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Wagner - The Ring at Valencia

Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana/Zubin Mehta
La Fura dels Baus/Carlus Padrissa
Video creator/Franc Aleu

Full cast at C+Major/704608

Highlights - Unitel Classics DVD 704608 [130 mins]

This amazing production of "A Ring for the 21st Century" from Valencia's new opera house has been enjoyed on Sky Arts TV and we have been supplied with a Highlights disc for consideration.

It is the newest attempt to tackle the Wagner collosus in contemporary terms "for a young, 21st C audience familiar with the visual language of Star Wars and Harry Potter" and, predictably, it has both video wonders and some sillinesses.

Some of us may jib at the mechanical constructions, especially machines which rise and lower like fire-fighters ladders, pushed around by assistants on stage, which give another dimension to the on stage movements of the Wagnerian opera stars, with microphones in front of their mouths...

But you get used to all that, and some of the creations are wonderful, especially the water-filled tanks representing the Rhine, in which the Maidens immerse themselves and come up for breath unperturbed, singing beautifully.

All in all, this Ring gives new life to the tetralogy for those of us who have become tired of more conventional productions and disenchanted with some of the late 20th C experiments.

Musically, all is in the safe hands of Zubin Mehta, who notes his admiration for the flexibility of the stage direction, with Padrissa an ideal collaborator, one who is willing to make changes right up to the last stage of rehearsals.

The 130 mins excerpts from all four parts + documentaries will serve you to decide whether to acquire the whole; if in doubt, I'd advise YES, because many of the scenes need to be taken at greater length than the excerpts here, which sweep you into the new visual world of La Fura dels Baus, a group dominated by the amazingly inventive stage director Carlus Padrissa, a man of prodigious, teeming imagination, which you can see at full play in the bonus extra Carlus Padrissa - The Visionary...

And Franc Aleu, whose breathtaking video images take you in his far too short Painting with light into his specialised cutting-edge world of the video creator. He suggests plausibly that Wagner was anticipating film before it existed, and that now film and video are becoming integral parts of opera, the most all-embracing of all the arts.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See representative reviews of this Ring as a whole at Opera Today "Ingenious in execution, musically satisfying - - Zubin Mehta contributes a fine video to the discography of Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen" & Washington Post "enjoyable, not excellent".