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WAGNER, R.: Ring des Nibelungen (Der): Siegfried [Opera] (O'Neill, Goerne, Cangelosi, Mechelen, Melton, Hong Kong Philharmonic, van Zweden)

Naxos 8.660413-16

   Rafael’s Music Notes, December 2018
   Limelight, July 2018
   American Record Guide, May 2018
   MusicWeb International, March 2018
   Fanfare, March 2018
   MusicWeb International, February 2018
   Opera News, January 2018
   Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, December 2017
   Gramophone, December 2017, December 2017, December 2017
   BBC Music Magazine, December 2017, November 2017
   The WholeNote, November 2017
   Lark Reviews, November 2017
   Classic FM, November 2017
   The Guardian, November 2017
   David's Review Corner, November 2017

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Rafael de Acha
Rafael’s Music Notes, December 2018

Heidi Melton is the real deal.

But you will have to wait until the end of the four hour opera to get an idea of what I mean. She can spin out Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich, ewig in süss sehnender Wonne, Wagner’s sublimely beautiful melody which he elsewhere uses in the Siegfried Idyll, while husbanding her plentiful vocal resources only to then open up full throttle for the ending duet with Simon O’Neill as her partner in decibels and sensitivity. © 2018 Rafael’s Music Notes Read complete review

Clive Paget
Limelight, July 2018

Following a fine Rheingold and even finer Walküre, Naxos’s Hong Kong Ring reaches Siegfried, so often the ‘problem child’ of a complete cycle. Not that it’s a washout as Jaap van Zweden helms this opera as impressively as he has its predecessors. 

Elsewhere, Matthias Goerne concludes his magnificent portrayal as a world-weary Wanderer, his textually detailed singing a real pleasure… © 2018 Limelight Read complete review

Allan Altman
American Record Guide, May 2018

Simon O’Neill has the right sound for the title role—bright and fearless—and what he lacks in richness and variety is compensated by vocal security. Matthias Goerne’s timbre and temperament are particularly well suited to the mysterious Wanderer (Wotan in disguise). David Cangelosi nearly steals the show as Mime, proving that beauty of tone and character singing need not be mutually exclusive. The always excellent Falk Struckmann is Fafner. As Brünnhilde, Heidi Melton falls just a bit short of matching O’Neill in ease of production, but her singing is consistently warm and vibrant and points up the contrast between Siegfried’s simplicity and her own awakening to love.

Van Zweden is a master of refinement and tonal balance. The Hong Kong Philharmonic plays with lush brilliance, beautiful portamentos in the strings, and exceptional transparency that allows Wagner’s motifs to interweave seamlessly with the vocal lines, as the composer intended. What’s more, he relishes the score’s playful qualities as much as its grandeur, making Wagner’s long musical journey feel livelier than usual. © 2018 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Göran Forsling
MusicWeb International, March 2018

[O’Neill] may not have the beauty of tone that Siegfried Jerusalem had during his heydays, but he has almost everything else that makes a great Wagnerian hero: heft, stamina, expressivity (including superb enunciation of the text), and ability to sing romantically softly and adopt a warm tone at sensitive moments… But of course it is the seemingly limitless power he displays over and over again that impresses even more… This is heroic singing of the highest order. I could quote many further instances of his deeply satisfying reading of the role, vocally as well as textually, but suffice it to say that no one in my experience since Jerusalem have managed this role so convincingly.

In a way Siegfried is so dominating in his own opera that all the other characters tend to pale by comparison, but this is not to say that there are not very good achievements from the rest of the cast. Mime’s role during the first two acts is also gigantic, and David Cangelosi is superb. …Matthias Goerne’s Wanderer is just as impressive as was his Wotan in Die Walküre. I compared him to Hans Hotter then and this is also the case this time, with the difference that Hotter in 1963 was slightly past his best, whereas Goerne is in magnificent voice and has the same expressive way with the words, which makes him as close to the ideal as one can imagine.

It’s the male voices that dominate Siegfried but we have three female roles to reckon with. Valentina Farcas is an excellent Waldvogel, less of a nightingale than some, but Solti had Sutherland and the bigger voice also pays dividends. Deborah Humble’s Erda seems slightly occluded to begin with—and no wonder, having been awakened brutally from her long slumber. But make no mistake: this is a great Erda.

As before the playing of the Hong Kong Philharmonic is exemplary and Jaap van Zweden keeps the music alive with vigorous rhythms and ideal tempos. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Huntley Dent
Fanfare, March 2018

Matthias Goerne is once again a good choice by van Zweden for Wotan as the Wanderer, and what might be lacking in vocal depth on stage isn’t a problem with close microphone placement in concert.

Among the lower voices the Alberich of Werner Van Mechelen is well vocalized if not bitter or evil enough in his portrayal. One wants a cavernous Fafner in dragon guise, augmented by the inevitable off-stage amplification, and the veteran Falk Struckmann is more than satisfactory. Among the secondary female roles, Deborah Humble’s Erda is a touch wobbly in her lowest notes but is otherwise good, as is the Forest Bird of Valentina Farcas. The producers realize that even the cameo roles are important in this opera.

Given his lack of experience in the opera house, van Zweden delivers a strong account of the orchestral part, preferring considered tempos and careful phrasing but allowing the big climaxes to swell impressively. The Hong Kong Philharmonic plays very well. © 2018 Fanfare Read complete review

Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, February 2018

…New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill is surely the Siegfried for our generation. He may lack the sheer heroic strength and lyrical warmth of Melchior, or the honeyed sweetness that Remedios could command, but he makes up for it with a keen sense of involvement in the meaning of the words, a welcome admixture of humour, and a precision of delivery which would put some of his predecessors to shame.

In Act One, he is superbly matched with David Cangelosi, who seems to me simply to be one of the best exponents of the role of Mime on record.

The third participant in Act One is Matthias Goerne as the wandering Wotan, whose baritone has now acquired deeper resonance than in his younger years and has become exactly the right sort of voice for the world-weary deity. At the same time, he still has the high notes required to cope with Wagner’s often cruelly high writing, as in his triumph over Mime at the end of their scene together. He is also a tower of strength in his later scenes with Deborah Humble’s resonantly determined Erda and in his pointed confrontation with the boisterous Siegfried. Add to this the superlative playing of the orchestra under Jaap van Zweeden, and this becomes quite simply one of the best performances of Act One of Siegfried I ever hope to encounter; and to add the final touch, Naxos have managed to cram the whole of the Act without a break onto one extremely long CD side. © 2018 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Henson Keys
Opera News, January 2018

This Ring is notable for Matthias Goerne’s role debut as Wotan. He has garnered much praise for his performance in Walküre… He approaches the music as a lieder singer, with velvety richness to his sensitive baritone.

Heidi Melton, who sang Sieglinde in Walküre, is Brünnhilde here. She starts out tentative and fluttery in her “Heil dir, Sonne” but soon comes into her own in the duets with Siegfried. There’s real warmth and richness in her middle and lower registers… Falk Struckmann’s baritone is too light for the dragon Fafner, but he provides theatrical fireworks with the dragon’s hearty laughs and blood-curdling screams at his death. Valentina Farcas is a thick-voiced Forest Bird, mezzo Deborah Humble an effective, deep-voiced Erda. © 2018 Opera News Read complete review

Grego Applegate Edwards
Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review, December 2017

There is so much to get right in Siegfried. The wonderful orchestral parts, the interaction of Mime and Siegfried, the love scene, Fafner, the Wanderer’s appearance, the sword hammering, the forest scene, the heroic Siegfried. So much to get right and so much that is irreplaceable musically. It may be Wagner’s most deft juxtaposing of leitmotifs, ever. This is opera as epic symphony, music drama as stunningly paradigmatic, in tremendous advance. All gets a crisp treatment, not overblown but in no way sterile, either. The cast is quite good, the orchestra responsive and precise. They get everything right. And even if you know the opera inside-out as I do, there is enough different and rather modern in the reading that you well should be glad to have it as a refreshing alternate to versions you have lived through most thoroughly. And if you need a first version, you cannot go wrong with this one and the Naxos price. © 2017 Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review Read complete review

Mike Ashman
Gramophone, December 2017

Naxos’s engineers continue to gain a mastery of Wagner’s orchestra/cast balance in the city’s Cultural Centre Concert Hall. They are matched by van Zweden and his players’ developing familiarity with Wagner’s sound world. This is a fast Siegfried: the forging scene of Act 1, or the Wanderer/Siegfried encounter in Act 3, never hang around to collect or soak up the Romantic weight of, say, Solti, Karajan or Levine. In that respect it reminds me of the agile musical twists and turns of Clemens Krauss’s iconic Bayreuth set of 1953—and, indeed, some of the wind-playing in the forest scenes of Act 2 matches the older performance’s level of colour and detail. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Blair Sanderson, December 2017

Jaap van Zweden and the Hong Kong Philharmonic continue their ambitious Ring cycle, a project at which they’ve labored since the conductor began his tenure in 2012 and which has positioned the orchestra as a rising force in modern Wagner performances. The cast is led by Simon O’Neill as Siegfried, a strong heldentenor who has much experience with the role, and he is joined by David Cangelosi as Mime, Matthias Goerne as the Wanderer, Heidi Melton as Brünnhilde, and Falk Struckmann as Fafner. Confident singing and powerful orchestral playing give this recording a solidity that is impressive, and taken with the previous releases of Das Rheingold in 2015 and Die Walküre in 2016, it gives compelling evidence that van Zweden’s Ring is competitive with other productions, including some Bayreuth recordings. This live performance was recorded at the Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall in January 2017, and Naxos provides remarkably clear sound in the spacious acoustics. © 2017 Read complete review

Robert Levine, December 2017

This is a fine follow-up to the same group’s Die Walküre released on Naxos last year. Maestro Jaap van Zweden is again in the pit, and his marvelously-rehearsed Hong Kong Philharmonic, while not having this music “in their blood” as do the Vienna, Berlin, or even Met Opera forces, plays with accuracy, brilliance, and color. I commented on the beauty and sadness of the Walküre performance, and here, added to those two qualities is, by the third act, passion.

Simon O’Neill may not be the most intuitive Siegfried on disc, but he’s among the brightest-toned and most solid, showing no flatting even at the end of his bout with Brünnhilde. In Act 1 he occasionally sounds a bit like the Mime of David Cangelosi—a compliment to the latter rather than a critique of the former—but his Forging Song is a wild romp rather than a chore, and his sensitive singing in the Murmurs section is introspective and lovely. Cangelosi sings, rather than mugs, the role of Mime. And where he is nasty, the Alberich of Werner van Mechelen is sniveling. Quite the pair.

Heidi Melton, a marvelous Sieglinde last year, is an excellent Brünnhilde. …she is a marvelous singer/actress and she uses her half hour to transform with clarity. Utterly convincing. Matthias Goerne occasionally sounds at the end of his vocal tether as the Wanderer. Few singers have gotten as “into” this character as he—he’s brilliantly insightful… © 2017 Read complete review

BBC Music Magazine, December 2017

Simon O’Neill’s steely, bright-toned heldentenor encompasses this killer part with deceptive ease © 2017 BBC Music Magazine, November 2017

Van Zweden’s Siegfried, in which the orchestra plays beautifully, with precision and the best balance it has shown so far in this cycle. The Hong Kong players are augmented by a number of musicians from Germany, who may be said to have a substantial intuitive as well as learned grasp of Wagner’s music. And this performance looks strongly ahead both to the tragedy of the final opera and to the ultimate, musically unrealized hope that lies beyond it. This is the first recording in this ambitious Naxos project in which singers, conductor and orchestra show the heights they are capable of attaining. If next year’s Götterdammerung continues at this level, the result will be a Ring cycle from Hong Kong that is fully worthy to stand with the best ones presented in recent times by the top orchestras and singers in Europe. © 2017 Read complete review

Janos Gardonyi
The WholeNote, November 2017

The title role, Siegfried, is the biggest casting problem of any Ring attempt, but fortunately New Zealand heldentenor Simon O’Neill, a young, athletic fellow who could look good even on a rugby field, solves this problem wonderfully. He is a natural, not only powerful, enthusiastic and tireless, but also sensitive and tender. Wotan, here called the Wanderer, is Matthias Goerne, another excellent choice, one of the greatest baritones in the world today. David Cangelosi became the audience favourite with his characterful, incisive singing as Mime, the evil dwarf. In closing, it’s worth buying this set for the famous Forging Song alone. © 2017 The WholeNote Read complete review

Lark Reviews, November 2017

This is proving to be the finest Ring cycle currently available and I can’t wait for next year’s Gotterdammerung. It is excellently sung throughout and Jaap van Zweden’s conducting is light and flexible—just what the score needs and all too often fails to get. There are many magnificent moments. I particularly enjoyed Falk Struckmann’s Fafner, who hints at the lumbering stupidity of the giant even as he roars out his contempt for Siegfried. Matthias Goerne adds the Wanderer to his earlier Wotan, with a world-weary edge which is most convincing. Valentina Farcas is a sprightly woodbird and both dwarves are incisive and nasty. At the heart of the work, Simon O’Neill brings authority to the title role as well as flexibility to the musical line which always pleases. For this recording to be available on a bargain priced label makes it all the more worth snapping up. © 2017 Lark Reviews

David Mellor
Classic FM, November 2017

Naxos continue their recordings of a complete Ring Cycle in Hong Kong, conducted by the outstanding Jaap van Zweden, once concertmaster of the Concertgebouw, but now transformed into one of the world’s leading conductors, especially adept at the core Austro-German classics.

The outstanding elements of this recording, begin and end with van Zweden and his orchestra. The Hong Kong Philharmonic really play out of their skins, and those of us who think that in Wagner operas, the orchestra is the protagonist, will be well pleased with this.

Best of them is Matthias Goerne’s Wanderer. © 2017 Classic FM Read complete review

Andrew Clements
The Guardian, November 2017

What is utterly consistent is the excellence of the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s playing. Even if it lacks the tonal depth and individual character that might be expected from one of the great European orchestras with a long Wagner pedigree, it is always utterly secure and ever responsive to Van Zweden’s fine-grained control. There’s never a shortage of lustre or refinement—the flood of tone at the opening of the third-act duet between Brünnhilde and Siegfried is thrilling evidence of that—while Van Zweden’s mastery of the huge dramatic arcs in all three acts of Siegfried never falters.

Some of the cast maintain the continuity from the earlier operas in the tetralogy. David Cangelosi is once again the Mime, resisting any temptation to caricature, and Deborah Humble the velvet-toned Erda. And if Matthias Goerne’s Wanderer is not quite so successful as his Wotan…he becomes much more convincing in the confrontation with Erda and Siegfried in the third, when his beauty of tone and attention to verbal detail are telling. © 2017 The Guardian Read complete review

David Denton
David's Review Corner, November 2017

Siegfried, the third part in the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen, was recorded earlier this year in concert performances given in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. We have arrived at the point in this epic saga where Siegfried, the earthly grandson of the God, Wotan, has been brought up from a foundling child by Mime, the dwarf who forms part of the evil Niebelungs, who are now seeking revenge on Wotan for having stolen their gold. Mime’s intentions are malevolent, he seeing in this strong youth the person who could re-forge his father’s mighty sword, and with it he could kill the dragon who guards the famous hoard of gold originally taken from the Rheinmaidens, and which had once passed to Wotan by cheating. Mime then plans to kill Siegfried with a poisoned version of the soup he regularly prepared to feed the young man. A detailed synopsis of the story that comes with the release takes it on from there. For Wagner it was to be an intricate musical picture of the actions on stage, and we need to hear that in every small detail. Those brought up on the recording with Georg Solti conducting will know that was possible in the studio, though many at the time of its release, in the 1960s, found that it missed the atmosphere of a ‘live’ opera house performance. And so the argument has continued as to which is best, and in this concert hall recording we reach the halfway house, the Dutch conductor, Jaap van Zweden, bringing together an international cast with a background of Wagnerian stage appearances. Siegfried is sung by the New Zealand-born Simon O’Neill, one of today’s most sought after Heldentenor’s, his forging scene, at the close of the first act, superbly sung after the rather pedestrian opening tempo. David Cangelosi is the type of whining Mime that was given birth by Gerhard Stolze in Solti’s recording, and has been copied ever since, and as such he is a perfect foil to O’Neill’s vibrancy. Matthias Goerne’s Wotan, who here appears on earth as ‘The Wanderer’, is smooth, dignified and without exaggeration. In Werner van Mechelen’s Alberich we have a vocally likeable character whose second act enraged confrontation with The Wanderer becomes a beautifully sung sociable meeting. I particularly enjoyed Valentina Farcas’s Forest Bird, and, later in that act, her immaculate intonation comes with the ideal silvery sound that is required. In the third act Deborah Humble’s Erda is suitably tired and old as she counsels Wotan as to his future, and maybe Goerne had been ‘saving’ his voice for the subsequent angry encounter with Siegfried. The Australian dramatic soprano, Heidi Melton, sings Brunnhilde, her big and powerful voice heard at its best in the outgoing passages, and, with O’Neill’s voice untiring, the finale scene is as good as I have heard in recent times. It hardly seems fifty-four years ago that I was reviewing Solti’s revelatory recording, and there have been so many more to review since then. Now Hong Kong is placing a performance on disc that is a major achievement, the sound quality from its British recording team being remarkable. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

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