Wagner: Siegfried

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Naxos
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Siegfried
PERFORMER: Jon Fredric West, Heinz Göhrig, Wolfgang Schöne, Björn Waag, Attila Jun, Gabriela Herrera, Helene Ranada, Lisa Gasteen; Stuttgart State Opera & Orchestra/Lothar Zagrosek
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660175-78
This third instalment of the Stuttgart Ring, recorded ‘live’ in 2002 and 2003, marks a further decline in what began as a promising enterprise. Siegfried is exceptionally difficult to cast, because of the huge title role, perhaps the most demanding in the whole operatic repertoire. It certainly wasn’t solved at Stuttgart with Jon Fredric West, a singer with a most uningratiating voice (there will be a different Siegfried for the last opera), ugly in itself and used with little expressive force. The role alternates, roughly, between energy and aggression on the one hand, tenderness and bemusement on the other. With West you’d have little idea which hand you were on: he sings about his mother, whom he never knew, one of the Ring’s most moving and inward episodes, in the same mezzo-forte with which he reforges his father’s sword. When he presses his voice it wobbles, when he attempts quietness he sounds hoarse; and he never sounds as if he knows what he is singing about.

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The rest of the cast is adequate, and the Brünnhilde of Lisa Gasteen is at its finest: her voice’s radiance and suppleness were soon to be lost. Zagrosek’s conducting is patchy, fine detailed and thrusting stretches alternating with flaccid and rhythmically inert ones. Compare any moment of this with the Bayreuth 1955 Siegfried, and you’ll be astonished at the improvement in every single respect, and all by a huge margin. Michael Tanner