If you play this DVD on your system but don't watch it, you'll find the performances and sound qualities quite excellent. But, of course, who won't be watching? Eyes, not just ears, will be wide open for any DVD, and they may open wider once the performance of this opera starts. This is an updated take on the first of the Wagner Ring operas, with characters wearing modern dress. The Gods portray 21st century businessmen (actually this production dates to 1999, though the recording was made three years later), and the set has an abstract look, an almost Theater-of-the-Absurd atmosphere, featuring a circular fountain in the center of the stage to serve as the Rhein. Not that anything here comes across as cheap or barren in appearance – no, it is simply strikingly different in effect, transporting Wagner into the 21st century, while leaving his music, fortunately, in the 19th.
That said, to those who can adjust their sensibilities a bit, they will find this an excellent Rheingold on all counts. Recorded live in September and December, 2002, at the Stuttgart Staatsoper, and presented on television in Germany and presumably throughout Europe, this issue would probably serve as a fine introduction to those just learning the Wagner operas or to those veteran listeners willing to take a new approach to their Wagner. The singing is excellent down through the cast and the orchestra performs splendidly under the incisive baton of Lothar Zagrosek. Speaking of striking visual aspects, the shapely Rhein maidens on this DVD are as attractive a threesome as you'll ever encounter on stage. As suggested above, they can sing quite beautifully, too. Recommended.
Copyright © 2004, Robert Cummings