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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre (1856) [224:01]
Robert Gambill (tenor) - Siegmund; Angela Denoke (soprano) - Sieglinde; Attila Jun (bass) - Hunding; Renate Behle (soprano) - Brünnhilde; Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass-baritone) - Wotan; Tichina Vaughn (mezzo) - Fricka; Eva-Maria Westbroek (soprano) - Gerhilde; Wiebke Göetjes (soprano) - Ortlinde; Stella Kleindienst (mezzo) - Waltraute; Helene Ranada (contralto) - Schwertleite; Magdalena Schäfer (soprano) - Helmwige; Nidia Palacios (mezzo) - Siegrune; Maria Theresa Ullrich (contralto) - Grimgerde; Margit Diefenthal (contralto) – Roßweiße
Chorus and Orchestra of the Stuttgart State Opera/Lothar Zagrosek
rec. live, Staatstheater Stuttgart, 29 September 2002; 2 January 2003. DDD
NAXOS 8.660172-74 [3 CDs: 67:37 + 79:04 + 77:20]


It is well documented that Lothar Zagrosek does not hang about when it comes to Wagner. This Walküre is no exception. His swift approach certainly leads a fluency to the action, and - I am sure - eases matters for singers. It almost seems like harking back to an earlier age of Wagner interpretation, before tempi started to become slower and slower; Zagrosek's Walkürenritt fairly zips along! And it is true that the music-drama does not get off to the best of starts: there is a distinct dramatic sag during the Prelude, when violin tremolandi become literal and workaday very soon, or at the very end of Act 1. Yet Zagrosek can give full weight to some dramatic situations. Try the hushed orchestral passage immediately prior to Siegmund's announcement that he will await Hunding, track 3. Against this is a counter-tendency to trivialise Wagner's accompaniments - heard in embryo in the Prelude's tremolandi? - so that on occasion they can even seem little more than a sort of 'Meyerbeer-plus'. The entrance of Brünnhilde in Act 3 is perhaps the worst example of this, with cellos pouncing along merrily while the action depicts someone fleeing in terror!

None of the Act 1 soloists are less than good. In Angela Danoke's case, actually much more than that. Her Sieglinde is pure of voice, touching and vulnerable. Her slurs verge on the perfect, and, importantly, her 'naming' of Siegmund as such - as opposed to 'Wehwalt' etc - rises to the occasion.

Unfortunately, Robert Gambill, who tries to match his Sieglinde here, does not quite succeed. Gambill can be rather strained in the higher reaches of the part, and he can be guilty of trying to over-compensate by over-emphasis. The Hunding, the Korean bass Attila Jun, does sound quite evil. The brass motif that introduces him is one of the orchestral highlights of the first act. The minus point here is that there is a little bit of 'space' around his voice that causes him to lose true focus on the vocal line.

Act 2 begins in sleepy rather than anxious fashion. Yet here we have the privilege of spending time with Renate Behle. Her Brünnhilde has also graced Hamburg Opera's stage but since the 2003/4 season she has been refocusing on mezzo roles. The Wotan/Fricka dialogue is superbly managed on all sides and becomes very intense – one gets the impression the performance has finally 'warmed in' by now. Jan-Hendrik Rootering's Wotan mirrors the performance by taking some time to warm in; he is only quite impressive at the 'Götternot' climax. Zagrosek, similarly, is a little light; sometimes giving the impression he is tracking Leitmotifs and little else. Best of Act 2 are the Siegmund/Sieglinde Scene 3 exchanges.

I have already mentioned the rather flat Ride of the Valkyries although to be fair the singers do their best to inject at least some vim. Vocally Act 3 is the climax of the work here, with both Behle and Rootering hitting form. 'War es so schmählich' is absolutely gripping, and he pitches the line as he kisses away his favourite daughter's Goddess status very accurately. His calls to Loge have an appropriate gravitas, too. 

A mixed Walküre, then. I would like to have the DVD, to see exactly how everything fits in … including the odd stage noise! In the interim, this is an interesting, honest account that never in truth overwhelms as mature Wagner should but nevertheless provides much to admire. 

Colin Clarke

see also Review by Göran Forsling



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