Melba Recordings

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Wagner: Siegfried

Opera~Opera (Australia)
David Gyger

Approaching the third quarter of the 1998 Adelaide Ring with faint resonances of its first half still reverberating around my memory banks, my expectations were mixed.

I was pleasantly surprised, in the event, because several of the individual vocal performances come across more effectively in this CD release than they did in the flesh, and Asher Fisch’s baton intermittently evokes a considerably more impressive wealth of orchestral detail than was evident in the Das Rheingold and Die Walküre sets. On the basis of this generally excellent Siegfried I look forward with keen anticipation to the completion of the Melba Recordings version of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The incandescent highlight of this Siegfried is ... Lisa Gasteen’s Brünnhilde, but of course the lady doesn’t wake up till half way through Act III so the bulk of the task of making a successful fist of the so-called scherzo of the Ring falls on the vocal cords of Siegfried, and to a lesser extent the Wanderer and Mime.

While Gary Rideout’s Siegfried was not an overall triumph in the theatre, it comes across perceptibly more effectively in sound alone than it did in the flesh. There are more passages of exemplary heldentenorring than I recall being aware of in the Adelaide Festival Theatre, and he manages with aplomb the metamorphoses from the ebullient child of nature of Act I via the heroic dragon-slayer of Act II to the ardent if hopelessly ignorant lover of Act III who suddenly discovers in full physical maturity the facts of life. So much for Mime’s parenting skills.

There’s also far more nobility and peripherally godlike stature in the sound of John Bröcheler’s Wanderer than I detected in the Adelaide Festival Theatre, and the lesser roles also come across stupendously – led by Richard Greager’s eminently nuanceful Mime, who almost makes us regret his violent passing despite his blatantly aggressive duplicity.

David Hibbard’s rich-voiced Fafner-as-dragon, Liane Keegan’s fruity, subterranean Erda and Shu-Cheen Yu’s extraordinarily bright-voiced and comprehensible Woodbird are all impressive components of the Adelaide Siegfried mix. John Wegner’s black Alberich is also a joy, completing a cast of even quality and impressive standards ...

[T]he SOSA Siegfried, like its Melba siblings, is a worthwhile acquisition for its sumptuous sound and its historical value as a record of the first completely home-grown Australian production of Der Ring des Nibelungen.