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 Rhine daughters appear, but a word of advice: as the great depth of the SACD sound can overshadow the trebles, we advise you to slightly lower the basses 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 Mc Kendree-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).