Wagner: Das Rheingold
This is superbly recorded, mainly wonderfully played, interestingly conducted and reasonably well sung. Like the other recordings in this complete Wagner series, it is apparently taken from one live performance, but that is hard to believe, except where all the performers seem to tire towards the end. It is, though, dramatically gripping as only a well-conducted Rheingold can be. People sometimes think of it as the work where Wagner gets the plot out of the way to make space in the succeeding Ring dramas for the massive power and intensity of his mature genius, but it is dramatically riveting and, as a commentary on political ideals and compromises, stands alone in its penetration, its satire and tragedy.
The best reason for getting this set is the Loge of Christian Elsner. Loge, the trickster, cynic and moralist of the Ring, is often sung in a nasal camp style which ignores Wagner’s having given him some of the cycle’s most lovely music, above all in his account of the omnipresence of love in the world. Elsner doesn’t miss a trick in catching all the elements of this complex character, but he never sings less than beautifully. The other singers range from the adequate, including the Wotan of Tomasz Konieczny and the Alberich of Jochen Schmeckenbecher, to the generally rather squally team of women, the Rhinemaidens in particular not being nearly as seductive a trio as they need to be.