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Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Götterdämmerung (1876)
Albert Bonnema (tenor) – Siegfried; Hernan Iturralde (baritone) – Gunther; Franz-Josef Kappellmann (bass-baritone) – Alberich; Roland Bracht (bass) – Hagen; Luana DeVol (soprano) – Brünnhilde; Eva-Maria Westbroek (soprano) – Gutrune; Tichina Vaughn (mezzo) – Waltraute; Janet Collins (contralto) – First Norn; Lani Poulson (mezzo) – Second Norn; Sue Patchell (soprano) – Third Norn; Helga Rós Indridadóttir (soprano) – Woglinde; Sarah Castle (mezzo) – Wellgunde; Janet Collins (contralto) – Flosshilde; Staatsopernchor Stuttgart, Staatsorchester Stuttgart/Lothar Zagrosek
rec. live, Staatstheater Stuttgart, Germany, 3 October 2002, 12 January 2003
NAXOS 8.660179-82 [4CDs: 49:16 + 66:34 + 63:52 + 77:59]


This issue concludes for me the Stuttgart Ring, having reviewed the DVD version of Das Rheingold and CDs of the remaining three parts. My impression was that they gradually improved with Siegfried (review) - certainly recommendable, especially at budget price, a weak Wanderer notwithstanding. I was eagerly awaiting Götterdämmerung. Unfortunately, despite some good things, it doesn’t live up to expectations.

A constant joy with the earlier parts has been the conducting by Lothar Zagrosek. Here he is more uneven. He opens with a well shaped prelude to the prologue and the dawn interlude is excellent, as is the Rhine Journey. Elsewhere he seems to lose momentum and the drama in many places feels sluggish. The whole performance becomes long-winded and the Funeral march is almost perversely slow.

He isn’t helped by some less than first-class singing. As a matter of fact almost none of the soloists is wholly free from a disfiguring vibrato, some more prominent than others. It ranges from a well sung Gutrune (Eva-Maria Westbroek) and her youthful sounding and eager brother Gunther (Argentinean Hernan Iturralde) to a wobbly, throaty and shrill Brünnhilde (Luana DeVol). Of course opera is not only beautiful singing. It is also theatre and in seeing a live performance good acting to a degree can redeem less than accomplished singing. However when reviewing a sound-only recording one can only evaluate what one hears. Here there are just too many unfocused voices and too much unsteady singing.

To start with the three Norns – the first voices we hear – they are all more or less wobbly. The three Rhinemaidens, who appear at the beginning of the last act, on the other hand, sound good. Since they mainly sing in unison this is if anything due to the fact that their vibratos are well matched. Tichina Vaughn is a deeply worried Waltraute but is also over-vibrant. On the male side the two veterans, Franz-Josef Kapellmann as Alberich and Roland Bracht as his son Hagen, are among the best reasons to hear this set. Both singers had been active for around thirty years when this recording was made and it is obvious that such a long time in heavy repertoire has taken its toll – they are not as sonorous as they once were. However they do sing with steady tone and Bracht in particular is greatly impressive in his malice. His is a reading that can stand with the best.

Siegfried is the Dutch tenor Albert Bonnema and his is initially not a Heldentenor at all. He is more of a character tenor – a Mime maybe – who sounds uncomfortable and sorely strained. Helle Wehr, heilige Waffe (CD3 tr. 10) should be heroic and glorious but he sounds only frightened and strained. A true Siegfried is an operatic Harley-Davidson but here we are treated to an EU-moped. He manages to tune up the engine for the last act but still has to resort to some shouting. As for Luana DeVol’s Brünnhilde there are several positive things to say. She is a true actor, as I pointed out in my not too positive review of her Turandot DVD some time ago. She has insight, dramatic conviction, an expressive way with words and in the immolation scene (CD4 tr. 12-14) she sings beautifully. Her pianissimo singing is touching but her fortes are shaky.

Recorded live this set suffers from the usual external noises and variable sound levels due to the soloists’ movements on stage. Otherwise it is well on a level with the other operas in this cycle and the orchestra is certainly first class. As usual we have to be content with a rather detailed synopsis but the German libretto can be downloaded. There are two more Götterdämmerungs in the pipeline: Hartmut Haenchen’s Amsterdam version on Etcetera is already in my review pile and Asher Fisch’s Adelaide version on Melba should be due before long. They will be worth waiting for but neither is as inexpensive as this Naxos recording.

Göran Forsling 




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