LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
PERFORMER: Heinz Kruse, Graham Clark, John Bröcheler, Henk Smit, Carsten Stabell, Anne Gjevang, Jeannince Altmeyer, Stefan Pangratz; Rotterdam PO/Hartmut Haenchen; dir. Pierre Audi
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0948 D
This latest instalment of the Netherlands Opera’s Ring, like its predecessors, is staged on a series of metallic platforms surrounding the orchestra. The feeling grows, though, that this must have worked better live than on screen, where the sense of space isn’t so strong, the frequent quasi-oriental stylisations look contrived, and even spectacular effects seem duller – Fafner’s giant Swiss Army knife claws unfolding, Brünnhilde’s enormous ‘sunbed’.
Video is also unkind to the cast. Kruse is suitably heroic vocally, a clear and surprisingly youthful tone, yet with power to carry the forging scene, tiring seriously only in the love scene. Physically, however, he suggests an elderly Bill Oddie in samurai getup, ludicrously shorter than Mime. He’s further dwarfed by Altmeyer’s towering Brünnhilde, now distinctly mature in presence. Other roles are more impressive, notably Bröcheler’s forceful, desperate Wanderer, sung with occasionally coarse but ample tone. But the finest performance, though given to harsh Sprechgesang, is Clark’s electrifying Mime. Audi has a boy soprano sing the Woodbird, an idea Wagner rejected – wisely, given pitch approximations here.
Haenchen, conducting the Rotterdam orchestra now, remains authentically brisk. But in what should be the Ring’s most exuberant quadrant, the effect is curiously uninvolving. Michael Scott Rohan