Wagner: Die Walküre

Dominic McHugh
MusicOMH (UK)

This new Die Walküre marks the beginning of the first complete recording of the Ring on SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc), and in consequence the sound is superb. Wagner was at the forefront of theatrical development in his time, and there’s no doubt that he would be pleased to hear such a vividly played account of his work in full surround sound, some of the best technology of our time.

The recording comes live from the State Opera of South Australia, where it was well received in the press. The playing of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under Asher Fisch is perhaps the most commendable aspect of the performance. Urgent in the tremolando prelude to Act 1, warmly romantic in the Siegmund-Sieglinde love duet and spacious in the final scene between Wotan and Brünnhilde, the orchestra responds with sensitivity to Fisch’s vital direction …

Lisa Gasteen’s Brünnhilde … remains a compelling interpretation. For me, she brings an unusually high level of emotion to Act III (when her father, Wotan, puts her to sleep), touching the heart when she nervously asks whether it was so bad for her to have saved the life of Sieglinde (Wotan’s daughter) against his wishes … Gasteen is .. an important Brünnhilde. In these days of few new opera recordings, it’s good to have her on record in the role …

As well as Gasteen’s Brünnhilde, the reason to buy the beautifully-presented set is Stuart Skelton’s Siegmund. Here is a voice to listen for in the future … The ‘Winterstürme’ aria is precise and demonstrates a golden voice, while the conclusion of his duet with Sieglinde is electrifying. He has both the sense of drama and the vocal power and beauty for this music.

Deborah Riedel’s … contribution to Act III is memorable, really capturing the character’s desperation and relief at Brünnhilde’s help … Richard Green is a suitably menacing Hunding, and the six Valkyries are all excellent.

In all, there are many things to recommend this new recording, especially the vivid sound (which is even good on a normal CD player) and Lisa Gasteen