Carl St. Clair, conductor
Arthaus Musik 101353, DVD
Wotan Mario Hoff
Donner Alexander Günther
Froh Jean-Noël Briend
Loge Erin Caves
Alberich Tomas Möwes
Mime Frieder Aurich
Fasolt Renatus Mészár
Fafner Hidekazu Tsumaya
Fricka Christine Hansmann
Freia Marietta Zumbült
Erda Nadine Weissmann
Woglinde Silona Michel
Wellgunde Susann Günther-Dissmeier
Floßhilde Christiane Bassek
Dirk Becker, set designer
Renée Listerdal, costume designer
Recorded live from
the Deutsches Nationaltheater, Weimar, 2008.
NTSC 16:9, PCM
Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1;
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 166 mins
Review by Steve
Permit me to start
out, Erde-like, with an aviso: this should not be your first or only Rheingold.
In many ways it is too cartoon-like in action to convey the depths of feeling
musically, vocally, or mythologically. And yet: there's something in the naïve
simplicity of this production which makes a very complicated tale very easy
to follow; I could easily show it to a junior high schooler with no fear of
misunderstanding the story. What would be lacking is the emotions or inner psychology
beyond the obvious, but perhaps sometimes the obvious is enough. Most of the
acting and the orchestral playing seem to be paint-by-numbers.
It opens with a
cute, short prelude of three little girls telling each other a tale using frog
puppets as the cameras transition to a bench with symbols: boots, a spear with
writing on it, fingers without a hand, and hair.
The giants Fasolt
and Fafner are, well, giant, and doofy; like overgrown versions of Devo's Booji
Boy with padding all over their heads and ears to make them look, to be blunt,
The stage is set
as long horizontal strips; above is the blue Rhein. Alberich and the others
are below and the Rheinmaidens have to reach over in order to do their teasing
of the poor dwarf. Bizarrely, one nixie even loses her long tresses and remains
bald throughout the rest of the proceedings.
is the old carny get-up of a false foot extending from the knee so the clown
can look disproportionally short while the actor, in effect, is walking on his
knees with his legs dragging behind him, covered in dark cloth. This causes
him to waddle like a penguin. Later, when they torture Alberich on a table,
Wotan's knees threatening to crush his chest, bright lights tear into his eyes.
whose apples the Gods will die, clad in virginal white like a prior-day, basket-holding
Dorothy Gale, and just as confused, is shoved to and fro between the giants
and the Gods like a blonde, braided, gum-crackin' Bavarian bimbo; a bizarre
take on Disney's Goldilocks but with a deep voice.
The tarnhelm is
no helmet but is thin chain mail over Mime's face; it has the unfortunate effect
of a sheer stocking pulled over thief's mug. There are a few scenes where first
Mime, and then in the last act, the Gods each cover over an eye with two fingers.
Is this paying tribute to Wotan's missing one eye or a skewed reference to a
A rather effective
but perturbing image is Wotan's chopping off Fafner's finger to get the ring;
he fiddles with the ring finger for a long while, then after a long, suspenseful
time, he finally take the ring off and places it on his own finger, still keeping
us in suspense as he holds the finger for a few full minutes more before casually
flicking it off like a cigarette stub.
As an actor, Erin
Caves stands out as a wily Loge, dressed in a suit and casual vest which makes
him appear Wall Street-slimy and, at the very end, the three Rheinmaidens were
visually and vocally spellbinding as they stared down Wotan.
Despite my grousing,
I still found this a fascinating take on Das Rheingold, and for that reason,
for those who collect 'em (I have five on DVD so far), a worthy purchase.
[Many thanks to
Tony Pirtle for jumping in at the last second as copyeditor.]