WAGNER: Der Ring des Nibelungen (highlights) – Soloists/State Opera of S. Australia/ Adelaide Sym./ Asher Fisch – Melba (2 discs)

by | Aug 23, 2012 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

WAGNER: Der Ring des Nibelungen (highlights) – John Bröcheler (Wotan)/ Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde)/ Gary Rideout (Siegfried)/ Timothy Mussard (Siegfried)/ Stuart Skelton (Siegmund)/ Deborah Riedel (Sieglinde)/ John Wegner (Alberich)/ Richard Greager (Mime)/ State Opera of South Australia/ Adelaide Symphony Orchestra/ Asher Fisch – Melba multichannel SACD MR301133-34 (2 discs), 154:00 [Distr. by Albany] ****:
It’s really kind of surprising that such a famous Ring cycle, going back to 2004 (and released in 2005-07) is only now being offered as a “bleeding chunks” release eight years later! The packaging is wonderful (including a 127-page hardback book), and the sound is clear as a bell even though some might be put off by what appears to me to be a quite realistic presentation of the voices, not as blatantly highlighted as on some recordings. The principal parts are also well-covered, the roles of Siegfried and Brünnhilde being nicely tailored by the late Gary Rideout and Lisa Gasteen, with Siegfried being picked up again by the ever-reliable Timothy Mussard. The other cast members are certainly creditable, even though they cannot be ranked with the best that have tackled this music. But this is more a criticism of the series than this 2-SACD highlights disc, where the vocalizing isn’t as critical and more attention is being paid to the famous passages.
The selections on these two well-filled discs are similar to what you might be expected to find on other similar issues with the majority occurring in Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung. Since they are excised from live performances the corners are not always neatly turned or the cut clean; that can be disturbing in some places, even though the scenario makes it nearly unavoidable. You will not find any of Wagner’s (nor anyone else’s) “concert” endings here, and sometimes a simple fade out occurs, or a more sudden and jarring ending. There is applause as you might expect, and some audience noise though nothing egregious.
The Adelaide SO plays amazingly well—who knew? At times you might be thinking you are hearing one of the more famous orchestras doing this music, so colorful and incisive is this ensemble. Asher Fisch is a fine Wagnerian, though I find his penchant for quick tempos—almost as a philosophy—to be a little disconcerting at times. For instance, I do wish Siegfried’s Funeral March was more intense than what we get here, a little more tension building up because of a more deliberate tempo, and there are other examples as well. But we never lack for power in this recording even if the overall interpretation isn’t as imaginative as some of the great sets of the past.
For those looking for a great one-disc Ring highlights set, you can do no better than the Columbia (Sony) recording with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta, with superb sound. Audiophile Audition has covered one of these Melba Ring productions, Die Walküre .
—Steven Ritter

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure