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Barenboim's 'Siegfried' -
in the continuing set of reviews by ROBERT HUGILL

'... a highly listenable, dramatic experience.'

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen. Daniel Barenboim. Bayreuth Festival Choir and Orchestra. © 1993, 1994 Teldec Classics, 2005 Warner Classics

Act 1 of Siegfried has interesting parallels with Act 1 of Die Walküre: both involve just a trio of protagonists in a tightly coupled situation, so much of their dramatic effectiveness depends on the balance and interaction of the singers.

In Siegfried Graham Clark (Mime), Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegfried) and John Tomlinson (Wanderer/Wotan) make a wonderfully balanced, dynamic group of protagonists. Thanks to them, in this Act dramatic interest remains firmly on the stage rather than in the orchestra. Clark's voice is bright and characterful -- he sang Loge earlier on in the cycle -- and he makes a very vivid Mime. There are times when he seems to lapse into caricature and over brightness, lack of depth to his voice can become wearing.

But in his dialogues with the Wanderer he provides vivid characterisation which balances Tomlinson very well, thus preventing their '20 questions' from seeming lopsided. Tomlinson's Wanderer seems a little calmer than his Wotan earlier in the cycle; well perhaps not calmer, but certainly less neurotic. This is only right as the Wanderer has become a little world weary.

As Siegfried, Jerusalem was a revelation [listen -- CD7 track 29, 0:05-1:23]. True, he lacks the ideal bright ringing tone at the top of his voice and his vocal sound remains a little too mature for the young Siegfried, but he more than makes up for this with his acting and tireless vocalism. In lesser hands Act 1 can become a little tiresome, but Jerusalem, Clark and Tomlinson, aided of course by Barenboim, make it speed by.

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Copyright © 8 August 2005 Robert Hugill, Strasbourg, France


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