Wagner: Die Walküre (excerpts)

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Die Walküre (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Ben Heppner (tenor); Stattskapelle Dresden/Peter Schneider
CATALOGUE NO: 477 6003
In a world of plenty there’s still one perpetual shortage – heroic tenors who can sing Siegfried. The young demigod of Wagner’s Ring demands a range and stamina on which many flounder or, like Domingo and Jon Vickers, prefer not to try. Step up Vickers’s even heftier Canadian successor, a sturdy yet mellifluous Lohengrin, Walther and Tristan, now taking on both Siegfried and his more lyrical father Siegmund.

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On the strength of these excerpts, capably supported by Bayreuth veteran Schneider, Heppner’s a natural, with the authentic heroic ring and seemingly effortless power, yet retaining beauty of tone and clear diction. Siegmund’s Act 1 solos burn with excitement and melancholy; his love song ‘Winterstürme’ is uncommonly seductive. Siegfried’s forging songs soar with convincingly youthful exuberance, counterpointed by Ullrich’s paranoid Mime, but also uncommon security even at the top of the voice, while the Forest Murmurs and awakening scene are appealingly lyrical.

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The brief Götterdämmerung death scene encapsulates his main flaws – some unsteadiness on exposed notes, and a rather careful approach, understandable at this stage. Admittedly the bulky Heppner will never look the part, but then neither did the great Lauritz Melchior. If he can keep up the stamina on stage, then he should be the Siegfried for today. Michael Scott Rohan