This live recording from Hamburg was a pleasant surprise. I had despaired of hearing a contemporary Siegfried who gave me any pleasure. But Christian Franz, though by no means ideal, has many of the qualities the role needs, including a pleasant voice and staying power – he sings for a great proportion of the four hours Siegfried lasts. He also shows a sense of poetry, so that he doesn’t come across as a bullying adolescent boy scout (though the photographs of the production suggest that was how he was played). He is touching and charming in Act II, where he muses on the parents he never knew, and tender and bewildered in the long scene in Act III which leads to Brünnhilde’s awakening. She is well sung by Catherine Foster.
But the outstanding member of the cast is Peter Galliard as Mime, the dwarf who brings up Siegfried with malign intentions. So often played as a caricature, here even the extremes of demented anxiety remain musical. The one blot in the cast, unfortunately, is its most celebrated member, Falk Struckmann, as the Wanderer. The part demands grand sonorous tone, but Struckmann’s voice is now unimposing; he is unable to rise to the tragic heights in Act III.
Simone Young’s conducting – as always, the most important element – is first rate, displaying a clear sense of direction at every point. The disc includes an excellent essay by Udo Bermbach, and, crucially, the text is supplied in German and English. Michael Tanner