Wagner: Die Walküre

Stephen Clark
3MBS Libretto Magazine (Australia)

This has been a long awaited release. Indeed, at the performances of the Adelaide Ring Cycle in late 2004, the complete recording was mooted to be ready March 2006. The project has been and obviously still is a labour of love for Melba Recordings. The wait was been well worth it, albeit in four separate stages; a new crisp, clear account of the second opera in Richard Wagner’s might tetralogy featuring mostly Australian artists.

The glory of this set begins with the Siegmund and Sieglinde, sung by Stuart Skelton and Deborah Riedel respectively. Their singing is effortless and complementary, both truly inside the roles of these doomed lovers. Richard Green’s Hunding is as dark and as calculating a villain as you are likely to experience. Elizabeth Campbell demonstrates a highly moral Fricka, simultaneously allowing her humanity and single-minded strength to shine through. Her waspish asides to Brünnhilde are enough to level all but the strongest of opponents, which is just what we have from Lisa Gasteen's Brünnhilde; tough, strong, unbending, but also tender and sympathetic … John Bröcheler [is] a Wotan of immense strength though capable of heart-warming compassion … The overall effect is what’s important and, although on stage, most of what was so affecting by father and daughter is impossible to “see”, the listener to this CD set cannot be unmoved by the moments that Brünnhilde and Wotan have together.

The chorus of Valkyries is a feisty group, all singing with exceptional clarity, with each sister retaining her individuality when required. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra excels in this set, as it should, under the direction of conductor Asher Fisch. His pacing of this opera, indeed the whole cycle, kept the events of the story moving, allowing the full emotion of each scene to guide the listener through the minefield of this compelling saga.

This is the first Ring Cycle to be recorded and available in 6-channel Super Audio CD (SACD). This is to be admired, and, given the quality of the sound, has been an enormous success … There is no doubt that the sound is superior, even on regular systems … The balance is clear, the voices forward, the orchestra slightly to the rear … much of the stage noise reduced and very little audience intrusion. A commendable technological feat …

Ring fans will want this set for their collection, and it does stand very well alongside previous recordings. We wait in anticipation for the remaining three sets