Under the baton of James Levine, Gotterdammerung ("The Twilight of the Gods") has a narrative drive that reminds us that, of all the individual operas in Wagner's Ring cycle, this is the one most about human emotions and the one in which its heroes are pulled into a world where they are most vulnerable to them. Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegfried and Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde never, in a sense, stand a chance: they are innocents who allow themselves to be manipulated not merely by the villainous Hagen, but by the ordinary venality of Gunther and his sister Gutrune, who goes along with a dirty little scheme to get what she wants, and is destroyed by it.
James Levine makes Siegfried, sometimes the problem child among the four operas of Wagner's Ring cycle, attractive and interesting. He is aware of the darker side of some of the comic scenes–the seemingly benevolent dwarf Mime carries the weight of Wagner's many prejudices–but manages to keep them uneasy rather than positively sinister thanks to the finally judged performance of Heinz Zednik. Siegfried Jerusalem is admirable as Siegfried, full of boyish enthusiasm during the reforging of the sword, and of authority in his confrontations with the dragon and with Wotan. (The dragon itself is, as so often, an unfortunate compromise between realism and stylisation.) James Morris is extraordinary in Wotan's scenes here, his combination of injured pride and relieved joy when Siegfried demonstrates, by shattering his spear, that Wotan has entirely lost control of events is exemplary.
Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
Five CDs of otherworldly beauty and power that revolutionized opera. These 19th-century masterworks include selections and scenes from Der Ring des Nibelungen, Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Parsifal. Performances by Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Waltraud Meier, Wolfgang Windgassen, Peter Hofmann, Theo Adam, Matti Salminen with Georg Solti, James Levine and others.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Sir Simon Rattle has distinguished himself through his long-term relationships with a number of orchestras, wide-ranging repertoire and innovative educational and audiencebuilding activities. He is currently Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker and Principal Artist with the OAE. Sir Simon first conducted the Berlin Philharmonic in 1987 and appeared regularly with the orchestra in subsequent years.The summer of 2006 saw the first instalment of their Wagner Ring Cycle at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. Sir Simon's most recent appearance at the Proms in Wagner brought forth ecstatic reviews, which bodes well for possible future installments of the Aix /Salzburg Ring on Bel Air Classiques.
On the surface, this Ring cycle recording might seem like a poor relation to those by Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, James Levine, and others, or to the live recordings from the 1950s by the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Clemens Kraus, and Hans Knappertsbusch. The very names constitute big guns in opera, and their respective casts are not exactly weak either. Complicating matters further is the fact that Marek Janowski's Ring was originally released by Eurodisc/Ariola, a European-based label that, while huge over there, never had the profile or prestige of Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, orEMI; the fact that it's now on RCA/BMG doesn't exactly help, either, as the latter has lost a good deal of its luster as a major label since the 1980s. But the Janowski Ring also occupies its own place in history…
Recorded live at the Bayreuth Festival in 2008, this production stars a host of international stars including Michelle Breedt, Albert Dohmen, Stephen Gould, Hans-Peter Konig, Linda Watson & Eva-Maria Westbroek. Christian Thielemann, one of the most sought-after conductors in the world, takes the baton with the Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra.
The production of a new Ring at the Bayreuth Festival is an event that takes place every six years. Bayreuth recordings of the complete cycle are rare; this is only the third official audio recording and the second filmed version. The Kupfer/Barenboim Ring was performed over a five-year period and recorded at the conclusion when the "Bayreuth Workshop" had raised "the quality of the performance to an almost unsurpassable level".