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Reviews

Wagner: Arias and Love Duets
08 Apr 2009

Domingo sings Wagner

This two-CD budget series collection brings together two Placido Domingo Wagner recitals, the first from 2000, with Deborah Voigt receiving co-billing, and the second from 2002.

Wagner: Arias and Love Duets

Natalie Dessay, Deborah Voigt, Placido Domingo, Violeta Urmana. Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra. Antonio Pappano, conducting.

EMI Classics 3 97683 2 [2CDs]

$12.99  Click to buy

Together, the discs present a picture of what a full Domingo performance of the character Siegfried would be like, as well as offering what turned out to be a preview of Domingo as Tristan (he recorded the complete role a few years later for EMI). Here Voigt as Isolde joins Domingo’s Tristan for the act two love duet, with a wonderful concert ending that allows for the two lovers to finally achieve earthly bliss.

In the act three Siegfried duet, Voigt tends to dominate. She has announced intentions to perform Brünnhilde in the future. It may not be wise to take these performances as a guide to what her stage assumption would be like, as these recordings date back a few years, before her well-publicized surgery to reduce her weight. However, she easily bests Domingo, in an artistic sense, with the full feminine power of her voice in evidence. Domingo’s act three Siegfried is his least impressive singing of the set, giving off a strong sense of the singer with his face in the score, the role not yet fully in his possession.

The Tristan und Isolde selection, however, finds Domingo employing the darker colors of his voice to fine effect. His Tristan is as heroic in his lovemaking as he had proved himself to be on the battlefield. That romantic, arguably Latin tinge to Domingo’s tone works well in this music, although elsewhere a whiff of impersonation can be sensed. As mentioned above, Wagner re-composed the end of the duet for a concert performance, and this alone makes this Domingo/Voigt performance cherishable, as their voices combine ecstatically in the same music that Isolde usually has to her lonesome self at the end of the opera proper.

Disc two presents the acts one and two highlights of Siegfried’s music from the eponymous opera and Götterdämmerung. Domingo roars through a lusty forging aria, and the forest scene also boasts some lovely singing, capturing Siegfried’s wonder. Natalie Dessay “guest stars” as a very twittery Forest Bird. The more tragic Siegfried of the last Ring opera finds Domingo singing handsomely but with the drama somewhat forced, artificial. Violetta Urmana, the Brangäne on disc one, here assumes Brünnhilde, imposingly enough for her brief appearance.

The most consistent strength of both discs comes from Antonio Pappano’s leadership of the Covent Garden orchestra, an exciting blend of precision and drama. Sound is first-class.

EMI offers a note by Peter Branscombe that supplies some summary of the action; it is at least understandable that most people purchasing a set like this already have some familiarity with the material. Overall, a very entertaining set and at EMI’s new price point, quite the bargain.

Chris Mullins

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