ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Das Rheingold
PERFORMER: Wolfgang Probst, Bernhard Schneider, Motti Kastón, Robert Künzli, Michaela Schuster, Esa Ruuttunen, Eberhard Francesco Lorenz; Stuttgart State Opera & Orchestra/Lothar Zagrosek
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660170-71
This is a recording based on two performances of the first instalment of the Ring from Stuttgart, in which each opera was cast differently and directed by a different producer. Das Rheingold was cast very much with the visual and acting side in mind, and is available on DVD (TDK 105206 9, reviewed February 2004), in which form I’d advise anyone who can to buy it. It is a marvellous experience to see. It is still pretty good to listen to, but one does miss far more than usual by not seeing it.
The most impressive feature of this set is the superlative conducting of Lothar Zagrosek, and the playing of his magnificent orchestra. They give a dignity, warmth and grandeur to the proceedings, qualities which are calculatedly phased out of the singing, fine though that is. But the cast was chosen in the first place, I think, for acting ability and for suitable appearance – it makes a nice change. None of them is less than an adequate singer, and the Alberich of Esa Ruuttunen is outstanding, in fact could easily swap with the Wotan of Wolfgang Probst. In their two scenes of confrontation Alberich not only wins on points, but sounds nobler – not that Wagner would necessarily have disapproved. This bitter power struggle, taking place in the majesty of Nature (completely absent in the production) comes across with fearful urgency and ghastly humour in this gripping performance. Naxos provides no text with the set, though you can find it on their website. Following the words is essential, and if you do this will be an utterly enthralling launch of the cycle. Michael Tanner