Wagner: Das Rheingold

John Grant
Limelight (Australia)

The Adelaide Ring was a triumph and sadly not filmed for DVD release but thanks to a Federal Government grant, it was recorded and brilliantly so by Melba Recordings of Melbourne. Rightly praised around the world for its first instalment, Die Walküre, the first opera or Prelude is now also available with the next two following later this year. Once again what is immediately striking is the excellent recorded sound and fine playing Asher Fisch extracts from the much augmented Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. There is no Lisa Gasteen or Stuart Skelton, the stars of Die Walküre here as this work is more a collection of smaller roles many of whom do not appear again and Mime, Alberich, Fricka and Fafner returning with Wotan’s character going on to be really developed by Wagner over the next two operas. Bröcheler is a low-key Wotan, less assertive than some of the great exponents of the role and firmer of voice than in the Walküre recording.

All roles are well taken with few disappointments but some real highlights such as Christopher Doig an outstanding Loge. It’s good to hear him still in great form along with a strong performance from Tim DuFore as Donner. Wegner’s Alberich is suitably evil if a bit nasal and the Rhine Maidens bright and joyous with some fine ensemble singing as well as excellent singing as well as excellent individual contributions. The acoustic in the Adelaide Festival Theatre is warm and clear and the conductor keeps everything under tight yet flexible control and the editing from various performances is seamless and ensures that this is as good, from that point of view as any studio recording. We can certainly be very proud that this almost 100% Australian cast, a couple of Kiwis aside but they probably count anyway, and a local orchestra can achieve a performance as smoothly professional and musical as this.

I have heard many Ring Cycles recorded in Europe that are not of this standard and if the Solti remains a bench-mark it is because of the remarkable cast of that time (1958), John Culshaw’s ground-breaking recording and the Vienna Philharmonic’s unique sound. The notes, biographies and general presentation leave nothing to be desired. I can hardly wait for the next instalment.