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Artist: Christian Thielemann / Vienna State Opera
At first promoted as the greatest Ring cycle of the 21st century, Christian Thielemann's live 2011 rendition with the Vienna State Opera has since proved to be something of a mixed bag, offering many high points but not approaching the public's high expectations. There's no denying that Thielemann, the heir of Herbert von Karajan, has the vision, vitality, and determination to conduct Wagner with authority, as he has done at Bayreuth, and he pushes the Vienna State Opera orchestra to play with brilliance in key spots. However, the singing is uneven, with the strongest performances given by Albert Dohmen as Wotan, Tomasz Konieczny as Alberich, Waltraud Meier as Sieglinde, and two different Brünnhildes, Katarina Dalayman in Die Walküre and Linda Watson in Siegfried and Die Götterdämmerung; the skills of the rest of the cast are variable and less impressive, though adequate for the needs of the drama. The box set contains all four music dramas on 14 CDs, two DVDs of a documentary, The World of the Ring, by filmmaker Eric Schulz, and a thick book containing the libretto and black and white photographs from the production. The sound of the recording is quite low and sometimes muffled, requiring constant monitoring of the volume level and awareness of where the loud passages are. Additionally, there are random sounds from the stage and the pit, and applause and audience noises are included.
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