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Wagner: Die Walküre / Fisch, Gasteen, Riedel, Skelton

Release Date: 05/06/2006 
Label:  Melba   Catalog #: 301091   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Lisa Harper-BrownElizabeth StannardElizabeth CampbellLiane Keegan,   ... 
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Adelaide Symphony OrchestraState Opera of South Australia
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 3 Hours 43 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"This is, without reservation, the most astounding night of theatre the Festival Center has ever witnessed. It is probably without parallel in Australian opera history for its courage and audacity. Each act was greeted with tumultuous applause and the final scene with a ten minute standing ovation."
The Adelaide Advertiser (Die Walkure). 19 November 2004

"Australia's First Homegrown Ring a Triumph. The State Opera of South Australia has set an almost impossibly high standard for all future operatic performances in this country, and takes its place in the international sphere" Musical America.com 24 November 2004

"Australia's first-ever Ring distinguishes itself on a great many
Read more levels. Perhaps the most remarkable is the way The State Opera of South Australia's bold new cycle gains a local flavour without compromising on the universality of its themes." Financial Times (London) 30 November 2004.

The first impressive thing you note about this truly extraordinary Walküre is the playing of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. With a recording that is as technically superb as this one--and taken from a live performance at that--we are able to hear much of the score close-up, and this performance has some of the most remarkable playing I've ever heard. At the opera's start, the low strings are vicious and relentless. In the Wotan/Brünnhlide scene in the second act they play with great warmth while the soft brass seem gentle, sad, and understanding (if I may anthropomorphize for a moment) when they're supposed to, and can nearly overwhelm with their power at other moments. The woodwinds play clearly and cleanly throughout. Conductor Asher Fisch must get the credit for this, I presume, as he expertly manages the orchestra's general phrasing and the tension with which scenes mount. Like Karajan, he sees the private moments of the opera in a chamber-music light, but his tempos are quicker.

The first act, handsomely sung by tenor Stuart Skelton, soprano Deborah Reidel, and bass Richard Green, is a bit tame vocally, but the singers gather dramatic momentum as the opera continues, and the last 40 minutes of the sceond act are nearly overwhelming. Skelton is the real thing--a heldentenor with a baritonal lower tinge that brightens as it rises, and stunning breath control (his cries of "Wälse!" seem to go on forever). His graduation to Siegfried, should he decide on it, will be an event. Reidel's Sieglinde is girlish but vibrant, and she has the power to pull out the stops in the last act.

John Bröchler as Wotan begins a bit wobbly but soon settles into one of the most compelling readings of the role in modern times. He holds nothing back, and if the tone is sometimes raw and is rarely luxurious, well, so be it--he gets to the character's core. His anger in Act 3, perhaps because of the rapid tempos at which he must hurl this rage, is the most frighteningly furious I have ever heard, and his soft singing near the opera's close is the work of a master.

The Brünnhilde of Lisa Gasteen begins very poorly, with the repeated sustained Bs of her Battle Cry sour and shrill, but the only word for the rest of her performance is "magnificent". Her voice is warm and perfectly focused, with plenty of body in the all-important middle range, and her attention to the text (and flawless diction and rhythm) make her every utterance seem absolutely natural. She and Wotan present us with an intimate and sad family situation that is heartbreaking in its honesty. The Valkyries are a fine bunch, and their various placements around the stage lends their scene a real vitality.

I guess that given the profusion of Walküres on the market going back 50 years, with their contributions from individual singers such as Varnay, Nilsson, Hotter, Vickers, et al., not to mention conductors like Böhm, Karajan, Furtwängler, Krauss, and Solti, will not allow for a favorite. But this new set is marvelous in many ways and deserves to be heard.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Lisa Harper-Brown (Soprano), Elizabeth Stannard (Soprano), Elizabeth Campbell (Soprano),
Liane Keegan (Alto), Zan McKendree-Wright (Mezzo Soprano), Kate Ladner (Soprano),
Gaye MacFarlane (Soprano), Jennifer Barnes (Soprano), Richard Green (Bass),
Donna-Maree Dunlop (Soprano), Elizabeth Campbell (Mezzo Soprano), Deborah Riedel (Soprano),
John Bröcheler (Baritone), Stuart Skelton (Tenor), Lisa Gasteen (Soprano)
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Adelaide Symphony Orchestra,  State Opera of South Australia
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2004 
Venue:  Live  Adelaide Festival Theatre 
Length: 223 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: Festival Adelaide, Australia (11/16/2004 - 12/12/2004) 

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