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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Siegfried (1876)
Siegfried: Heinz Kruse
Mime: Graham Clark
Der Wanderer: John Bröcheler
Alberich: Henk Smit
Fafner: Carsten Stabell.
Erda: Anne Gjevang
Brünnhilde: Jeannine Altmeyer
Waldvogel: Stefan Pangratz
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Der Nederlandse Opera/Hartmut Haenchen :
Stage Director: Pierre Audi
rec. live, Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam, 1999
DVD - all regions
OPUS ARTE OA 0948D [3 DVDs: 273:00]


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.

This Siegfried is also my “Recording of the Month”. Now, on to Götterdämmerung. It is also waiting its turn in the stack.

Göran Forsling

see also Review by Anne Ozorio


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