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WAGNER, R.: Rheingold (Das) (Ring Cycle 1)


Naxos 8.660170-71

   Fanfare

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Andrew Quint
Fanfare

The video version of the complete Zagrosek/Stuttgart Ring, on TDK, was reviewed last year in Fanfare 28:5; the four operas are available as a set or individually. An unusual aspect of this cycle is that a different team designed each of the productions. Additionally, the artists portraying the main roles changed from drama to drama. The result is that, for a number of reasons, the four performances vary in their degree of success, an aspect which is even more apparent now that Naxos is reissuing this Ring, taped between September of 2002 and January of 2003, for CD.

Theatrically, Rheingold wasn't that satisfying to watch on DVD, and there are vocal shortcomings with the two key characters. Wolfgang Probst has a bothersome wobble that does improve over the course of the opera, though his voice remains rather diffuse. His exchange with Fricka in scene 2 comes close to tedium. Likewise, Alberich's curse, as delivered by the Finnish bass-baritone Esa Ruuttunen, lacks the sputtering rage that others bring to it. Down in Nibelheim, Ruuttunen seems merely a bully rather than a malignant force. On the other hand, Robert Kiinzli gives a nicely modulated performance that communicates well Loge's intelligence and wiliness. He has an attractive, expressive voice with a touch of sweetness to it. Eberhard Francesco Lorenz's Mime is appropriately nervous and nebbishy. The giants are excellent and the lesser male gods more than satisfactory. Among the women, Michaela Schuster and Helga Ros Indridadottir are vocally well suited to their roles. Mette Ejsing's Erda is calm and firmly knowing, even if her voice gets a little rough up high. The Rhinemaidens' blend isn't the best.

Lothar Zagrosek again makes a good impression overall for his idiomatic leadership. Some details that might go unnoticed with DVD are more obvious on CD. With nothing to look at, the Prelude to scene 1 seems curiously static and the octave trombone C#s that signal Erda's entrance are anything but fortissimo-undermining the impact of one of Das Rheingold's most dramatic moments. There's an unauthorized bass drum (or some other regular low-pitched thud) accompanying the anvils both times they appear, presumably to keep everyone together.

The sound was good for DVD, but less remarkable for an audio-only version. There's a great deal of stage noise, and entirely too much of Fasolt's death throes in the last scene. Naxos provides no texts, but tells you where to find a German libretto with English translations online if you don't happen to have one around from some other recording.






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9:55:19 PM, 22 October 2014
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