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Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen / Grimsley, Mellor, Blythe, Vinke, Fisch, Seattle Opera


Release Date: 09/09/2014 
Label:  Avie   Catalog #: 2313   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Richard Wagner
Performer:  Stefan VinkeGreer GrimsleyAlwyn MellorStephanie Blythe,   ... 
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony OrchestraSeattle Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 14 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Nearly 40 years ago, a small regional company in the Pacific Northwest decided to scale arguably the greatest height of operatic repertoire, Wagner’s Ring. That amazing feat launched a legendary tradition that has become universally known as the Seattle Ring, a destination for the cycle’s legions of devotees from around the world. Now, the fabled history of the Seattle Ring has been captured for commercial release for the very first time! The Seattle Ring is luxuriously packaged in a sturdy box, containing 14 CDs in color cardboard wallets and five 100-page perfect-bound books — one for each of the Ring’s four librettos, in original German with English translations, plus a commemorative four-color booklet containing essays by Speight Read more Jenkins and numerous photos documenting the 2013 Seattle Ring.

“Like a towering fir tree that survives after the primeval forest around it has vanished, the Seattle Opera’s production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle now stands alone as the only traditional depiction of the epic music drama on the American stage.” – The Associated Press

The Seattle Opera’s well received 2013 Ring Cycle has come and gone, but its generally terrific singing lives on in this CD release. As both Fricka and the Gotterdämmerung Waltraute, Stephanie Blythe commands attention for her rich lower register, dramatic intensity, and subtle word painting. Greer Grimsley sustains rapt attention throughout Wotan’s long second-act music in Die Walküre, plus, in Siegfried, a combination of mystery and authority as the Wanderer throughout his central first-act scene with Mime. The latter comes to characterful life via Dennis Petersen’s vivid portrayal, as does Das Rheingold’s other character tenor part Loge with Mark Schowalter. Markus Brück’s excellently sung Gunther matches his Janowski/Berlin performance from just a few months earlier.

Ideally I would prefer a darker, nastier vocal quality to Hagen than Daniel Sumegi delivers, but Stuart Skelton and Margaret Jane Wray are strong, clear, and ardent as the Walsung twins. As for the Ring’s other star couple, Alwyn Mellor is one of today’s most consistent, vocally reliable, and dramatically focused Brünnhildes of recent times, while Stefan Vinke’s Siegfried tends to be overly loud and even tense in exposed climactic moments.

Asher Fisch’s animated tempos prove more assiduously integrated in comparison with parts of his earlier live Ring with the State Opera of South Australia. Gotterdämmerung’s grander Funeral March and stronger rhythmic impetus in the Immolation Scene are cases in point, although Die Walküre’s opening storm music is slower and heavier-handed. But the Seattle musicians yield to their Australian colleagues’ blended finesse and tonal sumptuousness. This may be due in part to the engineering, which captures the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall’s ambient warmth, yet sometimes skews the orchestral balances. Take the Giants’ arrival in Das Rheingold’s second scene, for example, where the elemental string motive seems to fade in and out while the brass punctuations take center stage. If only we could morph the Australian Ring’s surround-sound production and orchestra with Seattle’s singers.

All four operas are attractively packaged with excellent introductory essays, full texts and translations, and enough full-color photographs to give an idea of Thomas Lynch’s “eco-friendly”, nature-oriented set designs. In short, Wagner enthusiasts curious about this justly acclaimed production, not to mention those who selectively collect Ring Cycles, will not be disappointed.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Stefan Vinke (Tenor), Greer Grimsley (Bass Baritone), Alwyn Mellor (Soprano),
Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano), Margaret Jane Wray (Soprano), Stuart Skelton (Tenor)
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  Seattle Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853-1874; Germany 
2.
Das Rheingold by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  Seattle Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854; Germany 
3.
Die Walküre by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  Seattle Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
4.
Siegfried by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  Seattle Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; Germany 
5.
Götterdämmerung by Richard Wagner
Conductor:  Asher Fisch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Seattle Symphony Orchestra,  Seattle Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871-1874; Germany 

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