Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.



Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung
18 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Götterdämmerung

Recorded in May and June 2008, this new Unitel Classica Blu-Ray disc of Götterdämmerung is the final opera in the staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen staged at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, by La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and directed by Carlus Padrissa.

Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung

Siegfried: Lance Ryan, Gunther: Ralf Lukas, Alberich: Franz-Josef Kapellmann, Hagen: Matti Salminen, Brünnhilde: Jennifer Wilson, Gutrune: Elisabete Matos, Waltraute: Catherine Wyn-Rogers, 1. Norn: Daniela Denschlag, 2. Norn: Pilar Vásquez, 3. Norn: Eugenia Bethencourt, Woglinde: Silvia Vásquez, Wellgunde: Ann-Katrin Naidu, Floßhilde: Marina Prudenskaya, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Zubin Mehta, conductor,

Unitel Classica 701204 [Blu-Ray]

$33.49  Click to buy

Given the effective staging of the other three operas in cycle, Götterdämmerung afforded the company to meet or exceed the challenges of presenting this work with the same creativity, and in this regard it is a success. The innovative thought that informed the presentation of the other operas is present here from the start, with the Norns in the prelude suspended on pulleys labeled past, present, and future, and surrounded by their rope like spiders. At the same time, the projections behind the horns illustrate some parts of their narration. The simple use of branches to depict the growth and decline of the ash tree is a sensible image that enhances the scene and never interferes with the fine ensemble of the Norns Daniela Denschlag, Pilar Vásquez, and Eugenia Bethencourt. The scene shifts to the place where Siegfried encountered Brünnhilde at the end of the previous opera, with the scenic design nicely reprising that work. Lance Ryan and Jennifer Wilson play the same roles, with both performers convincing both vocally and dramatically. Nicely the familiar orchestra interlude “Siegfried’s Rheinfahrt” contains imagery that recalls the projections that accompanied the Wanderer at the opening of the third act of Siegfried, and this touch is helpful in using the visual motifs of this production in a manner similar to the musical Leitmotifs Wagner integrated into the structure of this multi-part work.

The main action of the opera is set in modern dress, albeit stylized with references to financial matters that reinforce from the start the calculating personalities of the Gibichungs. Matti Salminenis impressive as Hagen, and interacts well with Ralf Lukas as Gunther. No illusions make Gunther any rival to Siegfried in this production, and that self-awareness sets up the dénouement in which Siegfried is sacrificed through their scheming. As Gutrune (with her name emblazoned on her costume like a modern hotelier) Elisabete Matos plays her role fittingly. Her primping, before Siegfried’s arrival is an added touch. While there are no castles on this version of the Rhine, the staging offers a contrast with nature-borne Siegfried in the foreign territory of the Gibichung’s world. Salminen’s stentorian “Heil! Siegfried, teurer Held” carries a duplicity, with Hagen facing the hero only after he sounds the greeting. Yet when the Gibichungs dress Siegfried in a business suit to fit their world, it is as if Superman were changed to Clark Kent, with dark-rimmed glasses and shorn of long hair, like a Delilah-entranced Samson. The overly emotive Siegfried shows the strength of the potion, and if Ryan is overly demonstrative, it certainly makes the point of the libretto.

The scene between Brünnhilde and Waltraute is musically and dramatically intense, with the special effects punctuating the interaction between Jennifer Wilson and Catherine Wyn-Rogers. The headgear for Brünnhilde seems an affectation until the moment in the scene in which Waltraute demands her sister’s attention, and then the blinders on Brünnhilde’s head become apparent. Wyn-Rogers was effective earlier in the cycle as Erda and even more persuasive as Waltraute. Her narration is expressive without overstating the powerful emotions her character feels about the fate about to be enacted. Wyn-Rogers conveys the sense of Wotan’s presence, even though the latter character is absent from this drama, and her connection with Brünnhilde is integral to the conclusion of this important scene.

The dilemma at the crux of the tragedy resonates well as the image of a Rhinemaiden projected behind Waltraute, pointing to the existence Brünnhilde previously had, just as Waltraute asks Brünnhilde for the ring, which the latter insists on keeping for love, a love about to be foresworn. The physical conflict between the sisters adds to the impact of this impressive performance. At the same time, the Wilson’s intensive vocality carries into the scene with Gunther, reinforced well by the visual imagery of her magic fire along with actual fire. Not just an accompaniment, this staging reinforces the surprise of Brünnhilde who is aware that the man who crosses that superhuman barrier will win her. Ralf Lukas brings the scene to its conclusion, with the image of the emotionally affected Brünnhilde etched well into the conclusion of the act.

Along with such poignant moments, some of the other, less emotionally demanding passages in the opera are depicted memorably. The opening of the third act aptly places the Rheinmaidens in the water, not only in the contains from which they sing, but also through the immense projections of bubbles and currents, accentuated by supernumeraries who create foreground of rushes that move in the scene. While some productions lack this grand conception of the scene, this one fits the production as envisioned here by La Fura dels Baus. Siegfried’s entrance puts him nicely into the scene, unlike some stagings in which the forest scenery is divorced from the placement of the Rhinemaidens nearby. In this passage, too, the orchestra conveys appropriate warmth and depth, which builds with the vocal trio of Rhinemaidens from the upper portion of the stage and allows for an effective interaction with Lance Ryan as Siegfried. The visual presence of the Ring, rather than a strictly verbal and aural reference, reinforces the libretto, as the drama moves toward Siegfried’s murder at the hand of Hagen. Ryan’s final passages in which he recounts his meeting Brünnhilde is moving, especially in the context stark depiction of the spear striking him. The camera angles from the stage reinforce the sound image of Siegfried’s death, so that his dying cry for Brünnhilde fits into the larger composition of the scene. The cortege bearing the body of Siegfried moves through the audience, like an off-stage instrumental passage in an orchestral work, thus enlarging the space in which to imagine the final scene.

As the work moves toward its conclusion, the interaction between Hagen, Gunther, and Gutrune works well, calling to mind the scene in which the three first appeared. While Hagen’s use of a pistol to kill Gunther is a bit out of place, it works sonically. Yet from her entrance immediately afterward, Jennifer Wilson commands the concluding portion of the opera. Her grief is visually apparent, but surpassed by her singing, which fits into a thoughtful conception of the well-known “immolation scene.” Here the staging assists her well, with a brilliant visualization of the scene, which emerges well in the film of the production. While the cross-cuts in the final scene might be sometimes abrupt, the overall effect is strong, with the reprise involving the Rhinemaidens and the acrobats who formed a human image of Valhalla at the end of Das Rheingold. The production works well in creating an effective performance of the culminating opera in Wagner’s Ring cycle. At the core of the production is Mehta’s conception of the work, which is evident in the excellent performance. His comments in the bonus documentary about the making of this video offer some good insights into his thoughts about the work. His thoughts, alongside those of his collaborators in this production, give some background about the choices involved in presenting this remarkable staging.

As with the other discs, the sound is rich and clear, as is customary with Blu-Ray technology. The visual images are similarly crisp, an important facet of this recording. The enunciation of the text is solid, and it can be amplified through the use of German subtitles, and those interested can use French, English, or Spanish. The complete libretto of this or any of the other operas in the cycle is neither part of the booklet nor included on disc, but the text is readily available online or through a variety of publications. That aside, the effort is outstanding, from start to finish, with the Valencia Ring commendable on many levels for its vision of this fantastic set of operas which culminates in this production of Götterdämmerung.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):