Wagner: Das Rheingold

Bertrand Bolognesi
Anaclase.com (France)

The arrival of a foreign label on the French market is an event in itself, all the more if it excels in quality. However, Melba Recordings has been producing recordings for six years under the tutelage of its godmother, Dame Joan Sutherland. Maria Vandamme the founder and CEO of the record company, also supervises the recording of the music. She is responsible for the quality of sound which identifies the company. The company is named after Dame Nellie Melba (1861 - 1931), the famous singer whose portrait adorns the 100 Australian dollar note.

The first steps in Melba's universe started with the recording of the four operas of Richard Wagner's Ring, in a live recording made in late 2004 during the State Opera of South Australia performances. As a general comment, we immediately notice a pleasing vocal cast which brings together large voices, a rarity those days.

This is a live recording ... the remarkable quality of the recording stands out immediately in the gründlich Dämmerung when the Rhinedaughters appear, but a word of advice: as the great depth of the SACD sound can overshadow the treble, we advise you to slightly lower the bass on your hi-fi system if you are playing this Rheingold on a CD player.

The wicked Woglinde is sung by Natalie Jones – listen to her terribly smooth Nur wer der Minne. The wonderful brillance of Donna-Maree Dunlop and the joyful expression of Zan McKendree-Wright's Flosshilde, the river possesses a particularly well-matched ensemble. With a firm and almost intrusive tone, Elizabeth Campbell portrays an ideally authoritative Fricka. Her understanding of the text and art of nuances work wonders within a fine sound space. Kate Ladner's Freia matches exactly Wotan's description of her - die liebliche Göttin, licht und leicht with her stage presence and her sparkling voice. The generous warmth of Liane Keegan's contralto projects Erda with a sumptuous singing line.

As for the male parts, one recognizes in John Wegner one of those singers whose voice can give instant life to the character. His remarkable acting ability reminds us of the performances and emotion of some of the greatest artists of the past. At first voluntarily vulgar, his Alberich becomes gradually clearer, with a voice larger than initially expected, adding an exceptional touch to the valiant singing which becomes so moving in the ultimate malediction – Gab sein Golf / mir Macht ohne Mass / nun zeug sein Zauber: Tod dem, der ihnt trägt (scene 4).

... John Bröcheler's Wotan turns out to be efficient. With his large voice, his treble becomes more precise and controlled, and he finally finds his mark in this difficult score. With the best German diction in this recording, Andrew Collis offers an expressive and firm Fasolt. David Hibbard gives his brother Fafner a thick vocal timbre with a powerful darkness, even in the high notes. Trumpeting a wonderful golden voice, Andrew Brunsdon delivers an ideal Froh with a noticeably elegant diction. Rough and warlike, Timothy DuFore's Donner softens his voice for the He da! He da! He Do! ... Richard Greager displays a healthy voice, and portrays an ideally whining Mime.

Asher Fisch conducts a remarkably balanced Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He imposes his serious vision of Das Rheingold, with a permanent sense of danger, but also well balanced and expressive and with very smooth phrasing. For example, listen to the efficiently descriptive conducting of the first interlude, where he has the good idea of bringing together the Liszt and Berlioz in Wagner, or the last interlude, elegant and dynamic, where the progressive fusion of the leitmotives is very discretely shown