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Andrew Quint
Fanfare, April 2007

The Stuttgart production employed four different directors and four completely different sets of singers, with variable results: Rheingold and Walküre were not as successful, theatrically, as the later two operas. But, as noted in 28:5, a uniformly strong aspect of the cycle was Zagrosek's leadership and the Stuttgart Staatsorchester's performance proved uniformly strong. The sonics, too, were a plus, presenting the orchestra with impact and detail.

Naxos has been issuing the individual operas on CD-Das Rheingold was covered in 30:1 and this Walküre is a winner. Robert Gambill, as Siegmund, starts off a bit stiffly, but warms up by scene 2 ("Friedmund darf ich nicht heissen"), his voice gaining in body and expressiveness. By the end of the act, he's more than sufficiently ardent and heroic. Angela Denoke's Sieglinde sounds young and noble, with a full and secure top range. In act II, she communicates her character's panic and shame without scenery chewing, and her exchange with Brünnhilde near the outset of act III is outstanding. Attila Jun's a threatening, dark-voiced Hunding.

The mood produced by Zagrosek, Behle, and Rootering at the start of the second act is exuberant, and Fricka's arrival really does seem to spoil a good vibe. Tichina Vaughn is the only disappointment in this cast; her representation of Fricka tends more towards a Margaret Dumont kind of matronliness than an embodiment of wounded dignity. After she's gone, though, the act moves from strength to strength. Rootering's monologue is nicely paced, building effectively to "Das Ende-- das Ende!" It's potently clear that this is the defining moment of Wotan's self-understanding. Likewise, Renate Behle has us appreciate that Brünnhilde learns what she needs to know about romantic love from Siegfried and Sieglinde, not four acts later when a clueless Siegfried awakens her.

The Valkyries are a spirited group vocally, possessing distinctive voices that are easy to tell apart. Rootering is very imposing-the mass of his vocal instrument, without fraying, seems equal to that of Brünnhilde's eight sisters combined. Wotan delivers his errant daughter's sentence with all the vehemence of Alberich's curse in Rheingold, and it's apparent that Brünnhilde has her work cut out for her to calm down her father. This she does compellingly, beginning with "War es so schmählich." Rootering's "Leb Wohl" is as heartfelt as his condemnation 30 minutes earlier.

As is usual with this label's operas, the libretto, if you need one, is available online. For under $30, Naxos's Walküre is a bargain. This is big-league Wagner, highly recommended.

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