The Oehms label’s new Frankfurt Opera Ring Cycle has been a mixed bag, and so it concludes. For a live performance, the recording is excellent and the orchestral playing, especially the brass, is of a high standard. Sebastian Weigle, an experienced Wagnerian, paces the opera well, with dramatic thrust and epic expansiveness. As with the previous operas, in the theatre this would more than pass; but on disc, compared with the best, there’s no great depth or detail.
As with other modern recordings, it also suffers problems with casting. Norns and Rhinemaidens are serviceable, the chorus robust, the principals less so. As in Siegfried, tenor Lance Ryan, so promising in Valencia’s video cycle, proves disappointing: nasal and dry-toned. Gregory Frank is a smooth-voiced Hagen, but inexpressive, too laid-back to convey the character’s inner fires. Susan Bullock’s Brünnhilde has the spirit and plenty of it, but vocal strain is much more evident than in her Walküres for this cycle and the Hallé. Claudia Mahnke is a fine Waltraute, the Alberich is decent, but Gutrune is unseductive. The real vocal honours are left for Gunther, Johannes Martin Kränzle. Properly full-toned and formidable at first, his final disintegration, as with his Glyndebourne Beckmesser, is tear-laden – evidently a speciality.
Oehms’s lavish booklet illustrations, despite the accompanying Teutonic pedantries, suggest that Vera Nemirova’s staging, modernistic without being actually deranged, contributes a lot to the sound dramatic feel. The singing just isn’t outstanding enough, however, to join the top recommendations.
Michael Scott Rohan