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Wagner: Siegfried / De Billy, Polaski, Clark, Treleaven

Wagner / Treleaven / Clark / Polaski / De Billy
Release Date: 06/21/2005 
Label:  Opus Arte   Catalog #: 912  
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Deborah PolaskiJohn TreleavenEric HalfvarsonGraham Clark,   ... 
Conductor:  Bertrand De Billy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Teatro Liceu Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The third installment of Harry Kupfer’s Ring, as performed in Barcelona at the Gran Theatre del Liceu during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, impresses with both musical and production values, as did the two previous releases. ( Das Rheingold was covered in Fanfare 29:1 and Die Walküre in 29:2.) The ancient ash tree from which Wotan fashioned his spear continues to disintegrate, as the natural world is torn apart by the ambitions of humankind. Act Read more I’s brief Prelude finds Alberich exploring the forest with a flashlight before descending into a hole to emerge in Mime’s cave, a factory-like space dominated by what appears to be a giant propeller or exhaust fan—technology is on the rise as a force opposed to nature.

Siegfried proceeds as a series of dialogues between pairs of characters—Mime and Siegfried, Mime and The Wanderer, The Wanderer and Alberich, Mime and Alberich, the Wanderer and Siegfried, Siegfried and Brünnhilde. The essence of Wagner’s sharply drawn personages come alive in this performance as a result of these interactions—the affinities, conflicts, and tensions that drive the drama on. Most of the major roles are kept constant from the previous operas in the cycle. Falk Struckmann is a majestic yet calmly resigned Wanderer, Deborah Polaski a lyrically vulnerable Brünnhilde, Günter von Kannen a short-of-entirely-contemptible Alberich, and Andrea Bönig, entangled in glowing ropes, is a timelessly knowing Erde. Thankfully, Graham Clark, who stole the show as Loge in Das Rheingold, returns as Mime, here looking like that skanky auto mechanic who overcharged you for your last brake job. As always, his facial expressions are priceless and the gracefully mobile Clark is all over the set. Eric Halfvarson, Walküre’ s Hunding, is back as Fafner. After Siegfried has mortally wounded him, he’s transformed back to his earlier incarnation as a giant and, as a result, his dying words to the clueless hero are more poignant than usual.

Let’s face it. The opera world isn’t exactly oversupplied with Melchior-grade heldentenors these days, but the British singer John Treleaven is a credible Siegfried. He’s big, loutish, childlike, and generically good-looking, even if his voice is a bit gray and lacks much ring on top (though it does possess an appealing warmth in its middle register.) Treleaven is certainly not the first Siegfried to run out of steam at the end of the opera; back in act I, however, his forging song is exultant.

As with the earlier releases, this Siegfried is fun to watch. There’s the occasional telling touch. When Siegfried pauses to play his famous horn call before battling Fafner, The Wanderer, in the background, plays a couple of phrases on his own horn; despite protestations to the contrary, the young hero is clearly the god’s agent, just as his father was. In the first act, as Siegfried finishes reconstituting Notung, the monstrous fan/propeller starts spinning and, just before the curtain descends, he plunges the sword into the thing, shearing off the turning blades with a shower of sparks—a nice change from the usual splitting-the-anvil-in-half bit we usually witness.

Other than the occasional cracked horn note, orchestral execution was quite good at the two live performances from June of 2004 used to create the video. Bertrand de Billy has the full measure of the material, accompanying crisply when Siegfried and Mime are having at each other, luxuriantly when Brünnhilde and her rescuer are discovering their mutual attraction. Subtitles are in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Catalan. In English, at least, these can be a bit clunky. (Siegfried: “Then the anxiety of wondering whether Brünnhilde is now mine will be extinguished.”) The audio formats are PCM stereo and DTS surround. Opus Arte has been strangely inconsistent with their use of the center speaker in the multichannel version over the course of this Ring. With Die Walküre, its implementation was apparent; here, as with Rheingold, it’s nearly silent. Nevertheless, the surround program delivers an ideal balance of voices and orchestra, strikingly similar to the aural picture that the faithful get at Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus each summer.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
Running time: 256 mins
Region Code: All regions
Picture format: 16:9 Anamorphic
Sound format: DTS Surround / LPCM Stereo
Menu languages: English
Subtitles: English/French/German/Spanish/Italian

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Works on This Recording

Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Deborah Polaski (Soprano), John Treleaven (Tenor), Eric Halfvarson (Bass Baritone),
Graham Clark (Tenor), Falk Struckmann (Baritone)
Conductor:  Bertrand De Billy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Teatro Liceu Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 

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