Wagner Die Walküre
In 2010, the Hallé performed Wagner’s Götterdämmerung in two concerts in Manchester; the recording made from the live performances was named BBC Music Magazine Opera Choice in July that year. Following that success, I’m pleased to report that this recording of Die Walküre is every bit as good. As before, Sir Mark Elder is the driving force, with an approach that’s powerfully measured and beautifully detailed, nowhere more so than in Act I.
His cast is also excellent. Even tenor Stig Andersen, after some disappointing recent performances, proves a capable Siegmund; and though mezzo-soprano Yvonne Howard was a late replacement, her nervy, vulnerable Sieglinde is beautifully sung. After his Opera North years, Clive Bayley has matured into a black bass, equal to great Germans such as Josef Greindl and Gottlob Frick.
From Act II on, though, the performance really gathers fire. Latvian bass-baritone Egils Silins is a truly towering Wotan, embodying the god’s strengths and sorrows with compelling personality and vocal power. Mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley’s steely Fricka could grace any stage in the world, and their confrontation is electrifying.
Soprano Susan Bullock’s initially girlish, bright-toned Brünnhilde acquires heroic stature so swiftly that one ignores her minor moments of strain. Her Valkyrie sisters, too, are a vibrantly fresh-sounding crew.
This special recording knocks spots off anything we’ve had from the continent in recent years.
Michael Scott Rohan