Wagner's early opera is stylistically closer to Meyerbeer and bel canto
than to his later works. Director Philipp Stölzl, who started his career
with video clips for Rammstein and Madonna and later turned to
directing films ("North Face", "Goethe!") and opera, sets the story of the
rise and fall of a charismatic medieval Roman leader in the 20th century.
"One can make surprising analogies to the despots of this time: Stalin,
Mussolini, Hitler, Ceausescu", says Stölzl. Torsten Kerl is a brilliant
Rienzi; his sister Irene, sung by Camilla Nylund with lyrical intensity, is
paired with a lover, Adriano, who is performed by the luminous mezzo
Kate Aldrich. Also worthy of praise is the chorus, which masters its
demanding part with presence and precision.