, October 2009
Gotterdammerung is the final installment in this excellent 2008 production by the German National Theater and Weimar State Opera of Wagner’s masterwork Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the masterful and quirky performances we witnessed in the first three stanzas continue into the finale. The individual performances are again exceptional, and as in the recent offering of Siegfried [(Blu-ray, Full-HD) 101358 & (NTSC) 101357], there’s a significant shuffling of roles among the principals; most notably this time around, Thomas Mowes reprises his role from Rheingold as Alberich, and Mario Hoff takes on the role of Gunther. Renatus Meszar is introduced as a menacing and mesmerizing Hagen, and Norbert Schmittberg offers a believably heroic Siegfried. And Catherine Foster yet again gives us a magnificent Brunnhilde; she shines brightly throughout this well-contemplated denouement to the Ring cycle. The previous post-modern and minimalist recipe concocted by stage director Michael Schulz continues, and while the overall impression is no less striking, this new Gotterdämmerung has been stripped bare far beyond the previous three installments, with so very little occupying the stage that perhaps too much has been left to the imagination. Fortunately, the excellent musicianship of the Carl St Clair-led Weimar State Opera Orchestra provides the necessary underpinning to help guide the adventurous Wagnerite through the four-plus hour length of this summation…As with the previous episodes, the image quality of this Blu-ray disc from ArtHaus Musik was truly magnificent, displaying excellent contrast and highly detailed images with deep blacks. Despite the minimalism of the stages and costuming throughout this production, colors were vividly and accurately presented, and there were no traces of any artifacting to be found. The sound was also superb; the DTS Master Audio 5.1 track provided an immersive and dynamic listening experience. While there were no bonus features, really—from a four-and-a-half hour presentation crammed onto a single BD-50 disc, what did you expect?
While some will surely harp that the sparse staging left too few visual cues to the onstage action, this is an impressive finale to the Ring cycle. The dynamic performances by the principals—Catherine Foster offers a powerhouse and lusty portrayal of Brunnhilde—and uniformly magnificent level of singing throughout makes this ArtHaus Ring on Blu-ray one for the ages [101374 & NTSC 101373]. And the music here is to die for; Wagner’s leitmotif’s are so artfully crafted, and some of the finest music throughout the entire Ring takes place here, including “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey,” the moving and powerful “Trauermarsch” and of course, Brunnhilde’s “Immolation Scene.” Four stars—very highly recommended!