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Wagner: Das Rheingold / Gergiev, Pape, Putilin, Popov, Gubanova

Wagner / Putilin / Pape / Mariinsky Orch / Gergiev
Release Date: 09/10/2013 
Label:  Mariinsky   Catalog #: 526   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  René PapeAndrei PopovEkaterina GubanovaNikolai Putilin,   ... 
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Das Rheingold Valery Gergiev, cond; René Pape ( Wotan ); Nikolai Putilin ( Alberich ); Stephan Rügamer ( Loge ); Andrei Popov ( Mime ); Evgeny Nikitin ( Fasolt ); Mikhail Petrenko ( Fafner ); Ekaterina Gubanova ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Fricka ); Viktoria Yastrebova ( Freia ); Zlata Bulycheva ( Erda ); Zhanna Dombrovskaya ( Woglinde ); Irina Vasilieva ( Wellgunde ); Ekaterina Sergeeva ( Floßhilde ); Mariinsky O MARIINSKY 0526 (2 SACDs: 147:42 Text and Translation)

The significance of Russia in Wagner’s career is undeniable. It was as the young (and not especially successful) music director of the Riga Theater that Wagner began work on Rienzi; his return to the Russian Empire for a series of nine concerts in 1863 was an enormous triumph. But the Wagnerism that appeared to be germinating in the late 19th century was quashed by political developments in the 20th; there wasn’t another new complete staging of Der Ring des Nibelungen in Russia until quite recently. The release of this Das Rheingold, derived from concert recordings made over roughly half a dozen dates in 2010 and 2012, follows Gergiev’s estimable Die Walküre; Siegfried and Götterdämmerung are expected later this year.

The vocal beginnings of scene 1, after a satisfyingly aggregating Prelude, sound like a concert performance, and not in a good way. It’s dramatically inert—you don’t get the mental picture of Alberich, sweaty, winded, and slipping on rocks, the Rhinemaidens deftly avoiding his gropes. But by the time the gold has been stolen, Gergiev has established an unflagging dramatic urgency and from that point, the opera unfolds in the mind’s eye as vividly as a high-definition Blu-ray. And what an embarrassment of riches we have when it comes to lower male voices! Nikolai Putilin’s Alberich is imposingly scary, his scene 4 curse coming off as a very credible threat. Listen, as well, to how exceptionally well differentiated the three basses—René Pape, Evgeny Nikitin, and Mikhail Petrenko—are in scene 2’s interaction of Wotan and the two giants. The inflections of tone that the three artists employ communicate perfectly Wotan’s aura of superiority, Fasolt’s love-induced softness, and Fafner’s sociopathic nastiness. Stephan Rügamer brings a light, lyrical touch to his Loge, as with “So weit Leben und Weben.” Among the men, only Andrei Popov disappoints—he’s so intent on delivering all of Mime’s shtick that he neglects to sing much. As for the women, the three Rhinemaidens have more than a bit of the dreaded “Slavic” shrillness of old. But Ekaterina Gubanova’s Fricka is warmly sympathetic—there’s actually a hint of tenderness in the exchanges between Wotan and his wife at the outset of scene 2. Viktoria Yastrebova manages to extract some dignity from the woe-is-me role of Freia and Zlata Bulycheva delivers Erda’s speech with a resigned sadness that is quite moving.

Mostly, Gergiev keeps the dramatic momentum intact, even during such finger-drumming passages as the piling up of the gold around Freia in the last scene. The conductor’s first statement of the Valhalla theme has a quiet majesty—a perfect setup for Pape’s majestic vocal presence. The descent into Nibelheim is taken at a headlong tempo and the passage where the gods reveal clinical evidence of Golden Apple Deficiency Syndrome is magical. The Gods’ Entrance into Valhalla is rendered with a sonorous solidity, for better or worse absent the ironic, hollow pomp of many other versions.

With surround sound, the mix provides a third-of-the-way-back-in-the-hall sonic perspective. There’s no artificial “spotlighting” of singers: if the orchestra (very) occasionally overwhelms a vocalist, you can be sure that’s the way it was in the hall at the sessions. Mariinsky provides a German/English libretto; there’s an essay and artist bios printed in Russian, English, French, and German.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  René Pape (Bass), Andrei Popov (Tenor), Ekaterina Gubanova (Mezzo Soprano),
Nikolai Putilin (Baritone), Alexey Markov (Baritone), Viktoria Yastrebova (Soprano),
Zlata Bulycheva (Mezzo Soprano), Sergey Semishkur (Tenor)
Conductor:  Valery Gergiev
Orchestra/Ensemble:  St. Petersburg Mariinsky Theater Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 

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