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Paul J. Pelkonen
Superconductor, July 2016

The glory here is Christian Thielemann, the leader of a current generation of young Wagnerians making their way with these operas. He draws genuine emotion from the excess of orchestral narrative, knows how to build momentum in the theater, and the big moments leap out of the speakers. So does Johan Botha, giving the performance of his life as Siegmund. The rest of the cast is solid, led by Albert Dohmen’s sturdy, troubled Wotan. © 2016 Superconductor Read complete review

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., August 2011

…this presentation offers really gorgeous color and some beautifully detailed costumes…this is a really nice looking Blu-ray, with admirable fine detail in close-ups…

… gorgeously sung and played production and one which certainly comes Recommended.

© Reproduced with permission. Read complete review on

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.

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