ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
PERFORMER: Siegfried Jerusalem, Graham Clark, John Tomlinson, Günter von Kannnen, Philip Kang, Anne Evans, Birgitta Svendén, Hilde Leidland; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim; dir. Harry Kupfer
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62320
Harry Kupfer’s self-styled ‘road of history’, stretching back in the seeming infinity of the Bayreuth stage, is broken up by rusty turbines and twisted metal for the first two Acts of this Siegfried, and the only man to clear the way is Siegfried Jerusalem’s hero. Kupfer demands unflagging physical energy but does no violence to Wagnerian truth. All of his most vivid ideas – including the woodbird as an onstage messenger from Wotan to the grandson who still can’t see him, and a shared horn-call between God and hero – were carried through to the messier-looking Barcelona re-run (Opus Arte, reviewed September 2005), but there they lack the conviction of this vintage 1992 Bayreuth production.
All the soloists fuse truthful acting with rock-solid singing, and if the superhuman honours of epic emotion go to Tomlinson’s Wotan in Act III, the rarest commodity is Jerusalem’s protagonist. Veering at first between burly knockabout with Graham Clark’s brilliant Mime and touching bewilderment about his secret history, immensely likeable in the forest and always stalwart of voice, he ticks many of the boxes left blank by every other Siegfried on DVD. Anne Evans’s Brünnhilde is a worthy match for him in a final scene. As before, the Kupfer-supervised close-ups, especially of Jerusalem and Clark side by side, make perfect viewing, and if the dragon’s claws would have been better served by the bigger picture, we certainly get that for a good seven minutes as Siegfried braves the flames. Barenboim’s ardent way with the great blazes is stupendously well served by the inimitable Bayreuth brass and acoustics. One request to Warner: for the final instalment, could we please have retrospective interviews with the artists on what made this Ring so special? David Nice