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This epic film – described by Richard Hornak in Opera News as “one of the most beautiful motion pictures in history” – was originally made in 1982/3 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Wagner’s death.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. Multi-Oscar winner 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.

So here it is, finally, as it was originally edited by Tony Palmer,restored in wide-screen and Hi-Definition. The music, conducted more-or-less as a favour by Sir Georg Solti, has never sounded better. Storaro’s photography has never looked better. And the script by Charles Wood remains a miracle of historical compression and accuracy, given that Wagner himself was an appalling fantasist and the truth often hard to ascertain. And Richard Burton, who towers above the production, reminds us what a great actor he was. This is a fitting tribute to his – and to Wagner’s – genius.

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