CDs / DVDs, 05. August 2008
Anyone who loves Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen will have to hear this 2007 release of Siegfried. The main reason for this is because it is the first recording to use the Neue Richard-Wagner-Gesamtausgabe edition of the opera. And though the differences will hardly be noticeable to the majority of listeners -- most of the changes have to do with details of articulation, phrasing, and balance -- these differences will be enough for true believers. The secondary reason for this is because this is the first super audio recording of the work and the depth of detail now audible will overwhelm listeners who think they know the work backward and forward.

But beyond these considerations, this is still a fascinating, even gripping account of the most often overlooked of the four Ring operas. And the main reason for this is the leadership of Hartmut Haenchen. Though some conductors have gone deeper into the work's cosmic drama and others have gone deeper into its mythic underpinnings, Haenchen places the work firmly in the tradition of Grimm's Fairy Tales. In his interpretation, Act I is suffused with ominous dread, Act II with bold heroism, and Act III with a happily ever after ending that should cap all good fairy tales. Beyond that, of course, Haenchen is a skillful conductor who leads the Nederlandse Philharmonisch Orkest and a mostly first-rate cast in a beautifully balanced and wonderfully paced reading of the work that rivals Sawallisch's. One might quibble here and there with the cast -- need Stig Andersen's Siegfried be quite so blustery in Act I? need Linda Watson's Brünnhilde be quite so aggressive in Act III? -- but one could hardly complain of Günter von Kannen's vile Alberich, Graham Clark's slippery Mime, Mario Luperi's frightening Fafner or especially Albert Dohmen's splendid Wanderer. Some might legitimately note that the Voice of the Wood Bird being sung by Robin Schlotz from the Tölzer Knabenchor is less immediately attractive than some of the star sopranos who have taken the role, but the effect of having a boy soprano take the part is undeniably more immediately arresting.
James Leonard
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