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Directed by Tony Palmer
Produced in 1984
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Contemporary Drama • Contemporary Period, Costume, Historical Film • Contemporary British Film • Television Drama • Period, Costume & Historical Television • British Television • Musicals & Music • Contemporary British Film
Tony Palmer's exhaustive TV biopic of the German composer Richard Wagner stars Richard Burton in the title role. Described by Richard Hornak in Opera News as 'one of the most beautiful motion pictures in history', it was originally made in 1982-83 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wagner’s death. Filmed in 200 locations throughout Europe, many where the actual historical events took place, with a team from 19 different countries, the entire production was completed in less than a year. Sadly it was to be Richard Burton’s last major role, but the stellar cast assembled partly because of him - Olivier, Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Richardson, Franco Nero, Marthe Keller, Gemma Craven, Gwyneth Jones, Peter Hofmann, Arthur Lowe, Ekkehardt Schall (Brecht’s son-in-law), Joan Greenwood, Sir William Walton, Gabriel Byrne, Andrew Cruickshank – the list is endless.
Though in great pain and too old to be really convincing in Wagner's young revolutionary period, Burton is perfect as this smouldering genius ages, with his peremptory air and abrupt, biting speech. The film tries to rival The Ring in its length and sweep, has an incredible dramatic and operatic cast, and Wagner's music, which underscores the action, is conducted by the late Sir George Solti.
Recognised early in his career for his groundbreaking talents, Wagner is feted by European society until his scandalous and radical political views force him into exile in Zurich. There he meets the young Nietzsche (Ronald Pickup), and has a major influence on the philosopher. At the same time, Wagner begins a scandalous relationship with the composer Liszt's illigitimate daughter. Reactionary, anti-semitic and obsessed with money, Wagner still goes on to prove himself as a major force in German and European culture after completing his epic 'Ring' cycle of operas.
Length: 466 mins
Aspect ratio: Widescreen
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 18th July 2011
Cat No: TPDVD157
- 3 discs
- Digitally remastered
- Edited and restored in high definition as originally intended
by PAUL RONAYNE on 28th September 2009
Tony Palmer's massive biopic of the incredible life and works of Richard Wagner is realised by an ailing Richard Burton. Too long for mainstream cinema success and too... Read on
Tony Palmer's massive biopic of the incredible life and works of Richard Wagner is realised by an ailing Richard Burton. Too long for mainstream cinema success and too good for most TV, 25 years on this flawed masterpiece has had only limited audience exposure.
Like Wagner's works themselves at times the film ascends to great heights yet at others plods along, particularly in the early scenes when Burton struggles to carry off the youthful composer and revolutionary. He was, frankly, too old for the role.
Burton is on firmer ground with the middle-aged Wagner who turns into a lecherous bigot with a biting tongue.His perfomance at times mirrors some of his finest and is only enhanced with the introduction of Vanessa Redgrave as the alluring Cosima. Palmer develops the narrative along the rags to riches route of Wagner's life as he leaves a trail of broken relationships, friendships and debt on his way to ultimate success.
A first rate support cast including Olivier and Richardson make this epic worth seeing and of course, the music which soars above the splendid cinematography. Hide