Das Rheingold

Pavel Baleff
Orchestra of the Sofia Opera and Ballet
25 May 2010
Opera and Ballet Sofia
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanNikolay Petrov
DonnerKrastan Krastanov
FrohMiroslav Andreev
LogeDaniel Ostretsov
FasoltStefan Vladimirov
FafnerPetar Buchkov
AlberichBiser Georgiev
MimeKrasimir Dinev
FrickaRumyana Petrova
FreiaVeselina Vasileva
ErdaBlagovesta Mekki-Tsvetkova
WoglindeIrina Zhekova
WellgundeDorotea Doroteeva
FloßhildeTsveta Sarambelieva
Stage directorPlamen Kartaloff
Set designerNikolay Panayotov
TV directorRumen Kovachev, Plamen Kartaloff

In the run-up to the Wagner bicentenary in 2013, Plamen Kartaloff, director of the Sofia Opera, began to nurture a native Wagner culture with a staging of The Ring – the first in Bulgaria, apparently – which has since received near-annual revivals and enthusiastic notices on tours to Germany. These films were made – Das Rheingold in 2010, Die Walküre in 2011 – at the start of the company’s Wagnerian adventures and not some years down the line, when workshopping would likely have ironed out the worst of the technical wrinkles.

As it is, the tetralogy gets off to a less than dignified start with a trio of trampolining Rhinemaidens (uncredited members of the Sofia Ballet?), supplanted at the last crotchet by their less athletic vocal counterparts, and no wonder their singing comes and goes as they bounce around. Accompanying the Prelude to Die Walküre, there is a staging of sorts of the battle between the Wälsungs and Hunding’s kinsmen: another idea probably more convincing on paper – and in the house – than under the camera’s dispassionate gaze.

The stylised naturalism of the acting corresponds well to some sympathetic individual performances – the late German dramaturg Richard Trimborn deserves credit here – but not at all to the creakily executed, vaguely space-age Konzept for the staging. We’ve had the centenary Ring (Patrice Chéreau) and the time-tunnel Ring (Götz Friedrich): welcome to the Red Dwarf Ring, where Rimmer and Lister will surely turn up as extras lunking about in the Gibichung scenes of Götterdämmerung.

I jest, but not about the bathetic dissonance between the sound of the Ride and the sight of eight Valkyries wheeled on atop warheads; a method of locomotion even less well suited to any intimacy of rapport between their sister Brünnhilde and Siegmund in the previous act’s Todesverkündigung. What’s important is not how subjectively hideous or unintentionally comic it looks from scene to scene (though surely Fasolt’s death by golf club is meant to be funny) so much as how ill it fits the music’s continual movement and how far it falls short of bringing the world of The Ring to new life.

A reduced orchestration is the work of one (not the) Gotthold Lessing, dating from the 1940s and cutting back the six harps of the Rhine and the Magic Fire to one. Lessing slimmed down the band, not the score, but the curtain-raising octave E flat in the basses lasts for three seconds rather than the full four bars specified in the score: again, not a propitious start.

The recorded sound is more of a crease than a wrinkle, resembling the kind of in-house feed generally used to ‘archive’ a staging, though its deficiencies are more obvious on headphones than on a standard domestic TV set-up. Voices wander across the stage while the bodies they belong to remain motionless; the Rossinian cello solo to accompany Sieglinde’s refreshment of her brother struggles against the amplified rustling and scraping of Siegmund’s costume.

The blurred aural focus of Das Rheingold in particular affords no more than a hazily positive impression of brightly sung Rhinemaidens and the sepulchral Wotan of Nikolay Petrov. In this regard the miking of Die Walküre counts as an improvement, albeit one not flattering to the thinned-out instrumental textures or the beat in Mariana Tzvetkova’s soprano at close quarters. Once halfway up the stage for the third act, she and Petrov draw the best from each other – for once, a believable father and daughter in voice as well as appearance – in as strong a final scene as the setting will permit. More consistently pleasing is the Italianate radiance of the Wälsung twins as sung in distinctly Bulgarian German by Tsvetana Bandalovska and Martin Iliev: her ecstatic cry as he pulls a loosely installed Nothung from a conical tree is quite something. Otherwise, approach with caution.

Peter Quantrill | Issue 09/2021


Die Rheingold-Katastrophe: schäbiger geht’s nicht!

Zunächst dies: Für diese Aufführung wurde die reduzierte Orchesterbesetzung von Gotthold Ephraim Lessing benutzt, die vor allem bei den Bläsern und den Harfen die Zahl der Instrumente verringert. Wohlgemerkt: es ist keine gekürzte Fassung (wie der Webshop jpc behauptet)!

Nun ist die Größe des Orchesters in dieser Produktion völlig belanglos, denn die Tonaufnahme ist derart schlecht, dass auch das kleine Orchester in völliger Kakophonie untergeht. Die Stimmen sind kathedralesk verstärkt, was aber bei den mehrheitlich schlechten Sängern den desolaten vokalen Zustand der Produktion nur noch intensiviert. Ich kann mich des Eindrucks nicht erwehren, dass das Opernhaus von Sofia für diese Produktion etliche Interpreten aus einem Sänger-Altersheim geholt hat. Einige Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel.

Die Inszenierung hat einen üppigen Fantasy-Charakter. Nun hat es das für Wagners Ring schon gegeben und es hat funktioniert. Hier aber wird ein nicht zu übertreffender Kitsch geboten, einmal abgesehen von den vielen Beleuchtungspannen, die den amateuristischen Charakter des Ganzen unterstreichen.

Fazit: meist unbefriedigende, in einigen Fällen grässlich schlechte Stimmen, ein im Hall zerborstenes Orchester, eine grotesk schlechte Inszenierung, eine katastrophale Tonaufnahme, mir scheint, für diese Produktion ist selbst eine einzige Note noch Lob (daher sehen Sie im Header dieser Rezension ein leeres Kästchen). Ich kann tatsächlich nicht erinnern, in meiner nunmehr 53 Jahre langen Karriere als Musikrezensent etwas ähnlich Schäbiges gesehen zu haben.

Remy Franck | 28/04/2021

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Version for reduced orchestra by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1903-1975)