Wagner: Father & Son

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Wagner
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Father and Son: scenes and arias from Lohengrin, Die Walküre, Siegfried, Götterdämmerung and Parsifal
PERFORMER: Simon O’Neill (tenor); with Susan Bullock (soprano), Thomas Grace (baritone), John Tomlinson (bass); New Zealand SO/Pietari Inkinen
CATALOGUE NO: 457 8172

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If the New Zealand-born and American-trained tenor Simon O’Neill hasn’t enjoyed the hype of some younger tenors, his career is all the more impressive, leading roles ranging from Wexford to the Met, Salzburg and the Proms, in Fidelio under Barenboim. At Covent Garden, since debuting in The Bartered Bride, he’s sung Lohengrin and Siegmund– roles featured here alongside ‘father and son’ Parsifal and Siegfried.

He has also ‘covered’ Siegmund for Plácido Domingo (featured in a 2004 BBC documentary), and the comparison is by no means one-sided. His tone is more clean-cut, less rich and honeyed, silver to Domingo’s gold; his delivery is less passionate and charismatic, but still thrilling, and not without real character and verbal sensitivity.

It helps that his German diction is far better, although as Lohengrin particularly he sounds overly careful, emphasising consonants and voice-focusing pauses at the expense of the flowing line. He is much more fluent and involving as the Volsungs, although wisely he confines himself to Siegfried’s less stratospheric excursions.

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He is lavishly supported here by his homeland orchestra under Pietari Inkinen, with a chorus and stellar soloists (Susan Bullock in rather mixed voice). Altogether, this recording, in good sound, is more than promising. I look forward to his forthcoming live recording of Otello delivered under the leadership of Sir Colin Davis. Mike Scott Rohan