Discussion:
New Rheingold, new Ring?
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Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-19 17:33:56 UTC
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BR Klassik have announced a new Rheingold for September, live recording from the Herkulessaal Munich conducted by Simon Rattle. Not, alas, his original-instrument performance of a few years ago, but with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cast includes Michael Volle as Wotan, Burkhard Fritz as Loge. No word yet about a complete Ring, but seems possible. I'll be looking out for this, though may not get it for review -- too busy this month!

Cheers,

Mike
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-19 17:42:21 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
BR Klassik have announced a new Rheingold for September, live recording from the Herkulessaal Munich conducted by Simon Rattle. Not, alas, his original-instrument performance of a few years ago, but with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cast includes Michael Volle as Wotan, Burkhard Fritz as Loge. No word yet about a complete Ring, but seems possible. I'll be looking out for this, though may not get it for review -- too busy this month!
Cheers,
Mike
My info appears to have been wrong -- it's not live. At any rate there's a session video and Rattle interview on Youtube, and on Prestoclassical's site. Looks and sounds quite promising.

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2015-09-19 18:40:56 UTC
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To someone who started record buying in the early sixties it seems
incredible even to suggest this - but is it possible that there are simply
too many Rings available now?
REP
2015-09-19 20:59:13 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
To someone who started record buying in the early sixties it seems
incredible even to suggest this - but is it possible that there are simply
too many Rings available now?
In one sense, yes. But it's not just about the market; it's about documenting great performances. If Hotter, Nilsson, Neidlinger, etc. hadn't been recorded in their most famous roles, we'd consider it a great loss. The same might be said of singers today.

But there probably _has_ been a glut of Rings lately featuring -- how to put it -- less than stellar casts. Partly because recording has become cheaper, I imagine, but also because we don't have the Wagnerian stars on hand to create a definitive Ring for our age.

REP
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-21 09:53:42 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
To someone who started record buying in the early sixties it seems
incredible even to suggest this - but is it possible that there are simply
too many Rings available now?
In one sense, yes. But it's not just about the market; it's about documenting great performances. If Hotter, Nilsson, Neidlinger, etc. hadn't been recorded in their most famous roles, we'd consider it a great loss. The same might be said of singers today.
But there probably _has_ been a glut of Rings lately featuring -- how to put it -- less than stellar casts. Partly because recording has become cheaper, I imagine, but also because we don't have the Wagnerian stars on hand to create a definitive Ring for our age.
REP
Yes, there probably are too many, and some are pretty appalling, or, almost worse, anodyne. But it's hard to imagine anything one could do about that, and proliferation does have advantages -- it tends to make recordings cheaper and more accessible, for example. When there were only one or two the companies could charge much more for them, and did.

But the biggest problem is undoubtedly the dearth of star singers, and that is a wholly separate question involving all sorts of factors -- training, lack of apprenticeship, taking roles too early, performance styles, jetset scheduling, and, yes, modern production fashions. That last one struck me particularly strongly when I was looking at the present La Scala Ring, in Guy Cassiers' production. There are some excellent voices, but the acting... Even Nina Stemme, though she sings passionately enough, seems wooden and lacking. Undoubtedly the producer's fault, mainly, but no singer who was really used to acting what they were singing about could normally deliver such a static stand-and-deliver job. Where's the personeneregie that's so often advanced as a justification for extreme production styles? Too often it's exaggerated gesture, no more, in situations so unrealistic that any instinctive response in the singer is deadened. Just as much as in the old gather-round-the-footlights style, they're going through the motions, and have nothing much to carry over to other stagings. Whereas, say, Windgassen had a solid Bayreuth grounding with which he could fill in a poor production elsewhere

Mike
Jay Kauffman
2015-09-21 16:07:49 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
Post by REP
Post by Bert Coules
To someone who started record buying in the early sixties it seems
incredible even to suggest this - but is it possible that there are simply
too many Rings available now?
In one sense, yes. But it's not just about the market; it's about documenting great performances. If Hotter, Nilsson, Neidlinger, etc. hadn't been recorded in their most famous roles, we'd consider it a great loss. The same might be said of singers today.
But there probably _has_ been a glut of Rings lately featuring -- how to put it -- less than stellar casts. Partly because recording has become cheaper, I imagine, but also because we don't have the Wagnerian stars on hand to create a definitive Ring for our age.
REP
Yes, there probably are too many, and some are pretty appalling, or, almost worse, anodyne. But it's hard to imagine anything one could do about that, and proliferation does have advantages -- it tends to make recordings cheaper and more accessible, for example. When there were only one or two the companies could charge much more for them, and did.
But the biggest problem is undoubtedly the dearth of star singers, and that is a wholly separate question involving all sorts of factors -- training, lack of apprenticeship, taking roles too early, performance styles, jetset scheduling, and, yes, modern production fashions. That last one struck me particularly strongly when I was looking at the present La Scala Ring, in Guy Cassiers' production. There are some excellent voices, but the acting... Even Nina Stemme, though she sings passionately enough, seems wooden and lacking. Undoubtedly the producer's fault, mainly, but no singer who was really used to acting what they were singing about could normally deliver such a static stand-and-deliver job. Where's the personeneregie that's so often advanced as a justification for extreme production styles? Too often it's exaggerated gesture, no more, in situations so unrealistic that any instinctive response in the singer is deadened. Just as much as in the old gather-round-the-footlights style, they're going through the motions, and have nothing much to carry over to other stagings. Whereas, say, Windgassen had a solid Bayreuth grounding with which he could fill in a poor production elsewhere
Mike
One of these days someone will write an article explaining the proliferation of great Wagner singers during the period 1925-1950. Yes there were wonderful singers both before and after but for shear volume combined with quality that period was unmatched IMHO
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-22 17:56:25 UTC
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There's certainly a case for that, although we ourselves haven't heard them live, of course. And what live recordings survive do suggest many of them took less care with the musical values generally than today's. That may be because it wasn't expected of them; audiences were less used to sound-only listening at any length, and recording wasn't so detailed. That may have given them more freedom to just sing. But there are so many other possible factors, too -- fewer performances, less travelling, wider repertoire (reducing vocal strain, for one thing). And perhaps less training, odd as it may sound; I sometimes wonder if demanding modern degree courses do more harm than good. But I know what would happen if I ever suggested that...

Cheers,

Mike
Dogbert Dilbert
2015-09-22 13:43:03 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
BR Klassik have announced a new Rheingold for September, live recording
from the Herkulessaal Munich conducted by Simon Rattle. Not, alas, his
original-instrument performance of a few years ago, but with the
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cast includes Michael Volle as
Wotan, Burkhard Fritz as Loge. No word yet about a complete Ring, but
seems possible. I'll be looking out for this, though may not get it for
review -- too busy this month!
Cheers,
Mike
Mike, whatever happened to Rattle's other Ring - the one with Willard
White as Wotan? Was that ever completed, or was it just a one-off
Walkure?

I always thought White was a great Wotan (I saw him at Scottish Opera
in Das R and Die W in the late 80s) and was rather looking forward to
hearing White as Wanderer as well as Wotan.

Dogbertd
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-22 14:22:27 UTC
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Post by Dogbert Dilbert
Mike, whatever happened to Rattle's other Ring - the one with Willard
White as Wotan? Was that ever completed, or was it just a one-off
Walkure?
I always thought White was a great Wotan (I saw him at Scottish Opera
in Das R and Die W in the late 80s) and was rather looking forward to
hearing White as Wanderer as well as Wotan.
Dogbertd
The Aix performance was, so far as I know, a one-off on DVD, but it was part of an entire Ring to be built up year by year, and performed in full in 2009. There's a video of Gotterdammerung from that year, with Ben Heppner if I remember aright, but it's never been released commercially that I know of. White did sing the Wanderer in Siegfried, opposite Heppner again, but I don't know if that was recorded. Might be on the "historic" circuit somewhere.

Yes, I saw him at Scottish Opera too, and he was impressive, especially as the production didn't hinder him too badly -- unlike the later Covent Garden staging by Jones. I also saw him as Alberich, though, and thought it suited the voice better, although not his appearance -- world's largest dwarf! By the Aix performances I did feel the strain showed a little at times -- not unreasonably, but more than, say, John Tomlinson. Rattle's latest concert Walkure featured Terje Stensvold, so it's likely that White, very much a Rattle artist, has dropped the role -- not surprising, if so, as he's over 70 now.

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2015-09-22 17:01:41 UTC
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...world's largest dwarf!
I loved the way that Covent Garden in the 70s or thereabouts invariably cast
two of their resident character tenors: John Lanigan as a six-footish Mime
and John Dobson as a diminutive Loge.

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-22 17:45:27 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
...world's largest dwarf!
I loved the way that Covent Garden in the 70s or thereabouts invariably cast
two of their resident character tenors: John Lanigan as a six-footish Mime
and John Dobson as a diminutive Loge.
Bert
Yes, and they eventually did change roles -- I last saw JD as Mime in Warsaw in the early 1980s, opposite an even older Jean Cox, and Lanigan sang a very good Loge for Scottish Opera. He was originally a Puccini tenor, and it seems to suit that kind of voice. I occasionally wonder if Rolando Villazon would make a good Loge.

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2015-09-22 18:09:34 UTC
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I have a feeling I saw Dobson as a last-minute stand-in Mime at the
Coliseum, singing in German to everyone else's English. Whether it really
was him or someone else, it was a fascinating experience and came with
built-in translation: "Drei der Fragen stell' ich mir frei" - "Three times,
I shall answer!"

Bert
REP
2015-09-22 20:48:51 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I have a feeling I saw Dobson as a last-minute stand-in Mime at the
Coliseum, singing in German to everyone else's English. Whether it really
was him or someone else, it was a fascinating experience and came with
built-in translation: "Drei der Fragen stell' ich mir frei" - "Three times,
I shall answer!"
Bert
Heh. Mime, impromptu German translator. Might as well do sign language too.

REP
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-22 21:20:37 UTC
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Post by REP
Heh. Mime, impromptu German translator. Might as well do sign language too.
REP
Don't remind me. I've seen several signed performances, especially one of Ariadne auf Naxos -- at the ROH, I think. I've every sympathy with deaf people -- my own hearing goes with a cold or after long flights -- but what was the point in an opera, for heaven's sake? The average listeners usually say they can't make out the words anyway, there are usually surtitles, and if they can't hear the music the signing is going to be little consolation, surely. All I can remember is being constantly distracted from the performance by this gesticulating, grimacing gibbon at stage right.

Mind you, the way some Mimes act...

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2015-09-22 22:03:56 UTC
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Just doing the words would seem superfluous if there are indeed surtitles on
display, but I can see the point if there aren't any. My understanding is
that absolute deafness is much rarer than partial loss of hearing, and given
that, an opportunity to hear some of the music (and perhaps feel some, too)
plus getting the gist of the words, is surely a worthwhile experience to
offer a niche market.

It's never occurred to me to ponder this before, but can some specific
aspects of music itself be signed, I wonder?

Bert
REP
2015-09-22 22:15:23 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
Just doing the words would seem superfluous if there are indeed surtitles on
display, but I can see the point if there aren't any. My understanding is
that absolute deafness is much rarer than partial loss of hearing, and given
that, an opportunity to hear some of the music (and perhaps feel some, too)
plus getting the gist of the words, is surely a worthwhile experience to
offer a niche market.
Yes, I can see it being a very rewarding experience for someone who is partially deaf, especially in action-packed, dialogue-heavy operas, such as Don Giovanni.
Post by Bert Coules
It's never occurred to me to ponder this before, but can some specific
aspects of music itself be signed, I wonder?
Bert
I doubt it, but I'm no expert. You'd probably be better off with an interpretive dancer to suggest through movement the "mood" of the music. That might actually be quite an interesting experience for a totally deaf audience, as close to the operatic experience as they're likely to get: supertitles for the words and dancers for the tempo/rhythm/mood.

REP
Bert Coules
2015-09-22 22:27:41 UTC
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I was thinking more of specific moods, moments and effects which have a
particular dramatic significance: the music suddenly becomes sinister (or
perhaps cuts altogether), a trumpet-call rings out, a sudden shock sting.
I can imagine the value of having signing to cover that sort of thing.
REP
2015-09-22 22:36:08 UTC
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Post by Bert Coules
I was thinking more of specific moods, moments and effects which have a
particular dramatic significance: the music suddenly becomes sinister (or
perhaps cuts altogether), a trumpet-call rings out, a sudden shock sting.
I can imagine the value of having signing to cover that sort of thing.
Or to sign each leitmotif as it occurs. There's an interesting idea.

REP
Bert Coules
2015-09-23 07:44:51 UTC
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Post by REP
Or to sign each leitmotif as it occurs. There's an interesting idea.
That would be overwhelming, wouldn't it? Especially if the poor signer (not
to mention the poor signee) was handling the words at the same time. And
also somewhat unWagnerian in that it would make concrete something he surely
intended to be unconscious: the absorption of the musical system and
structure. I don't see how a deaf audience could ever have the same
experience as a hearing one in that regard, though as a learning tool in a
non-performance situation, signing the leitmotives could be fascinating and
valuable.

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-09-25 22:10:26 UTC
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Post by REP
Or to sign each leitmotif as it occurs. There's an interesting idea.
REP
But a potentially rather misleading one, given that leitmotifs, as we know, modulate and evolve, and shouldn't really be treated like "calling cards". All one could really do was signpost their occasional striking appearances -- the sword motif, for example, in Rheingold. But how could you sign the fact that the Valhalla motif, for example, doesn't appear complete until Wotan actually sees and hails the finished hall -- after "Hehrer, herrlicher Bau!" -- when it moves from vision to reality, as it were? It's obvious when you can hear it, but hard to convey otherwise.

Cheers,

Mike
Bert Coules
2015-09-25 22:21:12 UTC
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Mike,

Indeed, but just as conventional signing doesn't attempt to convey the exact
content of speech, presumably a musical equivalent couldn't hope to put
across that sort of subtlety, any more than it could be expressed in words
in a brief and succinct form.

I can imagine a value to signing big moments and perhaps (where possible)
dramatically useful ones - Siegmund mentions his father, we hear an echo of
Valhalla , that sort of thing - but I would have thought that much beyond
that simply wouldn't be possible in real time during a performance.

Bert
Bert Coules
2015-09-22 21:58:13 UTC
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Post by REP
Heh. Mime, impromptu German translator.
Well, Wotan...

Bert
Mike Scott Rohan
2015-10-09 13:45:27 UTC
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Post by Mike Scott Rohan
BR Klassik have announced a new Rheingold for September, live recording from the Herkulessaal Munich conducted by Simon Rattle. Not, alas, his original-instrument performance of a few years ago, but with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. Cast includes Michael Volle as Wotan, Burkhard Fritz as Loge. No word yet about a complete Ring, but seems possible. I'll be looking out for this, though may not get it for review -- too busy this month!
Cheers,
Mike
I now have both this and the new Naxos Rheingold in hand, and on first hearing I'm quite impressed with both. Van Sweden is generalized, a real first-time Ring as I expected, but with some excellent voices -- a performance one would enjoy in the opera house without being galvanized. But Rattle... not at all what I bargained for. Fast, but not a la Boulez, not glib, but very, very dynamic, to the extent of some Solti-esque choppy phrasing, but more than made up for by the translucent Bavarian playing, with some superb horns. You really hear Alberich leaping about in a frenzy. And --unlike the Naxos version, even Goerne -- the singers really make an effort to act vocally. Fricka sneers and cajoles, Wotan -- Michael Volle sounding lightish-voiced but much better than I've ever heard him -- spits rivets at the giants. Goerne's voice sounds cavernous and Hotterish, but suprisingly he doesn't get anything like the same depth of feeling. Unfortunately the Loge, Burckhard Fritz, is more in the Mime line; Naxos' Kim Begley is much better, especially in his lyrical moments. Anyhow, more when I've heard a bit more, but the Rattle is definitely something unusual and a bit exciting.

Cheers,

Mike

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