Wagner: Die Walküre

John Grant
2MBS Fine Music Magazine (Australia)

What a surprise! This is the first in the CD release of the complete Adelaide Ring Cycle given so successfully in 2004. Obviously much effort and angst has gone into making this vast and expensive project a reality and very real thanks need to be extended to the dedication and vision of Maria Vandamme and the people at the Melba Foundation.

This could not have gone ahead without a grant from the Federal Government of $5 million for the production of high quality music recordings. Our Prime Minister may prefer cricket to opera but obviously somebody in Canberra saw an opportunity, and it must be remembered that all the major state arts festivals around Australia were started and flourished under Liberal governments and are now languishing without support under Labor ones, a point sometimes forgotten.

The recording is of the highest quality and is the world’s first 6-channel super audio CD (SACD) of this magnificent cycle of operas, probably the greatest single achievement by any composer in the history of Western Art Music. It will be released world-wide.

Adelaide has become a Wagner Mecca after the success of its 1998 Ring Cycle imported from the Chatelet in Paris ... This production was under the direction of Asher Fisch, a very accomplished musician who has conducted Wagner in many of the world’s leading houses.

Astonishingly there are 27 principal singers used in the entire Cycle and all but three are Australian. Lisa Gasteen is an international Brünnhilde and Stuart Skelton is a highly praised Siegmund (here) as well as being acclaimed in most of the major heldentenor roles in Europe, UK and USA. Deborah Riedel also has a stellar career in major houses and her Sieglinde here is one of the very best on disc, in fact the youthfulness of her voice and ardent portrayal of innocence surpasses even the star casting of Regine Crespin in the Solti Decca recording, perhaps because Crespin was more a mezzo. … Riedel need fear no rival, her voice being warm yet strong and contrasting well with the steely-voiced Brünnhilde of Lisa Gasteen.

Yes, she’s steely but that’s what is needed, think Nilsson or Eaglen and they get through the role with ease as does our Lisa, whereas Gwynneth Jones was dramatic but squally and Hildegard Behrens under-voiced. ...

Stuart Skelton is a fine, confident Siegmund delivering some terrific dramatic moments and a tender and lyrical Winterstürme.

New Zealand bass Richard Green is a dark and menacing Hunding avoiding any sense of blowsy tone, which can rob this role of its power and John Bröcheler has the measure of Wotan, his rage at the end of Act 2 particularly convincing ...

The Valkyries are in top form too with some excellent Australian talent on show and Asher Fisch conducts a well-integrated performance never letting the orchestra dominate the singers. … he extracts some fine sound and a very confident orchestral tableau from the much augmented Adelaide Symphony.

This is a fine memento of an important musical event in Australia and anyone who was there will want a copy and will be waiting with anticipation for the release of the entire cycle ...