Copyright Source Interlink Media
, February 2011
Between the recordings by Furtwängler (Rome 1953), Keilberth (Bayreuth 1955), and the Solti-Culshaw stereo blockbuster (Vienna 1958–1964) and the first decade of the 21st century, there has been a long gap in great performances of Wagner’s Ring. And while there are two well-performed and well-recorded Rings on SACD (Fisch/Adelaide on Melba and Haenchen/Netherlands on Et’Cetera), we’ve been awaiting the trifecta of a first-rate cast and conductor; cutting-edge sound, and this immortal music. We wait no longer.
The Valencia production by Carlus Padrissa is absolutely spectacular in translating the passion and flavor of the traditional through the lens of space-age engineering. The entire cast is excellent, but I must single out Juha Uusitalo’s impressive Wotan, Jennifer Wilson’s brilliant Brünnhilde, Anna Larsson’s formidable Fricka, and the marvelous Matti Salminen as Fasolt, Hunding, and Hagen. In Die Walküre, Petra-Maria Schnitzer’s Sieglinde deserves special mention for her singing and her convincing human/wolf characterization. Zubin Mehta is an old hand at this, binding and whipping the orchestra into a truly through-performed presentation. This crew doesn’t displace those of the classic recordings listed above, but they concede little.
It is this set’s technical aspects that vault is to fore. Aided by superb camerawork, the Blu-ray video is spectacular and gripping, even when Wagner has his singers stand and renew the history of the world as they see it. The multichannel sound is superbly balanced, the orchestra depicted in excellent detail and, when needed, massive power. The singer’s voices are presented so clearly that some have wondered if they were wearing microphones. (They weren’t).
The individual operas are available separately, and there is a disc of highlights. But if you have any interest in opera, and/or specifically in Wagner, you should not hesitate. This is a release of historic proportions.