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It is when we reach the climax of this opera, the encounter between Siegfried and Brünnhilde, that the problems start for me. This is where personal taste starts to rear its head, a very tricky point in reviews. I found Anne Evans's Brünnhilde a disappointment. True, she produces a rich, well formed sound and shapes the phrases beautifully. But in her opening Heil dir Sonne I missed the glorious ringing upper tones that other singers have brought to this [listen -- CD10 track 8, 2:24-3:56]. The scene can be most moving, after all she is waking up after 20 years' sleep. Barenboim and the orchestra produce a glorious wall of sound, but that is part of the problem; throughout the whole of these final scenes, Barenboim seems to be oblivious to the fact that his leading lady has only a medium sized hoch-dramatisch voice and that, quite sensibly, she is being a little cautious with her resources. With a bit of support from Barenboim, keeping the orchestra down at key moments, Anne Evans's contribution would be a little more impressive. But there is also a mismatch between the styles of Evans and Jerusalem. Jerusalem sings these scenes with consistently bright (loud) tone, something that is understandable given that he has been on stage for five hours. But there is a real difference in volume and vocal quality between him and Evans, in the competitive sing sections of the duet he wins, hands down; when it comes to voice, this is no match of equals [listen -- CD10 track 8, 5:41-6:28].

Evans, with her beautifully shaped phrases, sounds rather low key and not as carried away as she ought to. She does get worked up, but never seems to quite let go, and I feel that her Brünnhilde has a sensible schoolmistressy element. For his part, Barenboim paces these scenes in a way which means the ending does not feel like the overwhelming rush of uncontrollable passion that it should be. After all, as the curtain comes down we should get the feeling that Brünnhilde and Siegfried are tearing the clothes off each other in a desperate urge to consummate their love. It is that desperate urge which is missing here.

Other people may have different ideas, of course, and feel that Evans's approach is perfect for them.

At this stage of the proceedings it is probably worthwhile stating that the impressive nature of the recorded sound, orchestral contribution and sheer physical beauty and style of the orchestra remain a great asset in this set. When it comes to the orchestral detail, Barenboim's Ring is wonderfully rich and notable for its sheer beauty.

Too often, you find tenors in Siegfried spend the first two acts holding rather too much in reserve for the final duet, or are excessively tired by the time that they come to sing with a fresh-voiced Brünnhilde. So the real marvel of this set is the Siegfried of Siegfried Jerusalem. He might not have the perfect helden-tenor voice but his consistency of delivery, throughout this long role, is impressive. This, combined with his dramatic instincts, make this set a highly listenable, dramatic experience.

Continue to 'Götterdämmerung' >>

Copyright © 8 August 2005 Robert Hugill, Strasbourg, France


Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Siegfried

2564 62091-2 DDD Stereo REISSUE (14 CDs) 74'51"/ 74'18"/ 65'54"/ 49'13"/ 45'09"/ 75'52"/ 77'44"/ 42'54"/ 51'08"/ 68'23"/ 54'03"/ 69'45"/ 66'29"/ 76'56"/ 59'00" - TT 15h51'39" 1993,1994 Teldec Classics, 2005 Warner Classics

John Tomlinson, Wotan; Bodo Brinkmann, Donner; Kurt Schreibmayer, Froh; Graham Clark, Loge; Linda Finnie, Fricka; Eva Johansson, Freia; Birgitta Svendén, Erda; Günter von Kannen, Alberich; Helmut Pampuch, Mime; Matthias Hölle, Fasolt; Philip Kang, Fafner; Hilde Leidland, Woglinde; Annette Küttenbaum, Wellgunde; Jane Turner, Flosshilde; Poul Elming, Siegmund; Matthias Hölle, Hunding; Nadine Secunde, Sieglinde; Anne Evans, Brünnhilde; Linda Finnie, Siegrune; Eva Johansson, Gerhilde; Ruth Floeren, Ortlinde; Shirley Close, Waltraute; Hitomi Katagiri, Schwertleite; Eva-Maria Bundschuh, Helmwige; Birgitta Svendén, Grimgerde; Hebe Dijkstra, Rossweisse; Siegfried Jerusalem, Siegfried; Graham Clark, Mime; John Tomlinson, Der Wanderer; Hilde Leidland, Waldvogel; Bodo Brinkmann, Gunther; Philip Kang, Hagen; Eva-Maria Bundschuh, Gutrune; Waltraud Meier, Waltraute; Birgitta Svendén, Erste Norn; Linda Finnie, Zweite Norn; Uta Priew, Dritte Norn; Hilde Leidland, Woglinde; Annette Küttenbaum, Wellgunde; Jane Turner, Flosshilde; Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele; Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Richard Wagner (1813-1883): Das Rheingold (1876); Die Walküre (1851-6); Siegfried (1851-71); Götterdämmerung (1848-74)





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