ALBUM TITLE: Wagner
WORKS: Excerpts from Der Fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Tannhäuser, Siegfried and Die Walküre
PERFORMER: Juha Uusitalo (bass-baritone); Helsinki PO/Leif Segerstam
CATALOGUE NO: ODE 1121-2
Audiences who enjoyed Helsinki Opera’s excellent recent Ring cycle were impressed by a superlative young Wotan in Juha Uusitalo, who’s now establishing an international career. Uusitalo’s bass-baritone is exceptional, a powerful, secure instrument blending a bright, heroic top with darkly resonant lower notes, ample stamina, clear diction, and committed if not yet deeply nuanced acting – rather what we hoped of Bryn Terfel. Welcome as this recording is, though, it has to be said that it doesn’t do Uusitalo full justice.Blame seems to lie largely with conductor Leif Segerstam, whose frequently funereal tempos sound imposing but stretch out the vocal lines to an extent that would strain any singer. Uusitalo copes, but, for instance in the opening Dutchman soliloquy, at the cost of choppy phrasing and exaggerated vibrato. He suffers more fluently in the Parsifal solos, but in the introduction to ‘Abendstern’ he’s reduced to picking his way through the words. Comparison with his Wanderer under Gustav Kuhn confirms this isn’t how he usually sounds; with Segerstam less self-indulgent, it’s in the Wanderer and Wotan tracks that he approaches his best – sweeping, forceful, elegiac and heroically passionate.