Wagner: Die Walküre

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Die Walkáre
WORKS: Die Walküre
PERFORMER: Poul Elming, Nadine Secunde, Matthias Hölle, John Tomlinson, Anne Evans, Linda Finnie, Eva Johansson, Ruth Floeren, Shirley Close, Hitomi Katagiri, Eva-Maria Bundschuh, Birgitta Svendén, Hebe Dijkstra; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim; dir. Ha
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62319-2
No sooner have Opus Arte’s instalments of Harry Kupfer’s second Ring production hit the market than back comes his first, the only Bayreuth cycle of recent years to match Chéreau’s centenary staging (on DG, reviewed last month). It’s superior to the Barcelona re-run in every respect. This may well be the only time a cast looked as handsome as it sounded right across the board (and that’s before Siegfried Jerusalem’s ideal Siegfried appears on the scene). Family affairs are bonded with an unbearable intensity from the minute Poul Elming’s rugged freedom-fighter sets eyes on oppressed but feisty sister Sieglinde (Nadine Secunde); and when two more redheads appear on the scene, Tomlinson’s hyper-energetic Wotan – at the peak of his career – and Anne Evans’s clearly projected, already womanly Brünnhilde, Kupfer is well into a unique tragedy of wilful relative values. Brünnhilde’s annunciation of death to warrior Siegmund, his sister cradled in his arms, hits home as an encounter between half-siblings.

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Set against a dark, mostly bare stage of infinite depth and breadth, in which sudden coups like the abyss which opens up when Wotan wills the end are all the stronger, the one-to-one conflicts are further enhanced by the Kupfer-supervised filmed compositions (only the close-ups of the dummy heroes as the Valkyries strut was a mistake). Barenboim’s earthy, painstakingly articulated bond with the singers stuns in fierce, uncovered Bayreuth acoustics, much enhanced by surround sound. If you already have the Boulez/Chéreau experience (recently repackaged as a DG set, reviewed August), you’ll want this as well. There are no extras; Warner would be well advised for a future instalment to assemble interviews with this most charismatic of Bayreuth teams. David Nice