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Wagner: Das Rheingold

James Rutherford, David Jerusalem, et al; Duisburg Philharmonic/Axel Kober (CAVi-music)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Das Rheingold
James Rutherford, David Jerusalem, Bernhard Berchtold, Raymond Very, Katarzyna Kuncio, Sylvia Hamvasi, Ramona Zaharia et al (voices); Duisburg Philharmonic/Axel Kober
CAvi-music AVI 8553504   144:02 mins (2 discs)

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A defective sprinkler system at the Duisberg Theatre stopped play on what was to have been two staged cycles of Oper-am-Rhein’s Ring cycle last year. While Düsseldorf, the other half of the partnership, went ahead Duisberg had to settle for this concert performance, now released on disc.

The performance is more work-a-day than carefully crafted dramatically and musically, with theatrical fireworks kept to a minimum: the Nibelungs don’t thunder at their anvils and Donner slaps his rock rather than giving it a hefty hammer blow to summon up a storm. As for the Alberich’s cowering dwarfs, they scream like schoolboys on a charabanc outing.

More seriously, Axel Kober and the Duisberg Phillharmonic offer a somewhat pedestrian reading of the score. Where‘s the orchestral glitter when the sun wakes the sleeping Rheingold, and that sense of urgency as Loge and Wotan descend into Niebelheim?

Yet there are good things. A young and firm Wotan from James Rutherford, who reminds us that this is a God in his prime and not the troubled figure of the later operas. The Rhinemaidens are properly coquettish, and Ramona Zaharia is a throaty Erde who ushers in a real sense of anxious mystery when we hear for the very first time the motif associated with the end of the Gods. Best of all is the American tenor Raymond Very’s Loge. His tone may be a tad dry, but you listen to every word of his narration in Scene 2. We believe him when he hints that it will all end badly.

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Christopher Cook