Wagner: Love duets from Siegfried & Tristan und Isolde

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WORKS: Love duets from Siegfried & Tristan und Isolde
PERFORMER: Plácido Domingo (tenor), Deborah Voigt (soprano), Violeta Urmana (mezzo-soprano); ROH Orchestra/Antonio Pappano
For all the experience and star quality Domingo and Voigt bring to this recording, its real greatness lies in the conducting of Antonio Pappano. From the mesmerising orchestral waves of Siegfried Act III, Scene 3, here marvellously sustained and sculpted, to its quickening and blazing crescendo, there is an absolute mastery of the line and pacing. After the exchange with its heaving swings of emotion, Voigt draws in a rapt pianissimo. Pappano brings louring erotic urgency to the murmuring orchestral accompaniment under Brünnhilde’s ‘As my blood streams in torrents towards you’, handling the subtextual surge with visionary freedom. Domingo’s staccato, nervy response is just one highlight in a performance of great range and spontaneity: he may be an old Siegfried, and not as rich in timbre as he once was, but he uses his voice with the optimum economy for maximum expression. His ‘O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe’ from Tristan is intensely focused, while Voigt reins in her powerful soprano to fit this more concentrated performance. The acoustic is unusually fine, intimate, not over-resonant, but warmly glowing.


This recording is also special for its world premiere recording of Wagner’s own concert version of the Act II love duet from Tristan und Isolde, written in 1862 for his two favourite singers Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Barenboim apparently discovered it in the Wagner archive in Bayreuth and passed it to Pappano, once his assistant in Berlin. The arrangement elides the cruelly interrupted love scene into the Liebestod. Disorientating at first, the join creates its own coherence, the passionate scene leading to its immediate resolution. Violeta Urmana as Brangäne, far from having real alarm in her scream, hypnotises with loveliness. And the end of the Liebestod flows swiftly on into a heavenly reverie. If this is anything to go by, we have some wonderful Wagner in store at the Royal Opera House when Pappano takes up his post of music director.