Wagner: Götterdämmerung

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Götterdämmerung
PERFORMER: Siegfried Jerusalem, Anne Evans, Philip Kang, Bodo Brinkmann, Waltraute Meyer; Bayreuth Festival Orchestra/Daniel Barenboim; dir. Harry Kupfer(Bayreuth, 1992)
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 62321-2 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
Doom and gloom in Harry Kupfer’s largely black -and-white 1991 Bayreuth Götterdämmerung extend to Brünnhilde’s anxiety in a heavy-hearted dawn duet with Siegfried and pasty, balding hinemaidens clambering around an industrially despoiled river. Hagen – Philip Kang, physically mposing if not ideally black of bass tone – is a dark resurrection of Tomlinson’s Walküre Wotan, complete with shades, spear and coat, manipulating the troubled Gibichung siblings in a near-parody of Wotan’s family values. But it’s the unrelenting physical and vocal intensity Kupfer demands of his heroic lovers which crowns his cycle.

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The ever-womanly Evans may lack the last inch of steely cut for Brünnhilde’s vengeance, but her riveting appearance, brought in to the Act II wedding like a netted animal and startling in russet against the prevailing gloom, carries the horror of Brünnhilde’s betrayal, along with brass playing supremely black and trenchant even by Bayreuth standards. Jerusalem’s Siegfried remains likeable even in increasing confusion, profoundly touching when toasting his true love before drinking the treacherous potion and regaining his memory in Act III. A broad and powerful Funeral March accompanies Brünnhilde and Wotan grieving over the chasm into which the hero’s body has disappeared.

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The final tableau, which shows well-dressed punters watching the end on telly and Alberich threatening two hopeful children, is more questionable, but doesn’t ultimately detract from the achievement of DVD’s most consistently highpowered Ring. Unquestionably, the film compositions are superb, as always under Kupfer’s watchful guidance, and Warner seems to have yielded to pleas in these pages for cast interviews in a brief retrospective with both Barenboim and Tomlinson, who not surprisingly described the experience as ‘the highlight of my working life’. David Nice