Wagner: Rienzi

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

WORKS: Rienzi
PERFORMER: René Kollo, Siv Wennberg, Nikolaus Hillebrand, Janis Martin; Leipzig Radio Choir, Dresden Staatsoper Chorus, Dresden Staatskapelle/Heinrich Hollreiser
CATALOGUE NO: CMS 7 67131 2 ADD Reissue (1976)
None of Wagner’s early operas has enjoyed much success on record. Rienzi is represented in the catalogue only by this 1976 East German recording under Heinrich Hollreiser and by the live 1983 Munich performance under Sawallisch, released by Orfeo in 1995. The latter is effectively ruled out because of Sawallisch’s ruthless cuts in virtually every number; in any case RenÈ Kollo was sounding rather less fresh as the proto-fascist demagogue seven years on. Hollreiser’s cast is generally acceptable, with the exception of Siv Wennberg, who is plainly not up to the taxing tessitura of Irene. The EMI set is also decently conducted, but it is high time there was a recommendable new version of this problematic work, as of Wagner’s rather more attractive earlier two operas. Barry Millington