Siegfried is perhaps the most difficult of Wagner’s operas to cast, owing to the extreme demands made by its title role. Still, I’m afraid the Siegfried of my dreams is not to be found in this recording, taken from several performances last year in Frankfurt. Tenor Lance Ryan has a voice that seems unpredictable to its user, since a series of fairly beautiful sounds is often followed by a bleat or bellow. He is at his best in the ‘Forging Song’ in Act I and confronting the dragon in Act II. In soft lyrical passages, of which there are many, he is painful, his voice unsteady, his understanding of the role limited.
That is a great shame, for Sebastian Weigle conducts superbly, bringing many original and fine ideas to this amazingly fresh score and building up great momentum over entire acts. Unfortunately none of the soloists can really be called distinguished, though the Mime of tenor Peter Marsh is intelligently sung and avoids the wilful ugliness that many singers indulge in. (The dwarf’s voice shouldn’t, as here, be interchangeable with Siegfried’s, but Marsh is not to blame for that similarity.) Terje Stensvold’s Wanderer lacks sonorousness. Soprano Susan Bullock, one of my favourite artists, is Brünnhilde, a short but very demanding part. Her awakening is shrill and insecure, but later on she sings beautifully.
The long notes in the booklet are outstanding, more penetrating than anything I have ever read on this opera. The translation of Wagner’s text is good, but there are no stage directions except for the second half of Act II, and they are necessary throughout. On all scores, I prefer the Testament issue.