Wagner: Die Walküre

Anthony Clarke
The Bulletin (Australia)

The mounting of the Ring Cycle in Adelaide in 2004 was widely regarded as the operatic highlight so far this decade. Sadly, no sponsor could be found to televise the event – but a private patron, Dr Douglas Mitchell, stepped forward to assist Melbourne's Melba record company record the Cycle in performance, to supplement assistance from the Federal Government, through the Australia Council. Supporters of this kind are rarely mentioned – but they deserve all the thanks we can give them. Melba has chosen to step past the first opera in the Cycle – Das Rheingold – and issue instead the second of the quartet – Die Walküre. The other three operas in the cycle will be released later this year, and in 2007. The recording is a triumph, doing full justice to the conductor Asher Fisch, the Adelaide Symphony, and the principal singers Stuart Skelton, Deborah Riedel, Richard Green, John Bröcheler, Lisa Gasteen and Elizabeth Campbell. Bravely, Melba chose to record and issue the disc in 5.1 Surround SACD, though there is also a SACD Stereo layer, and even a standard stereo CD layer for people with only conventional playback equipment. I was able to sample the SACD Surround layer, and the warmth, fidelity range and natural spread of the sound is in a league of its own, unchallenged by anything recorded in this country. The CD layer presents a slightly warmer aural mix; not as crystalline nor with the ambience that the SACD format can give, but still very fine. Congratulations to Melba for daring to tread where no-one has before, by presenting a Walküre which will surely find a treasured place in the world's audiophile market.


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