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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Die Walküre - Act 1 (complete)
Nina Stemme (soprano) - Sieglinde; Johan Botha (tenor) - Siegmund; Ain Anger (bass) - Hunding
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Franz Welser-Möst
rec. live, Vienna State Opera, 2 December 2007
ORFEO C875131B [61:35]

This is a live performance, taken from Welser-Möst's Ring.
This is a clearly case of the whole unfortunately not being greater than the sum of its parts. Strangely, the parts themselves are often impressive, so the fault would appear to lie with the conductor, Franz Welser-Möst. In fact I have yet to hear anything that has truly impressed me from this gentleman. He is very good at the immediate moment - the orchestra underpinning the cries of “Wälse”, for example, or the bareness of the orchestral accompaniment to Stemme's Sieglinde in the initial encounter with Siegmund reflecting the fragility of the dramatic situation. The irony is that it would be difficult to ask for more beautiful, burnished playing from the orchestra. Take the low string phrases immediately before “Wehwalt” which express this predicament to perfection. They’re beautifully shaped but with no real place in the structure. They just sit there in musical space, pretty as anything but failing to draw us into any true mythological soundscape. Obviously, from the foregoing, there is going to be a sprint to the finish line at the end, and so it is, albeit a remarkably accurate one. It was clearly very involving in the theatre - or so the cheers would suggest - but is much less so on disc.
The Hunding is very good: Ain Anger, who impressed as the Landgrave at the Proms this year. He sounds slimy rather than truly evil, an interesting shade on the character that actually works very well. He is less imposing than many Hundings, but perhaps this reminds us that he is human, not god. Johan Botha is a good if not outstanding Siegmund; his “Winterstürme” is warmly lyrical if not impressively Heldentenorisch. He does have the stamina, however, and he is fully in control, if not magnificently powerful, at the cries of “Nothung”. Best of all is Nina Stemme's Sieglinde, vulnerable yet capable of true nobility. Hers is the only part in which one feels the singer is properly within their character. All three singers have excellent diction.
Documentation, as always with Orfeo, is interesting and quotes from local press reviews to give a sense of context. This is an interesting Walküre act one, then, but certainly not an essential purchase.
Colin Clarke

Previous review: Simon Thompson