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We know, of course, that Fafner will win the day in Rheingold: to replace the unavailable Mark Richardson with as good a singer as Julian Close was a Graham/Privett masterstroke. The Siegfried bellowings resounded; the death rants, sung on his side before he crawls wurm-like into the wings, were admirable. And Close's nasty, shifting canterings with a shovel before he fells his unfortunate brother and humorously lops off his arm to acquire the ring were shiveringly unpleasant.

This top-notch young singer has had practice, playing the awful 'Dad' (Laius) in Mark-Anthony Turnage's Greek (ie Oedipus) at the Royal Northern College of Music, as well as a slobbishly sprawling Pistol in Stefan Janski's polished RNCM staging of Falstaff (with the young Darren Jeffery in the title role). Close had experience, too, at playing the elemental figure in the wild, as a wonderful Water Sprite -- a role he should be snapped up for anywhere -- in Robert Secret and Ian McKillop's magnificently murky Stowe staging of Dvorák's Rusalka.

Julian Close (right) as the Water Sprite in Stowe Opera's 1992 staging of Rusalka
Julian Close (right) as the Water Sprite in Stowe Opera's 1992 staging of Rusalka

Lithe, long and rubbery, Close has arguably one of the most interesting voices -- and presences -- on the British operatic stage today. A Grand Inquisitor beckons soon : the leading jobs should be pouring in, and Germany (Berlin, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Munich), needs to discover him soon too, before America notices him. A Fafner of aristocratic calibre.

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Copyright © 15 August 2004 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK


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