WORKS: Arias from Die Meistersinger, Lohengrin, Parsifal, Das Rheingold, Tannhaüser & Die Walküre
PERFORMER: René Pape (bass), Plácido Domingo (tenor); Berlin State Opera Choir; Staatskapelle Berlin/Daniel Barenboim
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 6617
This disc must contain the first ever recording of one particular excerpt from Die Meistersinger: Act II ends with a nocturnal riot, which suddenly disperses. The Nightwatchman bemusedly sings the hour, and the final bars are the most magical depiction of silence in all music. The Nightwatchman’s solo lasts for 30 seconds, which are recorded here, followed by the long exquisite orchestral passage. Wonderful playing, fine singing, but as pointless an extract as I can imagine.
Wotan’s Farewell, by contrast, is one of the most recorded Wagner excerpts, though with so many complete recordings it is hard to see why anyone would want to buy it now, out of context. René Pape’s voice, a very beautiful one, is unsuitable for this role, and he does little with it, so this complex god comes across as bland. Hans Sachs, also a complex figure, suits Pape better. The Parsifal excerpts are the middle half-hour of the opera, sublime music and drama, but desperately in need of a context. And Plácido Domingo, as Parsifal, shows once more that he is no natural Wagner singer. Superb orchestra and conducting offer the main source of satisfaction. Michael Tanner