On the morning after
I had watched this Siegfried I read Anne Ozorio’s excellent
MusicWeb review (see link below), a commentary I would urge
every reader with an interest in this opera to study, since
it is not only an evaluation of the recording in question but
also an in-depth analysis of the work and this production’s
interpretation of it.
The site made it
a RECORDING OF THE MONTH, a view I wholeheartedly share. Since
almost any opinion in my notes is synonymous with Anne’s I might
just as well finish my review here. However I will make a few
comments to further underline my enthusiasm.
This Ring production,
directed by Pierre Audi, goes straight to the kernel of the
music and the inherent conflicts, by dispensing with traditional
sets and thus making it timeless. Placing the orchestra fully
visible at the centre-stage further distances the drama from
any references to reality. Since the whole cycle is more a matter
of ideas I believe that Wagner himself would have liked this
production in spite of the rejection of the detailed stage instructions
accompanying his libretto.
I was a little sceptical
when I started watching Das Rheingold but was finally
won over and for each opera the concept has grown on me. Siegfried
definitely had me hooked from beginning to end.
The orchestra play
magnificently under the clearly inspired and inspirational Hartmut
Haenchen. He is fairly swift and there is tremendous power at
climaxes. This is helped by a recording that is analytical but,
thanks to the acoustics of Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, also
has warmth: important in this out-door opera. The singing and
acting is generally on a par with the orchestral contribution.
However one character is head and shoulders above the rest,
at least figuratively speaking: Graham Clark’s Mime, who nearly
outdoes Siegfried. I wonder if there is a greater character-tenor
around than Clark. Every gesture, every expression, every inflection
is spot-on. The opera is worth seeing for Clark alone
and if there was a vote for best acting on DVD this year, mine
would definitely go to Graham Clark. Henk Smit, as his brother
Alberich, is also a splendid actor and – am I just imagining
things – he sings better than in Das Rheingold. Carsten
Stabell’s thundering bass makes him a formidable Fafner and
John Bröcheler has few, if any, superiors as Wotan. He too is
a great actor, looking uncannily like the ageing Sean Connery.
Vocally he is in the John Tomlinson mould; praise indeed. He
is also Wotan in the new Australian Ring produced by
Melba, the first instalment of which, Die Walküre, is
in my review pile and will be onsite quite soon. Brünnhilde
is, in this opera, almost a comprimario role, spending much
of the 4½ hours asleep on the rock. When finally she is awakened
she sings the final duet with Siegfried with silvery tone. And
Siegfried? Well, this role has been notoriously difficult to
cast for many years but vocally Heinz Kruse must be among the
top contenders. His is a powerful voice, steady and sonorous,
not unlike the great Wolfgang Windgassen in his heyday. He can
produce soft lyrical tone as well. Quite a find! His acting
however is hardly spectacular and it is instructive to compare
his forging scene with Graham Clark’s. Clark is intense,
purposeful, concentrated, full of life, whereas Kruse dutifully
hammers his sword. We can’t get everything and we have to be
grateful for a Siegfried who sings where all too many bark their
way through the role.
is also my “Recording of the Month”. Now, on to Götterdämmerung.
It is also waiting its turn in the stack.
see also Review
by Anne Ozorio