Wagner: Siegfried

Arnold Whittall
Gramophone (UK)

What are the requirements for a convincing Siegfried? Stamina, obviously: then the ability to suggest youthful exuberance, but also to progress from childlike gaucherie and aggressiveness to adult passion and perception. It’s not surprising that even those singers who can cope with the physical demands of the part often fail to offer much in the way of persuasive characterisation. But American tenor Gary Rideout must be one of the best exponents of the role at the moment. He sings tirelessly, with burnished tone: this is one of those rare performances where you don’t feel that the Act 1 Forging scene is something to be endured with gritted teeth. Later, the lyrical music tends to come across as rather generalised, without the ideal flexibility of phrase and tone to do justice to all aspects of the text, and there are a few effortful patches in the long soliloquys of Acts 2 and 3. But it’s an attractive and accomplished performance in most respects.

On this occasion, Rideout has the great advantage of a conductor who paces the music well, with little or none of the rushed fences I found in the two earlier Adelaide sets. In particular, Asher Fisch shapes the mighty span of Act 3 superbly, and the closing scene, with Lisa Gasteen commanding as Brünnhilde, and with exemplary diction – no “Sargfrieds” for her – ranks high among modern (post-1950s) recordings. Also impressive are Richard Greager’s well varied, chillingly villainous Mime and Liane Keegan’s majestically world-weary Erda. What seems to me the Adelaide Cycle’s main weakness, a relative lack of intimacy and understatement when such things are possible, is very clear in the exchanges between the Wanderer and Alberich in Act 2, where the effect is of a hectoring public meeting rather than a tense, closely confined dialogue. Even so, there is rather more light and shade in John Bröcheler’s singing than I found in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. His abrupt, inevitable yielding to Siegfried is very well done ...

... [T]here is a great deal to enjoy and admire. As it moves towards its ending, the Adelaide Ring assumes an increasingly imposing profile.