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Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen — Highlights (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana) Blu-ray Review


  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Unitel Classica
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 16, 2010
  • List Price: $9.95

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BestBuy.com:
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Highlights (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencia) -

Purchase Der Ring des Nibelungen Highlights on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:3.5/5]

Wagner’s titanic Der Ring des Nibelungen has dominated the opera world for more than a century. Its timeless elements of human and superhuman struggles lend themselves to a wide variety of interpretations.  The basic story unfolds the ultimate disintegration of the world order and the demise of the ancient Norse gods, all due to the theft of gold from the Rhinemaidens. The four Ring operas cover more than 17 hours, during which human and divine characters share many memorable scenes.  This disc presents about 90 minutes of  some of the Ring’s very best moments and 30 minutes of interviews with the stage and video directors.  The production was filmed over 3 years in the ultra-modern opera house of Valencia, Spain. It incorporates innovative sets and a plethora of digital visual effects. Symbolism abounds and those who are familiar with more traditional Ring Cycle videos are in for something completely different.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The stage acts as a backdrop to amazing special computer-generated lighting  effects. The  opening sequence of Das Rheingold shows three nubile Rhinemaidens suspended in individual water tanks, singing between their dives.  The final scene of Rheingold has a human arielformation that hovers over the gods on their entry in their new home, Valhalla.  Conversely, the famous ride of the Walkures is an awkward affair with a suspended centerpiece of dead heroes while the Walkures roll around the stage on high platforms.  The ring of magic fire at the end of Die Walkure offers redeeming visual value.  In Siegfried, there is a manic forging scene while the final encounter between  chief god Wotan and the ancient earth spirit Erda is set against a cosmic backdrop. Gotterdammerung, the cycle’s  final opera,  concludes with the Brunnhilde’s immolation on Siegfried’s funeral pyre and the destruction of Valhalla.  This scene is truly spectacular on a scale unlike anything  you have ever seen, even if you are a veteran Ring goer.

While the stage is basically dark, the special lighting effects are often spectacular to the point of being occasionally distracting. The camera work is slightly uneven with oversaturation of color in some of the brighter scenes in Das Rheingold, and less than pristine clarity in many of the darker scenes. When the lighting is adequate, the images are very lifelike.  Costumes vary from Star Trek futuristic to hyper-naturalistic. Be prepared for some nudity but this was probably in Wagner’s original playbook. With the exception of the Rhinemaidens, Fricka, and Sieglinde,most of the other protagonists are, charitably stated, on the heavy side, looking like the proverbial “fat ladies” of old-fashioned opera.  The camera work is close enough to see them sweat through their arduous roles.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit) surround in 7.1 HD is awesome. The balance between voices and orchestra is superb and close to what you hear in a real opera house.  As for the vocal performances, you get a sampling of some of the best Wagnerian singers out there (Juha Uusitalo as Wotan, Jennifer Wilson as Brunnhilde, and Lance Ryan as Siegfried), some of the over-the-hill gang (Peter Seiffert and Petra Maria Schnitzer as Siegmund and Sieglinde), and some routiniers.  For the most part, the singing is never less than competent but the vocal competition for video ring cycles is very stiff.  Zubin Mehta is a veteran operatic conductor although Wagner has never been his strong suit.  While Mehta skirts the hard-driven pacing of other conductors, his tempi do favor the deliberate side.  The Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana are, by their appearance, a youthful group that plays well enough but not in the league of the Met or Bayreuth opera orchestras.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:4.5/5]

  • Booklet: Contains cast and credit listings, a brief background of this production in English, French, and German and a couple of cast pictures.
  • Disc: There are interviews with the stage director Carlos Padrissa and lighting director Franc Aleu which convey the rationale for the avant-garde and quite nontraditional production of this ring cycle. Both short films are well done and introduce the  two very  distinct personalities that came together for this towering achievement.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

There is one other Blu-ray Ring cycle from the Staatskapelle Weimar but it is simply not competitive with any of the competing versions. Those wishing a DVD ring cycle have lots of choices ranging from the up-dated Copenhagen Ring as well as the venerable cycles from the Metropolitan opera (James Levine) and Bayreuth (Daniel Barenboim).  The current set has the strengths of a striking visual presentation which will excite newcomers but probably not win any brownie points from traditional Ringophiles. I would submit that the greatness of Wagner’s Ring lends itself to many varied interpretations. Those, like myself, who love this music will never own just one set. The nice thing about this highlights disc is that you get the best parts of Wagner’s cycle and, if you like what you see, you can “put a ring on it.”

Additional Screen Captures:

[amazon-product]B00430EQK8[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Der Ring des Nibelungen: Highlights (Orquestra de la Comunitat Valencia) -

Purchase Der Ring des Nibelungen Highlights on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:4/5]

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