Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

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slofstra
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Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by slofstra » Sun Jul 05, 2015 10:48 am

I've wanted to have a Blu-Ray Ring for some time and plunked my money on the Amazon barrelhead for this production under Zubin Mehta.
I don't have much problem with re-staging in a non-traditional setting and the reviews for this video were generally good.
But I'm quite disappointed. I've only watched 'Das Rheingold' but the sets and staging so far are best described as cheesy 'Doctor Who' style. The singing is okay, but not exciting like a Nilsson or Vickers.
Please convince me that I'm wrong about this production as the Dutch part of me hates the thought of wasting that much money.
What I don't understand is the number of positive reviews this garnered on Amazon. At least there is now a dissenting one, posted by me.

John F
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:29 pm

What can have possessed you to expect excellence in the Ring from that cast and conductor? There are other Blu ray options, including two from the Metropolitan Opera. As for La Fura dels Baus, I've seen one of their productions at the 1998 Lincoln Center Festival, "F@ust, Version 3.0," and it was so incoherent as to be incomprehensible. And I wasn't the only one - here's the beginning of the NY Times review:
Peter Marks wrote:Remember how smitten you were, how bowled over and enchanted, by your first foreign film? The experience was in every sense an eye-opener: the exotic words from the lips of heavy-lidded actors, the voluptuous camera work, the smoky, seemingly unrestrained carnality. Well, sitting through ''F@ust, Version 3.0,'' the live, multimedia piece by the Barcelona theater company La Fura dels Baus, is the opposite of that. A compression of the epic verse play that took Goethe a lifetime to compose, ''F@ust, Version 3.0'' is a disenchantment that manages to close the mind in an economical 100 minutes. It's as muddled and gratuitously profane as a particularly juvenile effort by a group of first-year film students.


Sorry, you have indeed wasted your money.
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slofstra
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by slofstra » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:40 pm

The obvious choice was Levine and the Met, but I wanted BluRay. Of the many choices available in that format I thought surely there'd be one decent one. But I'm beginning to think there are only a few excellent Rings. And plenty of also-rans.
I saw a complete Ring in Toronto a few years ago, and while I'm not an afficiando, the singing was excellent, and the production and staging worked very well. If Toronto can do it, why not others, or so I thought.

As far as what possessed me I would say the Amazon reviews, which I now believe are more and more the product of sock puppets. John, you should write some.

The review of F@ust 3.0 scores high marks for devastating wit, and yes, it's a shoe that seems to fit with this Ring.

John F
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Sun Jul 05, 2015 2:02 pm

The second Ring cycle from the Met, conducted half by Levine and half by Luisi but with a consistent cast, is available in Blu-ray. There are better Rings on DVD and still better on CD, but if you're dead set on Blu-ray, here it is:

http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Nibelungen ... ne+BLu+Ray

"I'm beginning to think there are only a few excellent Rings." You've got that right! The Ring cycle is such an immense challenge, musically and theatrically, that excellence across the board is very rare. And with opera productions in the disgraceful state they're in now, the odds against excellence are even higher. The Met production by Robert Lepage, though certainly not perfect, is the most faithful to the cycle's dramatic and scenic requirements that I have seen, and I've seen a lot of Ring cycles. It's the best of a very limited choice on Blu-ray.

As for amazon.com reviewers, what do they know and who are they? But you could have asked here...
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by slofstra » Sun Jul 05, 2015 3:08 pm

John F wrote:The second Ring cycle from the Met, conducted half by Levine and half by Luisi but with a consistent cast, is available in Blu-ray. There are better Rings on DVD and still better on CD, but if you're dead set on Blu-ray, here it is:

http://www.amazon.com/Wagner-Nibelungen ... ne+BLu+Ray

"I'm beginning to think there are only a few excellent Rings." You've got that right! The Ring cycle is such an immense challenge, musically and theatrically, that excellence across the board is very rare. And with opera productions in the disgraceful state they're in now, the odds against excellence are even higher. The Met production by Robert Lepage, though certainly not perfect, is the most faithful to the cycle's dramatic and scenic requirements that I have seen, and I've seen a lot of Ring cycles. It's the best of a very limited choice on Blu-ray.

As for amazon.com reviewers, what do they know and who are they? But you could have asked here...
I really should have. :)

I'm still half hoping someone will come along and say, "no, you really need to consider this or that about the Mehta/ La Fura des Baus Ring". At least I'm going to try to finish viewing it. Maybe it will get better.

barney
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by barney » Mon Jul 06, 2015 8:22 am

Fura des Baus did a Masked Ball for Opera Australia that I thought was a travesty. It was absurd and made a mockery of the text and music. But I have written about that before here.

slofstra
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by slofstra » Mon Jul 06, 2015 11:28 am

barney wrote:Fura des Baus did a Masked Ball for Opera Australia that I thought was a travesty. It was absurd and made a mockery of the text and music. But I have written about that before here.
Uh, thanks Barney, but I am actually looking for people to persuade me that the effort to watch this will ultimately be worth it. *tongue in cheek*

John F
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Mon Jul 06, 2015 1:07 pm

slofstra wrote:I'm still half hoping someone will come along and say, "no, you really need to consider this or that about the Mehta/ La Fura des Baus Ring".
Well, if it's any consolation, I found a couple of clips from it on YouTube and the Hagen is quite good. :)
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by THEHORN » Mon Jul 06, 2015 3:58 pm

John , I haven't seen this Ring, but many others have been very favorably impressed by it, including Mehta's conducting . He's a fine Wagnerian .

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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Mon Jul 06, 2015 4:25 pm

I'm unimpressed that others have been impressed by it. Who are they that I should heed them? Now if it were you or other CMG folks who liked it, we could have a discussion. But so far, Henry is the only one of us who's seen it, and to put it mildly, he's not impressed.
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by bigshot » Wed Jul 08, 2015 11:20 am

This is a great Ring. The singing is solid without any obvious miscasting... try to find that in a modern Ring! Mehta's conducting is fantastic and the orchestra gives it their all. Listen to the overture to Walkure. I haven't heard it conducted that well since Walter. The sets and cherry pickers are goofy, but they follow the intent of the libretto. It's not arbitrarily set in a kitchen or bathed in rivers of blood. In particular, check out Siegfried's Rhine Journey. I think that is one of the most brilliant stagings I've ever seen, and Mehta's conducting is MUCH more vital that Levine/that other guy. I picked up Barenboim's La Scala Ring and watched the first act of Walkure and liked it. Similar approach in staging, but a little blander. I'm concerned about what I read about the rest of the cycle though. It sounds like he had casting problems.

I've retired Boulez and the first Levine Rings, and I never connected with Barenboim's laser light show at Bayreuth. I still like Karajan's Rhinegold DVD, but other than that, the blu-ray Rings have more to offer, particularly when it comes to conducting.

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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:13 pm

Astonishing.
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by slofstra » Wed Jul 08, 2015 4:06 pm

bigshot wrote:This is a great Ring. The singing is solid without any obvious miscasting... try to find that in a modern Ring! Mehta's conducting is fantastic and the orchestra gives it their all. Listen to the overture to Walkure. I haven't heard it conducted that well since Walter. The sets and cherry pickers are goofy, but they follow the intent of the libretto. It's not arbitrarily set in a kitchen or bathed in rivers of blood. In particular, check out Siegfried's Rhine Journey. I think that is one of the most brilliant stagings I've ever seen, and Mehta's conducting is MUCH more vital that Levine/that other guy. I picked up Barenboim's La Scala Ring and watched the first act of Walkure and liked it. Similar approach in staging, but a little blander. I'm concerned about what I read about the rest of the cycle though. It sounds like he had casting problems.

I've retired Boulez and the first Levine Rings, and I never connected with Barenboim's laser light show at Bayreuth. I still like Karajan's Rhinegold DVD, but other than that, the blu-ray Rings have more to offer, particularly when it comes to conducting.
In my Amazon review I noted that the orchestral playing was very good. In 'Das Rheingold' the singing didn't knock me out, but then the parts aren't nearly as good as what comes later. Your review does offer encouragement for further viewing. I suspect that the sets and staging matter more to me than they do to you since we agree on that score.

bigshot
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by bigshot » Wed Jul 08, 2015 6:51 pm

Mehta's Rhinegold is a million times better than the first Levine one. That was the most lugubrious performance I've ever suffered through. The only thing about the Mehta Ring that I don't like are the costumes. They are pretty ugly, particularly in the first act of Walkure. But the music and singing makes up for it.

A few more details of the staging... This is the only Ring I've ever seen where Fricka arrives in a ram cart the way Wagner asked for it. It's worked into the background screens. The first act of Siegfried is really goofy- Mime is a mad scientist creating a superman in a lab, but I kind of like it. That part of the Ring is supposed to be funny, even if it's usually taken seriously in most stagings. Both of the actors on Brunhilde's rock are quite thick and long in the tooth, but they sing very well and the staging is very dramatic. The immolation is very good too. Projected on a big screen, it takes your breath away. All in all, this is my favorite Ring on video. None of them are perfect, but if the conducting and singing is good and the action on stage follows the libretto in spirit, if not in tradition, so I'm fine with it. I'm not a stickler for the ratty old bear skin costumes and horns on the helmets. I saw a Ring like that once, and it looked old and creaky. Papier-mache rocks are harder for me to suspend disbelief for than the more modern A/V projection system approach.

A very good Wagner blu-ray for the staging is the Glyndebourne Meistersinger. It's staged in mid-1800s dress and the stage is much smaller than I've ever seen with this opera before, but the last act is totally dazzling. Muti's Magic Flute is a real feast for the eyes too in a pseudo-Matisse style (and the Queen of the Night knocked my socks off!)

I'm really enjoying opera on blu-ray. Projected in hidef with a good sound system, blu-ray can be an even better presentation of opera than going to the theater.

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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Wed Jul 08, 2015 9:16 pm

bigshot wrote:This is the only Ring I've ever seen where Fricka arrives in a ram cart the way Wagner asked for it. It's worked into the background screens.
Robert Lepage's current Metropolitan Opera production provides the ram cart, and in all respects it's the most faithful to Wagner's stage directions I've seen, besides being faithful to the Ring's scenic gestalt - most of the scenes are set outdoors in a natural environment, and Lepage reproduces nature as convincingly as possible within a theatre's four walls. Stephen Wadsworth's Ring in Seattle shared that emphasis, with far more modest resources than the Met's. What I've seen of the Catalonian production doesn't come close.

There are other ways of doing the Ring, of course. I saw both of Wieland Wagner's productions, that of the '50s as restaged in Stuttgart and his last one at Bayreuth, and while the settings and costumes were far from abstract, they were stylized with a purpose and distinction, and beautifully lit. For example, in the first scene of "Das Rheingold," in which the gold appears in the shape of an eye as the Rheinmaidens describe it: "Nicht weiss der Alp von des Goldes Auge, das wechselnd wacht und schlaft?""

Image

The singers and conductors in both productions, as captured in countless Bayreuth Festival broadcasts, leave Mehta and his cast in the dust. These weren't filmed, except for a very dim kinescope of "Walküre" in Osaka, but if we're talking about musical-dramatic values, Bayreuth in Wieland Wagner's time set standards rarely approached elsewhere, and surely not in Valencia.
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by bigshot » Thu Jul 09, 2015 12:09 pm

I was talking specifically about Rings on blu-ray and DVD. With an HD projection system and good 5.1 sound, blu-rays can offer an entirely new way of enjoying opera. The Ring is the perfect candidate for blu-ray release, because it requires such vast resources to stage.

I thought you had seen the Valencia Ring. Like most opera, publicity photos and a couple of YouTube clips isn't really going to give you a real idea of what it is. But if you like the old school staging, you would probably like Levine's first video Ring. That is the only one like that.

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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Thu Jul 09, 2015 4:01 pm

I've looked at several clips from the Valencia Ring on YouTube, more than enough for me. As for "an entirely new way of enjoying opera," if the musical performance and and the production aren't a lot better than what I've seen of the Valencia, I'm not going to enjoy it whether in Blu-ray or tin foil on Edison's prototype phonograph. As for ways of enjoying opera, I recommend a good orchestra seat in an opera house. :D
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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by bigshot » Fri Jul 10, 2015 10:07 am

There is more to Heaven and Earth...

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Re: Mehta's Ring with La Fura des Baus

Post by John F » Fri Jul 10, 2015 12:44 pm

...and Hell...
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