The Colón Ring: Wagner in Buenos Aires, Blu-ray (2013)Performers: Linda Watson (Brünnhilde)/ Jukka Rasilainen (Wotan)/ Leonid Zakhozhaev (Siegfried)/ Stig Andersen (Siegmund)/ Marion Ammann (Sieglinde)/ Simone Schröder (Fricka)/ Daniel Sumegi (Hagen, Hundling)/ Teatro Colón Orch./ Roberto Paternostro Producer: Bernhard Fleischer Film Director: Hans Christoph von Bock Stage Director: Valentina Carrasco Studio: C Major 712904 [6/25/13] [Distr. by Naxos] Video: 16:9 1080i Full HD Blu-ray disc Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, PCM Stereo Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean All Regions Length: 93 minutes Rating: ****
Start with the fact that many conductors have wanted to try and shorten the Ring—easier on the singers, a big box office, all of it in one night—even at seven hours straight with only intermissions—and you see the premise behind this ambitious project mounted in Buenos Aires. This isn’t a performance of that production, aside from some snippets of the actual thing, but a film that documents how it started and where it ended up. I am not going to review the performance as that is scheduled to come out in a one box set, but I will say that the orchestra is good but has some problems with intonation and unanimity in places though this is by no means a detriment to enjoyment. The singers are of very high quality but uneven, yet as a whole production I can’t imagine anyone not being thrilled to hear this in person. As a recording, or a video, we will have to see how the whole stacks up against considerable market competition.
Katharina Wagner, great-granddaughter of the composer, and co-director of the Bayreuth Festival, asked filmmaker Hans Christoph von Bock to follow her to Argentina and film the story of this historic epic. A clash of ways happened—the slower, less officious manner of the Argentinians did not sit well with the stoic and rather prima-donnish Wagner, who complained from the beginning—and perhaps with reason—that nothing was ready when she got there and that her rehearsal time was cut by two weeks because of delays. So she took the low road and simply walked out. Not to worry—young, talented and amazingly energetic Valentina Carrasco came to the rescue. She likes walking into difficult situations, and pulled off a real miracle of preparation, making Wagner look rather silly. The film follows this drama with great success, putting us in the middle of the beleaguered company trying to get it all together in about a month’s time.
The production itself, musically speaking, is based on a score reduction by the conductor Cord Garben, who does a good job at keeping the essential action moving, but also seems a little condescending towards the Ring in general, feeling that Wagner was extremely repetitive and gets lost in a sea of needless action—or lack of. Those that love the Ring will disagree most vociferously with that assessment. But it must be admitted that the idea of watching the whole cycle in the span of one long evening does have its attraction—call it Wagnerian slumming. The film is well done and a fascinating excursion behind the scenes at a major event.