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Andrew Quint
Fanfare, September 2011

WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die) (Bayreuth Festival, 2010) (NTSC) OA1045D
WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die) (Bayreuth Festival, 2010) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7081D

Die Walküre was filmed on August 21, 2010, two years after the audio-only version was recorded with a different cast. While Albert Dohman, Linda Watson, and Kwangchul Youn reprise their roles here, Thielemann has a new Fricka and a different pair of incestuous twins to work with. John Botha is an A-list Heldentenor—he replaces Endrik Wottrich, who portrayed Siegmund in 2008—and sings with power and commitment. A high point is Botha’s scene with Brünnhilde in act II: It’s poignant, even majestic, as he declines the Valkyrie’s offer of a cushy afterlife in Valhalla. Edith Haller, who was an excellent Gutrune and covered the thankless role of Friea back in 2008, is a womanly and full-voiced Sieglinde, replacing Eva-Maria Westbroek….Mihoko Fujimura sings a firmly moral, dignified, and sympathetic Fricka…

As for the returnees, Albert Dohman performed the role of Wotan about 40 times for Thielemann at Bayreuth and understands completely the complexities of his character. The end of act III is especially treasureable: “Lebwohl!” is exultant; “Der Augen leuchtendes Paar” is emotionally potent but never crooned. Linda Watson again demonstrates that she’s got the goods for a complete representation of the title role, from her confident battle cries right through to her negotiations with Wotan in the final act. There, while Watson subtly shades her singing as she softens the heart of her furious father, she still manages to maintain something of the proud and assertive demeanor that, we assume, made her Wotan’s favorite in the first place. Dohman and Watson’s collaboration in this scene is profound; by the time Watson gets to “Der diese Liebe mir ins Herz gehaucht, dem Willen” (Inwardly true to the will which inspired the love in my heart), we have a powerful sense that Brunnhilde and her father have the beginnings of an understanding, that they are fashioning a solution that they can both live with. Kwangchul Youn seems to come off as a darker, more dangerous Hunding than he did on CD, perhaps thanks to the quasi-Gestapo costume he’s in, or the posse of similarly dressed extras he arrives with in act I.

Which gets us to the production itself. It really wasn’t as objectionable…Dorst’s affectation is that “the gods…are still among us today, only we cannot see them.” We’re shown slightly jarring and entirely irrelevant reminders of this premise from time to time; for example…More important than these “creative” minutiae is that some very slack stage direction undermines theatrical potency.

It’s Thielemann and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra that make any such issues largely irrelevant. The sense of musical coherence and continuity is extraordinary. Further contributing to the success of this undertaking is the high-resolution sound that, especially in multichannel, comes closer than ever to reproducing the singular aural experience of the Festspielhaus. Voices and instruments register as equally significant, amplifying the meaning of, for instance, Wotan’s long second-act speech. The high-definition video (on Blu-ray) is magnificent as well—check out the exceptional “edge definition” of Brunnhilde’s brilliant red costume against a pitch-black background in act III.

The 23-minute extra feature, “The Making of Die Walkure” is very worthwhile, especially if you’ve never been to Bayreuth. There are terrific shots of the famed recessed orchestra pit and other aspects of the theater. We see Katharina Wagner’s democratizing innovation of showing the drama on a large screen, in real time, set up in the Festplatz. And many of the singers and others involved with the production (sadly, Thielemann doesn’t participate) speak to the unique cooperative milieu that the festival fosters each summer. As I write this, my second visit to Bayreuth is 10 weeks away. I can hardly wait.



Arnold Whittall
Gramophone, June 2011

WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die) (Bayreuth Festival, 2010) (NTSC) OA1045D
WAGNER, R.: Walkure (Die) (Bayreuth Festival, 2010) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7081D

The breath of love—Dorst’s Walküre from Bayreuth is gifted space and spirit by Thielemann

The current Bayreuth Ring was originally meant to be produced by Lars von Trier, who might have been expected to match the variously radical takes on Tristan, Parsifal, Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin which have been staged alongside it at the festival. In the event, the veteran Tankred Dorst came up with something closer to the non-confrontational style of Wolfgang Wagner, and those opposed to such conventionalism have argued that Christian Thielemann’s conducting is the main reason for giving this version the time of day. When Opus Arte issued performances from 2008 on CD, Mike Ashman concluded that even though “for Thielemann’s work alone, the set is essential”, it was inferior in vocal terms to the Bayreuth cycles conducted by Krauss (1953), Keilberth (1955), Böhm (1966–67) and Barenboim (1991–92).

I have not made a direct comparison but I suspect that things were better vocally in 2010 than in 2008. Edith Haller (replacing Eva-Maria Westbroek) is good as Sieglinde—especially in Act 2—and Johan Botha (in place of Endrik Wottrich) is outstanding throughout as Siegmund. Wotan (Albert Dohmen) and Brünnhilde (Linda Watson) are the same as in 2008, and their commanding performances, particularly in Act 3, suggest that they have both grown into their roles. Dorst’s production, and this filming of it, are at their best in the later stages of Act 3 and the result is a powerful and affecting account of one of The Ring’s greatest episodes. Thielemann has been saving up his broadest tempi and most fervently shaped articulation for this conclusion and, even though faster speeds enable Wotans to sing with smoother phrasing than Dohmen can manage here, this is still an impressive demonstration of interpretative conviction, made even more absorbing by a staging in which Brünnhilde emerges as the dominant figure.

The first two acts are less well conceived for film, with both staging and setting (especially the appearance of spring in Act 1) understated to a fault. Seeing Walküre in the context of the rest of the cycle should explain some production details which are obscure (in both senses) here, but there’s nothing obscure or understated about Thielemann’s galvanising presence in the pit and seeing its effect on his singers in Act 3 makes these DVDs even more recommendable than the original CDs.



Robert Cummings
Classical Net, June 2011

Whenever a video recording of an opera shows the curtain calls at the end, I always watch them intently because they are a sort of review before the fact, especially if it’s a fairly sophisticated audience reacting, like those at the Bayreuth Festival. Indeed—you can generally discern not only which performers they liked, but the degree to which they liked the production. In this Opus Arte Blu-ray effort, you get to see curtain calls after each act, as well as eleven minutes of curtain calls at the end of the opera! The clapping and cheering goes on and on. The audience certainly approved of the proceedings.

Johan Botha, who portrayed Siegmund, got the biggest ovations by far—and he deserved them. Who was second? The conductor is Christian Thielemann, who is more and more emerging not only as a major Wagner interpreter, but as one of the most compelling conductors of the Beethoven symphonies in the world. His recent cycle on Unitel/CMajor was a great triumph, one of the most distinguished Beethoven cycles on record. In Die Walküre Thielemann is somewhat suave but fairly detailed in his approach, getting excellent playing from his orchestra and fine singing from the cast throughout. I should mention that both Edith Haller and Linda Watson have attractive voices and considerable vocal power, and along with Botha were a cut or so above most Wagner singers.

Yet, the production wasn’t a flawless affair: the sets were a bit dingy atmospherically, from Hunding’s hut to the Valkyries’ rock. The costuming for most of the main characters was reasonably good, but the red outfits for the Valkyries, colorful though they were, had a sort of antiquated space-age look, the kind of thing you’d see in an old techni-color sci-fi B-movie. But these are relatively minor quibbles that don’t seriously detract from the performance. What I found odd was the appearance at the outset of a modern-day family who wander onto the stage as if to intrude on a page of history. A twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy from the family runs over to Sieglinde, pulls down her hood and then quickly flees, his unveiling serving to kick off the story. The father of the family can be seen later on reading a newspaper far in the background. What’s behind these anachronistic intrusions?

Ah! I think I get it: it suggests that modern-day man is neglectful of great art! That’s it! On the other hand, maybe the presence of the unmindful father and his family suggest the timelessness of this classic: it’s meaningful art even amid our mundane daily affairs. Whatever. But then, couldn’t you make such commentary in almost any good opera? Or couldn’t you have someone, uh, reading a newspaper in the background on stage during an instrumental concert? Or during performance of a Shakespeare play? Why during a Wagner opera?

Fortunately, this little dubious touch is rarely seen and rarely intrusive, and thus the performance can stand as a viable account of this great Wagner opera. The sound and camera work were both excellent. Other Die Walküre video efforts of interest include a 1991 Met production, led by James Levine on DG, featuring Gary Lakes as Siegmund and Jessye Norman as Sieglinde; and a Hartmut Haenchen-led Netherlands Opera production from 1999, featuring John Keyes as Siegmund and Nadine Secunde as Sieglinde. The latter recording may be a bit slick in its special effects (real fire on stage amid generally barren sets), but the former is a pretty excellent production, both in performances and the imaginative sets. Unfortunately, the video quality is, by today’s standards, second-rate. This Opus Arte Blu-ray production, available on DVD as well [OA1045D], is visually quite sumptuous and also competitive in most other respects. Recommended.



Kevin Filipski
The Flip Side, April 2011

Richard Wagner’s Die Walkure (Opus Arte), the second and best of his four-part Ring cycle, comes to life in this 2010 staging from the composer’s own shrine in Bayreuth, Germany, conducted by Christian Thielemann and staged by director Tankred Dorst (lone extra: making-of featurette)



Jerry Floyd
, March 2011

Did the Bayreuth Festival’s co-director Katharina Wagner decide to have Die Walküre taped during the 2010 Bayreuth Festival because it would be the only visual record of the 2006–10 Ring cycle? Or was geopolitics the reason why Ms. Wagner opted to film Die Walküre (with a German production team and conductor) instead of the festival’s acclaimed staging of Parsifal (Norwegian director, Italian conductor)?

Regardless of why Die Walküre was chosen, there are worthwhile aspects to Opus Arte’s new DVD, which is based on a taping done on August 21, 2010. (In late 2009, Opus Arte released a CD version of the complete Thielemann-led Bayreuth Ring.)

Plusses include some of the performance’s musical aspects, a DVD extra, “The Making of Die Walküre” the fact that this release is based on an uninterrupted account of a live performance, rather than a splicing together of several performances and/or retakes, and the DVD’s superior technical quality.

Directed by Tankred Dost and conducted by Christian Thielemann, the complete 2010 Bayreuth Ring cycle was reviewed by Wagneropera.net’s Per-Erik Skramstad, who attended the Die Walküre performance that was videotaped.

Spare the Rod

Christian Thielemann’s conducting and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra’s accompaniment are primary reasons many will want to own this DVD. Admittedly, the orchestra sometimes lacks a sense of urgency, as in the opening strings passage that depicts a storm. And some other parts of the score are also too elided. But under Thielemann’s direction the orchestra plays with a level of Wagnerian finesse surely unequalled by any other ensemble.

Although some commentators have written that Thielemann’s suave approach is better suited to Strauss and Bruckner than to Wagner, the conductor is now one of our very finest Wagner interpreters and during the final curtain calls Thielemann received the most enthusiastic ovations.

Twin Vocal Peaks

Johan Botha (Siegmund) and Edith Haller (Sieglinde) are well-suited vocally to portray the incestuous twins. Botha’s acting is hampered by his physical size but the tenor sings the first act’s “Winterstürme” passionately. Haller delivers a warmly lyrical “Du bist der Lenz” and has enough stamina for her “O hehrstes Wunder!” peaen in Act III.

Of course, Act I doesn’t end with Siegmund and Sieglinde rolling on-the-floor consummating their love, à la Chéreau. But high-quality singing is still valued in Bayreuth; Botha and Haller were acclaimed during their curtain calls after each act.

Among the remaining principals, Kwangchul Youn is a vocally impressive but not particularly menacing Hunding. Mihoko Fujimura, Fricka, sounds below par but dramatically she is not a Fricka who goes quietly into the night.

Costumed in Flash Gordon-type outfits, the eight Valkyrie maidens are an energetic, spirited group.

Blu-ray Heaven

I watched the Blu-ray version of this DVD and as is invariably the case with Opus Arte releases, the DVD colors are warm and sharp, the stereo sound resonant. The video producers have done an excellent job of translating the action on Bayreuth’s vertically oriented stage into horizontal video frames and except for Botha, the singers are usually far enough away from the lens so they don’t appear to perspire profusely, a marked improvement over the 2007 Festival d’Aix en Provence video of this work.

A 23-minutes-long “extra”, “The Making of Die Walküre”, provides interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of the technical aspects of Bayreuth stagecraft and video production.We learn that it really does take a village to produce one of these videos.



Jerry Floyd
Wagneropera.net, March 2011

Did the Bayreuth Festival’s co-director Katharina Wagner decide to have Die Walküre taped during the 2010 Bayreuth Festival because it would be the only visual record of the 2006–10 Ring cycle? Or was geopolitics the reason why Ms. Wagner opted to film Die Walküre (with a German production team and conductor) instead of the festival’s acclaimed staging of Parsifal (Norwegian director, Italian conductor)?

Regardless of why Die Walküre was chosen, there are worthwhile aspects to Opus Arte’s new DVD, which is based on a taping done on August 21, 2010. (In late 2009, Opus Arte released a CD version of the complete Thielemann-led Bayreuth Ring.)

Plusses include some of the performance’s musical aspects, a DVD extra, “The Making of Die Walküre” the fact that this release is based on an uninterrupted account of a live performance, rather than a splicing together of several performances and/or retakes, and the DVD’s superior technical quality.

Directed by Tankred Dost and conducted by Christian Thielemann, the complete 2010 Bayreuth Ring cycle was reviewed by Wagneropera.net’s Per-Erik Skramstad, who attended the Die Walküre performance that was videotaped.

Spare the Rod

Christian Thielemann’s conducting and the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra’s accompaniment are primary reasons many will want to own this DVD. Admittedly, the orchestra sometimes lacks a sense of urgency, as in the opening strings passage that depicts a storm. And some other parts of the score are also too elided. But under Thielemann’s direction the orchestra plays with a level of Wagnerian finesse surely unequalled by any other ensemble.

Although some commentators have written that Thielemann’s suave approach is better suited to Strauss and Bruckner than to Wagner, the conductor is now one of our very finest Wagner interpreters and during the final curtain calls Thielemann received the most enthusiastic ovations.

Twin Vocal Peaks

Johan Botha (Siegmund) and Edith Haller (Sieglinde) are well-suited vocally to portray the incestuous twins. Botha’s acting is hampered by his physical size but the tenor sings the first act’s “Winterstürme” passionately. Haller delivers a warmly lyrical “Du bist der Lenz” and has enough stamina for her “O hehrstes Wunder!” peaen in Act III.

Of course, Act I doesn’t end with Siegmund and Sieglinde rolling on-the-floor consummating their love, à la Chéreau. But high-quality singing is still valued in Bayreuth; Botha and Haller were acclaimed during their curtain calls after each act.

Among the remaining principals, Kwangchul Youn is a vocally impressive but not particularly menacing Hunding. Mihoko Fujimura, Fricka, sounds below par but dramatically she is not a Fricka who goes quietly into the night.

Costumed in Flash Gordon-type outfits, the eight Valkyrie maidens are an energetic, spirited group.

Blu-ray Heaven

I watched the Blu-ray version of this DVD and as is invariably the case with Opus Arte releases, the DVD colors are warm and sharp, the stereo sound resonant. The video producers have done an excellent job of translating the action on Bayreuth’s vertically oriented stage into horizontal video frames and except for Botha, the singers are usually far enough away from the lens so they don’t appear to perspire profusely, a marked improvement over the 2007 Festival d’Aix en Provence video of this work.

A 23-minutes-long “extra”, “The Making of Die Walküre”, provides interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses of the technical aspects of Bayreuth stagecraft and video production.We learn that it really does take a village to produce one of these videos.






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