Das Rheingold

Lothar Zagrosek
Orchester der Staatsoper Stuttgart
28 September, 29 December 2002
Staatsoper Stuttgart
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanWolfgang Probst
DonnerMotti Kastón
FrohBernhard Schneider
LogeRobert Kunzli
FasoltRoland Bracht
FafnerPhillip Ens
AlberichEsa Ruuttunen
MimeEberhard Francesco Lorenz
FrickaMichaela Schuster
FreiaHelga Rós Indridadóttir
ErdaMette Ejsing
WoglindeCatriona Smith
WellgundeMaria Theresa Ullrich
FloßhildeMargarete Joswig
Stage directorJoachim Schlömer (1999)
Set designerJens Kilian
TV directorJános Darvas, Thorsten Fricke

Ever since Patrice Chéreau’s trailblazing centenary Bayreuth Ring in 1976, there has been an increasing trend towards modernising Wagner’s great tetralogy. This is, as with all updating of grand opera, fraught with difficulties, and this Stuttgart Ring has more problems than others I’ve seen. It is not helped by the fact that rather than one guiding artistic light, the four operas were given over to four different directors. Certainly as far as the first two operas go, one does not sense any real continuity, either in design or approach.

The basic design concept of Das Rheingold is a dilapidated public spa, with a large circular pool at its centre that houses the treasure. All the action takes place here, with characters coming and going from cubicles, using the large staircase or lift etc. This works quite well at the start, with the gold glinting in the water, and the image serving as an ever-present reminder of the ‘ring’. It becomes more problematic when it has to serve as Nibelheim as well as Valhalla, and lines of definition become blurred. The costumes are also modern(ish), or perhaps 1930s – it’s hard to tell as we also get a smattering of track suits, trainers and mobile phones. The singing is also patchy, with some good support from the Giants (not really giants at all) and the Rhinemaiden trio, but disappointing contributions from the principals. Wotan is cast as an ageing Don, directing action from his balcony in Godfather style. Wolfgang Probst’s voice is unsteady and his acting bland, though he brings across the hypocritical side of the character well enough. Esa Ruutunen is an experienced Alberich but the voice lacks any depth, and the Loge of Robert Kunzli makes far less impact than he should.

With this approach from director Joachim Schlomer, don’t expect any real magic in this first instalment. The Tarnhelm is simply a tiny mirror, the descent to Nibelheim a non-event (the anvils are pathetically feeble) and the final entrance into Valhalla a (by now predictable) let down. Donner brings what looks laughably like a toffee hammer from his pocket (these are the sort of anachronisms a modern dress production brings) and overall we miss a big dimension of awe and spectacle in this production.

One saving grace is the orchestral contribution, which under the expert hand of Lothar Zagrosek, is superb. He keeps things moving swiftly along, and points up many beauties in the score along the way.

Tony Haywood | 4 March 2004

User Rating
Media Type/Label
TDK, EuroArts
Technical Specifications
1920×1080, 9.6 Mbit/s, 11.2 GByte (MPEG-4)
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.