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A tremendous conclusion

'Twilight of the Gods'
from Bayreuth -
reviewed by

'... well worth waiting for.'

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

With the final instalment of the Ring, focus shifts more strongly to Brünnhilde. The singer must pace herself carefully in this long and tiring role, but still remain a vital force in the complicated politics which take up much of the opera. Here Wagner also created a change of pace; by the time he came to write the music for Götterdämmerung he had changed his opinion about traditional operatic devices, so for the first time in the Ring we have traditional choruses and operatic ensembles.

For the first scene of the prologue, the three Norns Birgitta Svenden, Linda Finnie and Uta Priew make a well balanced group and I could have only wished that their individual narrations had perhaps a little more drama. This scene is a tricky one to really bring off and is too easily neglected. Here I did not find it as gripping as it could have been, though Barenboim's accompaniment was thrilling at times.

For the second scene of the prologue we return to Brünnhilde (Anne Evans) and Siegfried (Siegfried Jerusalem). For this post-coital love duet Wagner gives the loves a remarkably different style of music to the energetic close of Siegfried. It is a style which suits Evans' well shaped, lyrical approach to Brünnhilde and I could have wished that Jerusalem could have modulated his rather bright tone somewhat to balance her. As in Siegfried though, I felt that Barenboim, Evans and Jerusalem did not give us the feeling of unstoppable passion that should be a feature of the glorious close to this scene. Passion is there, undoubtedly, but not quite with the overwhelming feeling that it should have.

Siegfried's Rhine Journey, which leads into Act 1, is more than an orchestral showpiece: it is an important transition between worlds. For in this Act, for the first time in the cycle, Siegfried is plunged into the world of men; Gunther and Gutrune are the first real humans that we have met (so far we have met only Giants, Dwarves, Gods and demi-Gods). Barenboim responds to the challenge beautifully and gives us a Rhine Journey which is both thrilling orchestrally and responsive to the gradual change in atmosphere.

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Copyright © 9 August 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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