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Wagner: Love Duets / Domingo, Voigt, Pappano, Covent Garden

Release Date: 08/15/2000 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 57004   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Deborah VoigtPlacido DomingoVioleta Urmana
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 57 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

After all these years, Domingo's is still the most beautiful voice - the most richly firm and even - that we have heard on recordings of this music, and Pappano brings a renewing spirit to everything he touches.

All contributions to this recording deserve their comment, but I suppose it will be generally agreed that the most important one is Wagner's, and this has rather more to it than may meet the eye. It appears that in 1862, three years before the opera's premiere, Wagner hoped that the Schnorrs, his original Tristan and Isolde, would give part of the Love duet in a concert performance. This never took place, and nothing was known about the musical preparations Wagner made for the event until 1950; even then it
Read more seems the material remained unexamined, and certainly unused, until very recently. Omitting the first 15 minutes or so, the duet was to start at '0 sink hernieder' and continue to the end, including in it the interpolations of Brangäne. The question which forms in the listener's mind as the end approaches is how that is to be managed. This supreme expression of eroticism in music culminates in erotic catastrophe. It is hard to imagine a concert performance ending with the rude abruptness of the score, but worse to think of its possible closure (as in some early recordings) on a glib and alien major chord. I am not going to say what Wagner does - that would be like revealing the end of a novel - but would suggest at least that it constitutes a stroke of genius; it has that kind of simplicity and rightness that evokes a cry of 'But of course!', almost as though one had thought of it oneself - which assuredly one had not. Unfortunately the booklet provides no information on the genesis of this ending.

The next subject of general concern will probably be Domingo and his success or otherwise in meeting the challenges of these formidable roles, Siegfried and Tristan, if only in excerpts. Amazing as it is to relate, after all these years and all this unsparing usage, his is still the most beautiful voice - the most richly firm and even - that we have heard on recordings of this music. I leave it to native German speakers to criticise his pronunciation if need be; to me it seems self-defeating and gratuitous for others to cavil. He is exact and lyrical in his reading of the music, and is largely if not invariably, imaginative and convincing in his dramatic commitment. Voigt impresses as being less successfully 'in character', especially as the Siegfried Brünnhilde, whose exaltation and wonder lack the majesty of her godly state as they do the excitement of her humanity. The fresh and vibrant tones are good to hear even so, as is the firm-voiced mezzo of Violets Urmana's Brangäne.

The Covent Garden orchestra play for Pappano with fine attentiveness and exhilaration, and it seems that he brings a renewing spirit to everything he touches.

-- John Steane, Gramophone [Editor's Choice, 9/2000]


For all the experience and star quality Domingo and Voigt bring to this recording, its real greatness lies in the conducting of Antonio Pappano. From the mesmerising orchestral waves of Siegfried Act III, Scene 3, here marvellously sustained and sculpted, to its quickening and blazing crescendo, there is an absolute mastery of the line and pacing. After the exchange with its heaving swings of emotion, Voigt draws in a rapt pianissimo. Pappano brings louring erotic urgency to the murmuring orchestral accompaniment under Brünnhilde’s ‘As my blood streams in torrents towards you’, handling the subtextual surge with visionary freedom. Domingo’s staccato, nervy response is just one highlight in a performance of great range and spontaneity: he may be an old Siegfried, and not as rich in timbre as he once was, but he uses his voice with the optimum economy for maximum expression. His ‘O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe’ from Tristan is intensely focused, while Voigt reins in her powerful soprano to fit this more concentrated performance. The acoustic is unusually fine, intimate, not over-resonant, but warmly glowing.

This recording is also special for its world premiere recording of Wagner’s own concert version of the Act II love duet from Tristan und Isolde, written in 1862 for his two favourite singers Ludwig and Malvina Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Barenboim apparently discovered it in the Wagner archive in Bayreuth and passed it to Pappano, once his assistant in Berlin. The arrangement elides the cruelly interrupted love scene into the Liebestod. Disorientating at first, the join creates its own coherence, the passionate scene leading to its immediate resolution. Violeta Urmana as Brangäne, far from having real alarm in her scream, hypnotises with loveliness. And the end of the Liebestod flows swiftly on into a heavenly reverie. If this is anything to go by, we have some wonderful Wagner in store at the Royal Opera House when Pappano takes up his post of music director.

Performance: 5 (out of 5), Sound: 5 (out of 5)

-- BBC Music Magazine


...the lyricism of Ms. Voigt's and Mr. Domingo's work here is deeply satisfying...it is a pleasure to hear Wagner sung by highly intelligent musicians, impressively alert to rhythmic values, accents and dynamics...

-- The New York Times [10/22/00]
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Works on This Recording

Siegfried: Act 3, Scene 3 by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Deborah Voigt (Soprano), Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
Date of Recording: 08/1999 
Venue:  Colosseum, Watford, England 
Length: 35 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Language: German 
Tristan und Isolde: Act 2, Scene 2 by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Violeta Urmana (Mezzo Soprano), Deborah Voigt (Soprano), Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Conductor:  Antonio Pappano
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857-1859; Germany 
Date of Recording: 01/2000 
Venue:  EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London 
Length: 23 Minutes 55 Secs. 
Language: German 
Notes: Ver: Concert 

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