LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
PERFORMER: Heinz Kruse, Wolfgang Schöne, Henk Smit, Kurt Rydl, Jeannine Altmeyer, Eva-Maria Bundschuh; Netherlands PO/Hartmut Haenchen; dir. Pierre Audi
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0949
This final segment of Netherlands Opera’s 1999 Ring cycle embodies both the virtues of the earlier operas, and Siegfried’s disappointments. Pierre Audi’s production remains boldly modern, but more respectful of Wagner’s conception than most these days. Haenchen’s conducting, inspired by the latest research, is still briskly dramatic, as Wagner preferred. The orchestra outclasses its Rotterdam predecessor. But there are problems with both singing and staging, straying increasingly into contemporary cliché.
Adopting the cheesiest of all, Audi reduces the Gibichungs to incestuous, decadent caricatures, a waste of Schöne and Bundschuh. He deadens the drama still further by dehumanising the Gibichung clansmen to phalanxes of faceless, jerky wooden dummies, wholly at odds with the vigour of the score, the lively chorus and thus also Rydl’s coarse but blackly effective Hagen. And Tsypin’s metallic sets, surrounding the stage-level orchestra, are used less imaginatively: increasingly monotonous, especially on screen, despite spouting fire at several moments except when it’s called for in the score.
The Norns and Rhinemaidens, unflatteringly costumed, are decent enough, Alberich and Waltraute excellent. However, Kruse’s Siegfried, though vocally clear and strong enough, is surely the least youthful around, and the shortest – especially confronting Altmeyer’s towering Brünnhilde, now also somewhat grandmotherly. Her steely voice sounds worn at times, but she’s still
a fiery, commanding character. Despite these drawbacks, this still completes the most dramatically valid recent Ring cycle on DVD. Barenboim and Levine are more recommendable in their different ways, but Audi and Haenchen offer an adventurous, intriguing alternative. Michael Scott Rohan