Siegfried – unlike Walküre and Götterdammerung – is hardly ever performed except as part of a complete Ring. The most self-conscious of the four in the use of leitmotives, it is as if Wagner suddenly took his theories to heart, instead of allowing his genius to unfold naturally, as in Rheingold and Walküre. The trick, for a conductor, is to ignore what Debussy called “the musical City Directory” and make the work flow unhampered; Fisch is very impressive here.
The important new singer is Gary Rideout (Siegfried) ... he sings with great musical intelligence (his scene before Brünnhilde awakens is magical). Richard Greager (Mime) is one of the few members of the cast who really“acts” with his vocal shadings. Shu-Cheen Yu (Woodbird) is lovely.
The hall in which these recordings were made must have wonderful acoustics, for none of the singers seem to be straining. The recorded sound is the best the Ring has yet received. (Decca’s epochal Solti Ring was state-of-the art for its time. Melba’s is now.) This means that much more of the orchestral textures (albeit aided by Fisch’s excellent balances) are audible. If Götterdammerung is assuccessful as the three operas already released, Melba will have offered a prime Ring in marvellous sound.