Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Bertrand Bolognesi
Anaclase (France)

The superb Australian tetralogy is completed with the release of the fourth box set devoted to Götterdämmerung. One finds here predominantly the same cast with just a few changes. The three Rheinmaidens are those who started the story. Once again one savours equally the luminous depth of the vocal palate of Nathalie Jones as Woglinde with her easy high notes; the power and creaminess of Donna-Maree Dunlop as Wellgrunde and the rich colour and extreme precision of Zan McKendree-Wright as Flosshilde. All three form a perfectly balanced team.

The Norns are sung by voices that we heard in other parts in the preceding releases. Thus Gaye McFarlane Second Norn here, Siegrune there—the voice full-bodied to the lowest notes; Kate Ladner as Third Norn, ex Helmwige—luminous and supple, forthright and nuanced; and Liane Keegan —previously Waltraute, but above all Elsa—with velvety phrasing, low notes well struck and a great presence, confers on the First Norn an immediately spiritual dimension. Possessing a velvety texture which she uses in a thrillingly emotional delivery of the curse, Elizabeth Connell gives to her Valkyrie Waltraute the same qualities that characterised her erstwhile Fricka. John Wegner remains an incontestably valiant Alberich.

Some new artists appear in this concluding episode to the story. Joanna Cole brings to Gutrune an evenness of voice over the entire tessitura … Her singing is correct and becomes more interesting when she accuses her brothers … Jonathan Summers is a Gunther of simply monstrous impact: as bellicose as one could wish, the particular colour of this voice ideally suits the character. The other monster from this family without scruples, the Hagen of Duccio dal Monte , turns out to be more exciting still, a portrayal completely embodying the character in his many proclamations of ‘Wehe, Wehe, Waffen, Waffen’. This artist makes Act 1 thrilling all on his own, thanks to a frightening stage presence, a devilishly cavernous low register, a mephitic upper range and, above all, singing that is always attuned, accurate, layered and dramatically inspired.

The Siegfried of Gary Rideout is succeeded by that of Timothy Mussard … The scale of the role is honoured, certainly, through very effective projection. The heroic character of the part is there, too … he conveys a shining memory of his love. The final notes of this Siegfried here are magnificent.

… Lisa Gasteen is reconciled to us because of the immense qualities we had noted in Act 3 of her Walküre: a robust upper middle range, a dazzling top, remarkably supple singing, an undeniably detailed artistry, a true dramatic intelligence. The soprano sings of the throes of passion with strong indignation and a dolorous smoothness, until breaking the sunset as violently as the dawn. Her tireless bravery in ‘Ruhe, ruhe, du Gott’ is literally ecstatic.

In honouring this box set with an ‘Anaclase’, it is not only Götterdämmerung that we wish to salute, but the entire South Australian Ring cycle, caught live in the autumn of 2004, in unrivalled sound that carries the listener right into the theatre … the performance of the musicians of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra has authority under the clear and inspired direction of Asher Fisch . I don’t need to restate here the subtlety, dramatic motivation and precision as much as the other trump cards which combine to set ablaze the concluding conflagration of the great Wagnerian work.