Wagner: Das Rheingold

Michael Scott Rohan
BBC Music Magazine (UK)
star onstar onstar onstar onstar on

It might seem a shade unfair, reviewing this segment of the first home-grown Australian Ring immediately after Testament’s superb Bayreuth Rheingold; but in fact, the gulf is not as wide as one might expect. This recording has much to recommend it ... Above all, there’s Asher Fisch’s conducting, expansive and lyrical but dramatically paced, with splendid playing from the Adelaide orchestra. And the almost entirely Australian singers rise admirably to the challenge.

John Bröcheler’s imported Wotan is decent … spirited and strong … sketching the arrogant younger god broadly ... John Wegner sings his adversary Alberich with baleful command, nicely counterpointed by Greager's Mime, unusually lyrical for all his malicious whinings. In the third pivotal role veteran Heldentenor Christopher Doig sings Loge with unusual power … and keen if not over-subtle character. The Giants (Andrew Collis and David Hibbard) are a splendidly dark-voiced pair, Donner and Froh (Timothy DuFore and Andrew Brunsdon) sturdily effective and Freia (Kate Ladner) suitably fresh-voiced and vulnerable. Keegan’s Erda is ... admirably clear and pointed, Elizabeth Campbell’s Fricka ... entirely adequate, and the Rhinemaidens are an extremely high-spirited bunch.

All in all, you’d be lucky to find such a consistent standard of performance in most European houses today. And it’s captured here in SACD surround-sound, enfolding the listener in stage atmosphere and orchestral detail, creating a real sense of the live occasion. One only wishes that they had also recorded the visuals of Elke Neidhardt’s modernistic but effective staging.


SOUND: ***** (5 stars)     PERFORMANCE: **** (4 stars)