Richard Wagner's early opera "Rienzi" is stylistically closer to Meyerbeer and bel canto than to Wagner's later masterworks. Yet even this early work especially as presented in this recording is "so fantastically beautiful that it takes one's breath away
" (Berliner Zeitung). And in this staging by Philipp Stölzl (co-directed by Mara Kurotschka), who condensed the five-act opera into a little over two hours, "Rienzi" becomes a startlingly powerful and timeless parable of power and abuse.
Though the story of the rise and fall of a charismatic leader and his totalitarian regime takes place in 14th
-century Rome, Stölzl sets it somewhere in the recent past. The topic "anticipates the history of the 20th
century in a visionary way", says Stölzl, adding that "one can make surprising analogies to many despots of this time: Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Ceausescu" Since film was a central propa- ganda tool of 20th
-century totalitarian systems, Stölzl uses film projections to make the "tribune" Rienzi tower above the masses or, in the style of old newsreels, to show a utopian "New Rome". It is, after all, with films that Stölzl began his career: directing video clips for Rammstein and Madonna, then directing feature films ("North Face", "Goethe!") His staging of "Benvenuto Cellini
" at the Salzburg Festival in 2007 was hailed as "breathtaking
" (Der Standard) and "spectacularly successful
Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
Sebastian Lang-Lessing, conductor
Chorus and Extra-Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin
William Spaulding, chorus master
The opera recording is accompanied by a making of documentary
showing the staging process of this Rienzi production.