Wagner: Siegfried

Stephen Clark
3MBS FM Libretto (Australia)

This year Melba Recordings will have released the first complete Australian recording of Richard Wagner’s epic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen. It began last year with Die Walküre, the second opera in the Cycle, with the first and third now available (reviewed here) and the fourth to be released in the middle of the year. This incredible undertaking by a boutique local company, with help from a very generous Government grant, has preserved forever the first complete Australian production of this Teutonic masterpiece.

There is so much to be admired on both of these recordings, not least the superb playing of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Asher Fisch. From the rumble of the pedal E flat to the majestic strains of the entry of the Gods into Valhalla, Fisch steers the orchestra through the many moods of the Prologue of the Cycle. The same can be said of Siegfried where the deftness of his pacing succeeds in proving this opera to be the scherzo of the Cycle. For the predominantly Australian singers to have this valuable support helped produce a performance of almost unparalleled freshness …

An obvious standout is the Alberich of John Wegner, at once seductive, menacing, duplicitous and completely in command at every appearance. The Fricka of Elizabeth Campbell is a strong, capable woman not to be trifled with. Kate Ladner’s Freia is sweet without the syrup, while Liane Keegan brings warmth and depth to the small role of Erda the Earth-Goddess, rarely heard today.

As Wotan, John Bröcheler is … secure and assured in Siegfried … Lisa Gasteen … as Brünnhilde awakens from her many years of sleep to jubilantly hail the sun and her new lover …

Much has been said of the recording and the engineering of this production. Every rehearsal and performance was recorded, so the post-production work has been as extensive as the original production ... There is no doubt that there is a freshness and a warm glow about the Melba releases … there is a studio quality to the sound overall …

As a record of an important part of Australia’s operatic history … it is invaluable.