Skip to content

Wagner – Richard Burton – a film by Tony Palmer #1/3


Absolutely stellar cast, led by Burton, plus the conducting by Sir Georg Solti

From The You Tube Posting

This epic film – described by Richard Hornak in Opera News as “one of the most beautiful motion pictures in history” – was originally made during 1982/3 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wagner’s death. It was always intended as one single film, not a ‘Television Mini-Series’, as it is so often (and mistakenly) described. Filmed in over 200 locations throughout Europe, many the actual places where the historical events took place, with a team drawn 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. It would be wrong to praise particular individuals, but the multi-Oscar winning Vittorio Storaro & Nic Knowland, the cameramen, produced a stream of astonishing images. And none of it would have been possible without the active and continuous support of Wolfgang Wagner, the composer’s grandson. Much rubbish has been written about the film since its completion. Apparently it is 9 hours long; 2 hours long; 5 hours long. It is none of those. It is 7 hours and 46 minutes in length precisely. It went hugely over budget; it was made as a ‘tax loss’; ITV refused to show it; the producers ordered the negative burnt. Only the last is true. Fact: it costs £7 million. Fact: it was finished and delivered on time. Various distributors since, legal and illegal, have lied about its sales, misrepresented its contents, allowed cheap DVDs (made from poor quality VHSs) to be marketed, and ignored the wishes of those who created it. So here it is, as it was originally edited by Tony Palmer, restored in HD. The music, conducted more-or-less as a favour by Sir Georg Solti, has never sounded better. And Olivier, Gielgud, Redgrave, Richardson, Galffi, Craven, Byrne, Nero and the rest rarely gave better performances. The script by Charles Wood remains a miracle of historical compression and accuracy, given that Wagner himself was an appalling fantasist and the truth is often hard to ascertain. And Richard Burton, who towers above the production, reminds us of what a great actor he was, and how this is a fitting tribute to his – and to Wagner’s – genius. Directed & Edited by Tony Palmer Producer: Alan Wright Executive Producer: Derek Brierley Executive Producer (Hungary): Endre Florian Associate Producers: Agnes CS Havas (Hungary), Simon Channing-Williams Written by: Charles Wood Director of Photography: Vittorio Storaro Production Designer: Kenneth Carrey Costume Designer: Shirley Russell Music conducted by Sir Georg Solti Editor: Graham Bunn

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: