Wagner-Siegfried (West/Gasteen/Gohrig/Schoner/Stuttgart/Zagrosek) (NTSC) (2003) (NTSC)

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Released 4-Jul-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Main Menu Audio & Animation
Booklet
Trailer-4
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 251:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (48:18)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Hans Hulscher
Studio
Distributor
Euroarts
Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Jon Frederic West
Heinz Göhrig
Wolfgang Schöne
Björn Waag
Attila Jun
Gabriela Herrera
Helene Ranada
Lisa Gasteen
Anna Viebrock
Dieter Billino
Sergio Morabito
Jossi Wieler
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $59.95 Music Richard Wagner


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None German Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
English
French
Spanish
Italian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    About 17 years after the events depicted in Die Walküre we find a young Siegfried living in the house of Mime, Alberich's brother. Mime has kept Siegfried in the dark about his parentage, but Siegfried is restless and demanding. Specifically he demands that Mime forge him a sword worthy of his talents. What Siegfried does not know is that Mime had taken him from his dying mother Sieglinde and raised him for the express purpose of slaying Fafner, who has, since he claimed the gold in Das Rheingold, turned himself into a dragon and now sits guarding his horde. Siegfried also does not know that Mime has the pieces of Siegmund's sword Nothung, but is unable to repair it nor forge it into a new weapon.

    A character called the Wanderer, whom we know to be Wotan, wanders into Mime's home and ransoms Mime's head, letting him know that only one without fear can repair the sword. Siegfried returns and learning of his parentage and the sword takes matters into his own hands, filing down the shards of the weapon and re-casts it as a new blade.

    In Act Two Mime, ostensibly to teach Siegfried the meaning of fear, leads Siegfried to the dragon's lair. Siegfried slays Fafner, and when he gets the blood of the dragon on his hand it burns with fire and he reacts by putting his fingers to his mouth. Tasting the dragon's blood, he finds that he can understand the song of the woodbird, who tells him to take the ring and the tarnhelm from the subterranean horde. This he does, and he also finds he can hear Mime's hidden thoughts. The latter has determined to drug Siegfried with a sleeping potion, and when he is asleep to kill him and claim the booty for his own. When he inadvertently lets these thoughts slip to Siegfried our hero kills him. Prompted by the woodbird Siegfried sets off to find Brünnhilde.

    On the path to the mountaintop the Wanderer blocks his way. Siegfried responds by cutting the Wanderer's staff in two. He passes through the fire and finds the sleeping Brünnhilde, the first woman he has ever seen. Soon realising that she is not a man, he awakens her with a kiss. After a bit of to and froing they fall in love and the opera ends.

    The third opera in the tetralogy took the longest to write, spanning a period of fifteen years from 1856 to 1871. But for much of that time Wagner did not work on the opera at all, wandering throughout Europe and living in numerous cities. And for much of this time he was also in despair that even if he could summon up the will to complete this massive work that he would never see it staged. The stability of settling for a few years in Switzerland together with the encouragement of his patron King Ludwig of Bavaria enabled him to resume work after a hiatus of seven years, and despite a couple of setbacks was able to complete the opera.

    The performance on this disc comes from the Stuttgart State Opera under the baton of Lothar Zagrosek. The venue and the conductor and orchestra are the only common elements in the Stuttgart Ring cycle, each instalment having different casts and directors.

    The production is in the Regitheater style, where the vision of the director takes precedence over the stage directions set down by the composer or even the storyline of the opera. Wagner had someone document the 1876 Ring cycle in terms of stage directions and production design so that his vision of the Ring would be available to future producers. He envisaged his form of drama as a total work of art (gesamkunstwerk), with all of the elements (music, drama, acting, costume and production design and so on) combining to produce an overwhelming experience. So it can be argued that it is more important in Wagner to follow at least the spirit of what he had in mind. Following the letter of what he set down is not critical, which gives considerable scope to directors - certainly Chereau's centennial Ring cycle and the later Kupfer cycle, both available on video, deviate considerably from the original winged helmets and the mediaeval setting, but both retain enough of the original to be profound in their own ways.

    The Stuttgart cycle does not pay sufficient attention to what Wagner wanted and thus the productions suffer. In Siegfried there are a number of elements that diminish the works considerably. Act One takes place in a bedsit, Mime being a homebound cook instead of a master blacksmith. Instead of working on a sword at the beginning, he is peeling potatoes and the strokes of the hammer on the anvil are realised by him tapping the paring knife on the rim of a metal bowl. Later he is obviously pretending to masturbate in his pants, something I don't recall seeing in any synopsis of the libretto. One amusing and reasonably effective change sees Siegfried, instead of leading in a bear, being the bear himself, wearing a fur coat (covering a t-shirt with the words Sieg Fried on it) and one of those Russian fur caps complete with star. A Russian bear no doubt, which suggests that the production might be set during the Cold War period.

    Further to that end Wotan appears Americanised by wearing a leather jacket and baseball cap, and in Act Two the dragon's cave is behind an electrified fence, the dragon being heard over loudspeakers. The woodbird is a blind woman with a punkish hairstyle. Act Three takes place in what looks like a leftover set from the finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The production is a meaningless mess redeemed only by the singing of our own Lisa Gasteen. I'm not being chauvinistic in stating that she gives the only classy performance in the whole set, and it makes me think that it is a great pity that her complete performance as Brünnhilde in the Adelaide cycle in 2004 was not captured on video. I've heard that some clown at the ABC pulled the plug on recording it at the last minute.

    There are half a dozen Siegfrieds out on DVD; any of the other five would be a better investment than this one.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The opera is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The video is in NTSC format.

    The video is very good with few issues, and these issues are not that significant. Close-up and medium shots are clear and relatively sharp. The wider shots show slightly less detail. Colour is better than on the previous titles, helped by the increased lighting. Flesh tones are satisfactory. Shadow detail is acceptable.

    Pixellation is visible around the opening credits. There is some aliasing on the furniture in Act One for example. Posterisation is visible on Mime's face in Act One. There is also rather too much edge enhancement from time to time.

    Optional subtitles are provided in English. The subtitles are well done with a detailed translation of the text.

    Both discs are dual layered. Disc One contains Acts One and Two and has the layer change between them. Disc Two is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change occurring at 48:18 at the point at which Brünnhilde awakes, there being a break in the music. The layer change is noticeable but is not disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Three audio tracks are provided. I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in full and sampled both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Linear PCM 2.0 tracks.

    The audio quality is generally excellent. Instruments are clearly delineated and well spread across the front channels. The voices seem less prominent, though this is partially due to some of the voices being a little weak to begin with. The dragon's voice in Act Two comes through some old-fashioned loudspeakers and is heavily distorted.

    The rear channels help create the illusion of being in the concert hall and also convey some audience noises. The subwoofer is blended into the overall sound so that it does not stand out, though it can be heard at the beginning of Act Two with the deep notes and drum beats.

    The Dolby Digital mix is less warm-sounding than the DTS and the soundstage does not seem to be as pronounced. The PCM track is at a significantly lower volume level, and is less forward and less engrossing.

    There were no issues with audio sync.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    The main menu has some video and audio from the performance, though if you go to a sub menu and return to the main menu the audio disappears.

Booklet

    The booklet contains a short piece about the work and a plot synopsis. These are repeated in several languages. There is also a cast and crew listing and a track listing. Photographs are included.

Trailers (11:44)

    Four Wagner trailers are included on Disc Two, for Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This recording of the opera is also available in a PAL version with a different cover. Both releases are available worldwide.

Summary

    Siegfried could slay the dragon but he is no match for the forces at work here. There are far better performances of this work available on DVD.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is excellent.

    A small selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD projector, 95 inch screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD Player, Dolby Digital and DTS. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
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