Wagner: Das RheingoldSiegfried

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: Etcetera
ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Das RheingoldSiegfried
PERFORMER: Albert Dohmen, Geert Smits, Martin Homrich, Chris Merritt, Werner van Mechelen, Graham Clark, Frode Olsen, Mario Luperi; Netherlands PO/Hartmut HaenchenStig Andersen, Graham Clark, Albert Dohmen, Günther von Kannen, Mario Luperi, Anne Gjevang, Linda W
CATALOGUE NO: KTC 5500¥KTC 5502
The 1999 premiere of the Netherlands Opera’s Ring cycle has appeared on DVD. I wish they’d filmed this 2005 revival instead, because its cast is much more distinguished. Albert Dohmen’s voice is not especially beautiful, but it still presents a more commanding, nuanced Wotan than John Bröcheler; he’s a touch baritonal for the Wanderer, but still impressive. Likewise, Heinz Kruse is thoroughly outclassed by Stig Andersen, whose lyrical, youthful characterisation I’ve admired in Denmark, Helsinki and the NY Met over the last decade; he’s no chicken now, though, and tires audibly, especially in Act III. Linda Watson is a strong Brünnhilde, but beset from her awakening by distracting unsteadiness.

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Some veteran voices have not aged well. Doris Soffel’s Fricka sounds faded, and Chris Merritt’s epicene Loge less lyrical than before; Anne Gjevang’s Erda now wobbles. As Mime, Graham Clark now relies overmuch on abrasive squalls and shrieks. And it was definitely no improvement to divide Alberich between Werner van Mechelen, pallid, and Günther von Kannen, sounding as superannuated as he did at Covent Garden recently. Frode Olsen’s fine Fasolt is offset by Mario Luperi’s very ordinary Fafner.

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So despite improvements these are distinctly mixed performances, as is Hartmut Haenchen’s conducting. The spacious surround-sound recording highlights singers well, but is too prone to odd perspectives. Thus far the South Australian Opera’s cycle (on Melba) remains my SACD choice, Bröcheler’s coarse Wotan outweighed by Asher Fisch’s sweeping interpretation. Michael Scott Rohan