring videos, the Chereau for Boulez’s glib conducting in particular, some bad casting and the shallowness of the production; the Barenboim Ring is better, with some vivid characterizations, but its visual side is tiresomely dark and ugly, enough to put newcomers off; and the Met, whether or not one likes the “realistic” (but little more) staging, is too often musically stodgy.

Michael Scott Rohan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, of French and Scottish parents, and studied at Oxford. He has written about music, and in particular opera and Wagner, as a regular contributor to all the leading UK music magazines, including Opera Now, Classic CD, International Opera Collector, Gramophone and most recently BBC Music Magazine, reviewing recordings and covering performances all over the world. He has also been a columnist for newspapers including The Times and Newsday, and one of Britain's leading fantasy and science-fiction novelists.

  

 

 

Tom Borer recommends Wagner

  1. Ring ChereauDer Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre.
  2. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Woldemar Nelsson. Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Carlos Kleiber, Staatskapelle Dresden, Rene Kollo, Kurt Moll, Margaret Price
  4. An Introduction to 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' by Deryck Cooke
    With 193 Examples from the Solti Ring.
  5. Parsifal (CD)
    Georg Solti / Wiener Philharmoniker. Rene Kollo,  Gottlob Frick, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig

Tom Borer, The Richard Wagner Society of Florida

     

 

 

German A. Bravo-Casas recommends Wagner

If I had to take only one recording with me to a desert island, it would be The Ring Disc. An interactive guide to Wagner’s Ring cycle. This is a CD-ROM created by Monte Stone in 1997. It has the entire 14.5 hours of Solti’s version as a compressed file on one single disc (in mono sound), with the complete piano-vocal score, and the German libretto with English translation and commentaries. Other features include the possibility to access easily the main 35 characters of the cycle as well as the 124 leitmotivs (their meaning, location in the work, and sonic representation); it also has a list of symbols and a summary of the plot. The record also includes a selected bibliography. Unfortunately, this CD-ROM has been off the market for several years and has become a collector’s item.

  1. Abbado Lohengrin Lohengrin (DVD)
    Claudio Abbado / Wolfgang Weber. Vienna State Opera 1990.
    Plácido Domingo, Cheryl Studer, Dunja Vejzovic, Hartmut Welker, Robert Lloyd.
     Outstanding singing from the principal soloists, with a solid musical performance from Abbado. Domingo offers a fully committed performance, and Studer and Vejzovic are most convincing.
  2. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (DVD)
    James Levine / Otto Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen. Metropolitan Opera.
    James Morris, René Pape, Thomas Allen, Ben Heppner, Karita Mattila, John Relyea.
     The superstars of this performance are Morris, Levine, and the gorgeous production of Schenk and Schneider-Siemssen. The chorus is also outstanding. This is an example when the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Great filming by Brian Large.
  3. Tristan coverTristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Heiner Müller / Daniel Barenboim. Bayreuther Festspiele.
    Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem.
     This is close to the ideal Tristan. Müller was chosen to direct it after Chéreau refused (“Tristan cannot be staged; it is a radio play,” he told Wofgang Wagner, although he accepted La Scala’s offer in 2007, also conducted by Barenboim). The principals were making their Bayreuth debut and both Jerusalem and Meier were singing their roles for the first time. Jerusalem gives his best Wagnerian rendition here, and Waltraud Meier performs superbly and offers perhaps the best available Liebestod. Barenboim again proves to be one of the best Wagnerian conductors.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (DVD)
    James Levine / Otto Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen. Metropolitan Opera.
    Ring coverJames Morris, Hildegard Behrens, Siegfried Jerusalem, Ekkehard Wlaschiha, Heinz Zednik, Matti Salminen, Christa Ludwig, Gary Lakes, Jessye Norman.
     The Ring is well served on DVD. This version is close to the ideal; excellent cast and outstanding orchestral performance. The production is a perfect example of romantic realism being supported by modern stage technologies, and it is properly filmed by Brian Large.
  5. Parsifal (DVD)
    James Levine / Otto Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen. Metropolitan Opera.
    Waltraud Meier, Bernd Weikl, Kurt Moll, Siegfried Jerusalem, Franz Mazura, Jan-Hendrik Rootering.
     This is another great contribution by Otto Schenk and Günther Schneider-Siemssen. The excellent cast is superbly supported by the magic baton of James Levine. Again, this is a good example of the perfect combination of magic, realism and modern stage technology, and it is beautifully filmed by Brain Large.
  6. Solti RingDer Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Georg Solti. Wiener Philharmoniker.
    George London, Eberhard Wächter, Waldemar Kmentt, Set Svanholm, Gustav Neidlinger, Paul Kuen, Kurt Böhme, Kirsten Flagstad.
     In spite of its age, the Solti rendition (along with the newly rediscovered Keilbert performance from Bayreuth from the mid-fifties and with an almost identical cast) was the first Ring to be recorded with modern stereo high fidelity technology. It remains the yardstick for every Ring performance. Read more
  7. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Antonio Pappano, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
    Placido Domingo, Nina Stemme, Mihoko Fujimura, René Pape, Rolando Villazón.
     The recording was dedicated to Carlos Kleiber with an ideal cast; even the small roles were performed by major stars: the young sailor by Rolando Villanzon, and the shepherd by Ian Bostridge. Domingo agreed to participate in “the most difficult scenes you can ever imagine between two singers” although he never sang the role on stage. What a pity that EMI did not consider the possibility of filming a staged (or semi-staged) version in the 15 sessions (spaced in eight weeks) that it took to complete this recording.

German A. Bravo-Casas, Wagner Society of New York

 

Jerry Floyd recommends Wagner CDs and DVDs

  1. Die Walkure (CD)
    Metropolitan Opera/Berislav Klobucar
    Nilsson, Rysanek, Ludwig, Vickers, Stewart
    Top-flight Metropolitan Opera cast in a 1968 broadcast performance.
  2. Birgit Nilsson Sings Wagner (CD)
    Nilsson’s Act 2 Parsifal duet with Helge Brilioth is reason enough to obtain this out-of-print CD.
  3. Lohengrin (CD)
    Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus/Eugen Jochum
    Nilsson, Varnay, Windgassen, Fischer-Diskeau, Uhde, Adam
    Two Swedes, Nilsson and Varnay, inspire each other during their Act 2 scenes; taped during the 1954 Bayreuth Festival.
  4. Der Ring des Nibelungen (CD)
    Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus / Karl Böhm
    Nilsson (of course!), Windgassen, Rysanek, King, Silja, Adam, Neidlinger, Dvoráková, Stewart, Talvela, Modl, Dernesch, Greindl, Böhme
    Live 1966 Bayreuth Festival recording has a dramatic presence missing in studio-produced performances.
  5. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Bayreuth Festival Orchestra and Chorus / Woldemar Nelsson
    Estes, Balslev, Salminen, Schunk, Schlemm, Clark
    Harry Kupfer’s provocative staging outclassed many succeeding régie efforts; this was first production I saw at Bayreuth (in 1979).

Jerry Floyd, a frequent contributor to Wagneropera.net, also writes for Opera, The Wagner Journal, Wagner Notes (published by the Wagner Society of New York), and The Sondheim Review.  

 

  

 

 

Per-Erik Skramstad recommends Wagner

  1. chereau tristan coverTristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau  / Daniel Barenboim, 2007.
    Waltraud Meier, Matti Salminen, Ian Storey.
     Patrice Chéreau presents a new Isolde: fragile and vulnerable. Waltraud Meier surpasses her previous dramatic performances as Isolde in this breathtaking and most moving production.
  2. Der fliegende Holländer (DVD)
    Harry Kupfer / Woldemar Nelsson.
    Lisbeth Balslev, Simon Estes, Matti Salminen.
     Harry Kupfer's Holländer is one of Bayreuth's greatest classics. He emphasizes human aspects of the drama and makes Senta the central character, suffering under the narrow-minded bonds and borders og the society she lives in. The production is very moving - thanks to Lisbeth Balslev, who makes the role of her life. Astonishing music theatre with marvellous scene transitions.
  3. Tristan und Isolde (DVD)
    Heiner Müller / Daniel Barenboim. Bayreuther Festspiele.
    Waltraud Meier, Siegfried Jerusalem.
    Tristan cover This is a very emotional choice. I saw this awesome production at Bayreuth in 1997. Words are not enough to explain these rare live music theatre experiences. The claustrophobic sets and the Traumpaar of Waltraud Meier and Siegfried Jerusalem, combined with Daniel Barenboims superb conducting makes this production a must for any Wagner fan.
  4. Tristan und Isolde (CD)
    Leonard Bernstein.
    Peter Hofmann, Hildegard Behrens, Bernd Weikl, Hans Sotin
     Leonard Bernstein! This is Bernstein's Tristan, and the orchestra is the main character. Never have you heard a more emotionally restrained recording (or slower) of Tristan at the same time producing such an overwhelmingly emotional sound. I especially like the rhythmic sharpness and the great way Bernstein creates his climaxes.
  5. Die Walküre (DVD)
    Patrice Chéreau / Pierre Boulez. Peter Hofmann, Jeannine Altmeyer, Gwyneth Jones, Donald McIntyre, Matti Salminen.
    Chereau Walkure The first act alone of this production deserves a place on such a list. Peter Hofmann, a few years before he was diagnosed with Parkinson, as Siegmund, and Jeannine Altmeyer as Sieglinde, were - and still is - the dream siblings. Pierre Boulez opened my eyes to a new world of Wagner at a time when I could not imagine that Wagner could sound anything different than the heavy Georg Solti way. In my opinion, there has been too much focus on the historic framework of the Chéreau Ring. Patrice Chéreau's brilliant Personenregie clearly shows that the Ring is about humans, human dilemmas, about suffering, our fragile existence and the only thing we know for certain: Alles was ist, endet.

Per-Erik Skramstad is web editor of Wagneropera.net

        

 

Top Richard Wagner recommendations

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Abbado LohengrinRing coverTristan Ponnelle

 

 

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