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Wagner: Das Rheingold / Fisch, Bröcheler, Campbell

Release Date: 04/03/2007 
Label:  Melba   Catalog #: 301089   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Natalie JonesZan McKendree-WrightDonna-Maree DunlopDavid Hibbard,   ... 
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Multi 
Length: 2 Hours 29 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

WAGNER Das Rheingold Asher Fisch, cond; John Bröcheler ( Wotan ); John Wegner ( Alberich ); Christopher Doig ( Loge ); Richard Greager ( Mime ); Andrew Collis ( Fasolt ); David Hibbard ( Fafner ); Elizabeth Campbell ( Read more class="ARIAL12i">Fricka ); Kate Ladner ( Freia ); Liane Keegan ( Erda ); Timothy DuFore ( Donner ); Andrew Brunsdon ( Froh ); Natalie Jones ( Woglinde ); Donna-Maree Dunlop ( Wellgunde ); Zan McKendree-Wright ( Flosshilde ); Adelaide SO MELBA 301089 (2 Hybrid multichannel SACDs: 149:04 & ) Live: Adelaide 11–12/2004

The first complete Wagner opera to appear on SACD was Melba’s Die Walküre, a 2006 Want List selection of mine. The second is this Rheingold, also courtesy of the State Opera of South Australia and Asher Fisch. As with the earlier release, this one’s a sonic marvel, especially for those who undertake surround sound. The stereo DSD version provides excellent vocal/orchestral balances and a good sense of occasion, but multichannel offers significantly better dynamics, tons of “air,” and increased textural clarity—always of great benefit with Wagner, allowing a listener to attend to more than one musical event at a time. Scene 1’s Prelude begins with a center-of-the-earth solidity, progressing to immerse the listener in a great tension-creating crescendo that builds to the Rhinemaidens’ entrance. The descent into Nibelheim is very effective, thanks not only to Fisch’s propulsive leadership but also to a dimensional mass of anvils. At the opera’s close, the Rhinemaidens are distantly placed (with their own harp), true to the composer’s intentions.

Every one of the singers is accomplished, though some are more ideally suited to their role than others are. There can be no reservations about John Bröcheler, as commanding a Wotan here as he was in Walküre. His rich-voiced and expressive performance affirms he’s as good as anyone is in the part these days. (Bröcheler can also be seen in The Netherlands Opera’s DVD Ring on Opus Arte, covered in Fanfare 30:1.) John Wegner, the Alberich, is also a seasoned Wagner singer with Bayreuth credentials. One may wish for a little more snarl and edginess to his delivery; at times, he sounds too much like a Wotan. (In fact, Wegner has sung plenty of Wotan/Wanderers and has recorded the role for an obscure German label.) Similarly, some will prefer a lighter and more agile voice for Loge than Christopher Doig’s. His singing is very appealing, but he doesn’t sound quite crafty enough.

Richard Greager’s Mime is just right—miserable, desperate, self-pitying. The giants both possess big, solid voices and actually sound like brothers, but Fafner (David Hibbard) immediately registers as the more hard-nosed of the pair while Fasolt (Andrew Collis) gets a little sappy at the prospect of giving up Freia. The goddesses are fine (Liane Keegan’s Erda exudes dignity); Donner and Froh are suitably heroic, and the Rhinemaidens possess distinctive voices that make it easy to tell them apart, while still blending beautifully.

Fisch keeps things moving along. In fact, although the timing of this Rheingold is similar to many others, it sometimes feels hurried: one wishes, for example, that the conductor would allow a dramatic pause after Alberich’s panicked “Der Ring?” in scene 4. The opera’s final minutes don’t have a maximal feeling of hollow pomp.

Melba’s packaging is luxuriant, though stage directions would be helpful with the libretto. The uninitiated will wonder what the Adelaide audience was tittering about when Wotan and Loge capture Alberich-as-toad in scene 3. Wagnerians will have other preferred versions of Das Rheingold— I’m currently loyal to Barenboim’s 1991 Bayreuth performance, splendidly cast and available on both CD and DVD. But sonically oriented types will surely want to continue to acquire Melba’s cycle.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Natalie Jones (Soprano), Zan McKendree-Wright (Mezzo Soprano), Donna-Maree Dunlop (Soprano),
David Hibbard (Bass), Andrew Collis (Bass), Richard Greager (Tenor),
John Wegner (Baritone), Liane Keegan (Alto), Kate Ladner (Soprano),
Elizabeth Campbell (Soprano), Andrew Brunsdon (Baritone), Christopher Doig (Tenor),
John Bröcheler (Bass), Timothy Du Fore (Baritone)
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
Venue:  Live  Festival Adelaide, Australia 
Length: 149 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: Festival Adelaide, Australia (11/16/2004 - 12/12/2004) 

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