- Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen, opera, WWV 49
Even though Rienzi was the first success of Richard Wagner's career, he repeatedly revised and eventually repudiated it, along with his early operas, "Die Feen" and "Das Liebesverbot." It was not performed as part of the Bayreuth canon until Wagner's bicentennial celebration in 2013, though it remained enormously popular in Europe and the United States, well into the 20th century. Yet because of the opera's length at five acts, large cast, and variously altered versions, Rienzi only enjoys periodic revivals today, and this Oehms box set of the 2013 production at the Frankfurt Opera is one of a handful of first-rate recordings available. Apart from the rollicking overture, which is frequently played at pops concerts, the rest of the music will be unfamiliar to most listeners, and the structure of grand opera -- recitatives, arias, and ensemble numbers -- is quite unlike the through-composed music Wagner wrote for his later music dramas. Still, with the strong German cast and the choir and orchestra of the Frankfurt Opera, conducted by Wagner authority Sebastian Weigle, this is a lively performance that fully conveys the power and excitement that the young Wagner intended. Oehms' sound is rich and clear in details, but because the dynamic range of the recording is exceptionally wide, the volume should be adjusted to a comfortable level during the overture.