Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra; Hartmut Haenchen, Musical Director; Siegfried: Heinz Kruse; Hagen: Kurt Rydl; Brunnhilde; Jeannine Altmeyer; Gunther: Wolfgang Schone; Gutrune: Eva-Maria Bundschuh; with many other vocal soloists and chorus
Studio: Opus Arte
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
Audio: DTS 5.1 surround, PCM stereo
Extras: Illustrated synopsis; Cast gallery; Introduction to Gotterdammerung
Length: 269 minutes
This three-disc set from Opus Arte represents the final chapter of the Dutch Opera’s 1999 staging of the complete Ring; apparently the previous three installments are available on DVD internationally, but I’ve yet to see them offered here in the U.S. As with most recent stagings of Wagner’s Ring cycle, an ultra-modern direction was taken for most of the sets and costumes; the end results make this Ring, quite possibly, the most bizzarely-staged Wagner opera yet. A pretty even cross of Star Wars with Return to the Planet of the Apes and the Bride of Frankenstein meets the Mummy pretty much sums it up. The sets are about as minimalist as it could possibly get; in some scenes – apart from spotlights on the characters and some accent lighting – the primary source of light on stage is a single bare bulb suspended from above! Siegfried’s horse Grane is represented by a trapezoidally-shaped piece of sheet metal. The three Norns in Act I look like the mutant humanoids in Return to the Planet of the Apes – you almost expect someone to roll out an A-bomb for them to pay homage to. The singers who portray the two principle characters, Siegfried and Brunnhilde, are almost painful to watch in action; their facial expressions are much more harrowing to behold than much of the gore I’ve had the misfortune to have observed in numerous slasher movies. Gutrune’s beehive hairstyle makes her look like a cross between the Alien creature and the Bride of Frankenstein. Hagen’s chorus members in Act III are wrapped in cloth from head to toe, not at all dissimilar to the priests in the recent remake of the Mummy. The only saving grace is Kurt Rydl’s Hagen, who is as evil and menacing as any I’ve ever seen.
This entire offering is pretty much a mixed bag, unfortunately. Image quality is really soft; it almost looks as if it was transferred from a poor quality video source, which is really puzzling for a release less than ten years old. And despite the bizarre visuals onstage most of the time, they might be a tad more interesting if they were easier to watch through the muted color tones and overall graininess of the presentation. The performances from the orchestra and soloists are generally first-rate, and the sound quality of the DVD is highest quality as well, for both the PCM stereo and DTS options. With equal parts good and bad, I’d definitely try this one first before adding it to your collection.
— Tom Gibbs