Another perfect example of a production better heard than seen
This was a production I really wanted to love, seeing as as of now it is the only Rienzi on DVD available. But I just didn't care for it. By all means it is better as far as Wagner opera productions go than 2003's Stuttgart Siegfried, 2008's Bayreuth Die Meistersinger Von Nurnberg and 2010's Netherland Opera Der Fliegende Hollander. The musical performance is actually outstanding, Rienzi is not Wagner's very best, being I believe an early opera, but with scenes like Rienzi's Prayer it is simply beautiful. The orchestral playing with lush, powerful playing do do it justice, as does the nuanced conducting and well-balanced and dramatically animated chorus. Torsten Kerl is a very moving Rienzi, his rendition of the Prayer is outstanding, while Camilla Nyland sings Irene with a bright sound and is just as sympathetic in her role and Kate Aldrich assumes the trouser role of traitor Adriano and is very commanding. The sound quality is also exceptional. However, I really didn't like the production values and staging. Just for the record I don't mind modern stagings as long as they are unappealing. Sadly that was the case with this Rienzi, updated but like a documentary I saw recently(Parsifal: Search for the Grail) it not only looked ugly but seemed to want to hammer into my head that Wagner was a racist and because Adolf Hitler liked Rienzi that the opera was about him, the Nazis and Mussolini. This approach for me ruined the characters and their motivations, here Adriano is made out seemingly to be a hero rather than a traitor and Rienzi a Hitler-like totalitarian propagandist. And the staging is bizarre, with the citizens masked at first and then appearing to be wearing Soviet peasant clothes and the slaughter of the assassins in Act 1 completely alters the basic story of Rienzi. Finally, while not a flaw as such, while the camera work is good, there is no shots with the orchestra, which I did take as a lack of acknowledgement. Overall, the musical side of the production I can't fault but you'll have a better time hearing it than seeing it on screen and possibly being infuriated by what you see. 5/10 Bethany Cox
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