Melba Recordings

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Wagner: Die Walküre

Wagnermania (Spain)
Miguel A. González Barrio

Balzac once said “sans génie, je suis flambé”, and this must have been in the thoughts of those at the Melba label and the State Opera of South Australia. The Anglo-Saxons have talent to sell, and in this recording – they are selling something else and more difficult: technology and sound.

We have before us the first of the complete Ring, recorded live in Adelaide, and released on SACD (compatible with CD players) in 6 channels and surround sound … Of the 27 main singers, all bar three are Australian (an all-Australian cast), and the conductor is the young and for me unknown Asher Fisch, a pupil of Daniel Barenboim .... Fisch is from Israel, a country where, as everybody knows, Wagner is prohibited.
By all accounts, I confess that when I received this Walküre, my first reaction was … distrust.

Distrust became curiosity from the very first notes of the prelude, and soon it gave way to surprise and admiration. The sound is extraordinary. One has the sensation of being within the orchestra. Everything can be heard with great clarity, each instrumental family distinct; you can almost hear individual instruments. But, in addition to the sonorous impact, one immediately realises that Fisch knows what he is doing … he has obtained superlative results from the Adelaide [Symphony] Orchestra that to hear is to believe … splendidly caught by the microphones of Melba ... I was unexpectedly surprised by the quality of the phrasing, the sense of the line, of the grand structure … and lack of stage [noise]. Asher Fisch’s direction … is much richer and more interesting than some better known “specialists” … A conductor to watch.

And what of the voices? … The best thing … is the walsung twins, which are of great quality. Stuart Skelton (Siegmund) … can take with dignity the label of Heldentenor … he knows how to colour it, to darken it, and creates a convincing Siegmund .... In the beginning of the third scene of the first act it makes me think of Domingo .... Deborah Riedel is a youthful, lyrical Sieglinde, splendidly sung and interpreted …

… Lisa Gasteen is a very estimable Brünnhilde, of warm voice, expressive, with … magnificent diction and a sense of the text …

… The eight Valkyries are very competent, and the effects that are obtained in the Ride [of the Valkyries] with positioning of the voices … contribute to the realism and the spectacular nature of the scene.

The presentation is exemplary, luxurious, in the form of a book with an essay by Mike Ashman, biographies and photographs of the artists, and a libretto in English and German. I am impatient … for the next in this Ring cycle. We will see if they are able to maintain the same level.

When the next one arrives, I will still be enjoying this surprising Walküre.

Read the original website review (in Spanish)