Richard Wagner’s hugely ambitious opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) took more than a quarter of a century to create. Based loosely on characters from the Norse sagas and taking as its subject a mythic-symbolic history of the world from creation to its destruction and redemption, this may be the most challenging and monolithic piece of music ever written. The controversial composer was an anti-semitic ego-maniac given to excessive gambling and womanising, but he was also single-mindedly ruthless in creating work that had a revolutionary influence on the course of Western music. Der Ring des Nibelungen is his largest and most famous composition and consists of four operas, three of which last for about four hours, and was originally intended for performance over four successive nights. Loosely based on characters from the Norse sagas and the Nibelungenlied, Wagner’s Ring tells the story of a magic ring made by the dwarf Alberich from gold stolen from the Rhine. The complicated plot also involves the god Wotan, hero Siegfried and a wild horsewoman of the air, Brünnhilde. The music is richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds. Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments invented especially for the work. This 2-disc SACD set of ‘highlights’ includes excerpts from the remarkable Melba recordings featuring Asher Fisch and the State Opera of South Australia’s thrilling performances of the four operas given in Adelaide in 2004. The outstanding cast of singers includes John Bröcheler (Wotan), Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde), Gary Rideout and Timothy Mussard (Siegfried), Stuart Skelton (Siegmund), Deborah Riedel (Sieglinde), John Wegner (Alberich) and Richard Greager (Mime). Immaculately recorded in 5.1 surround sound, this luxuriously packaged release includes a 127-page hard-backed book with an insightful essay by Mike Ashman, artist biographies and photographs from the productions, and a German/English libretto. ‘The best sounding cycle on the market to date, bar none’ – Gramophone Magazine.