Wagner: Das Rheingold - Fisch
Melba Recordings MR301089-90 (2 discs)
Classical - Opera
Wagner: Das Rheingold
John Bröcheler (Wotan)
Timothy DuFore (Donner)
Andrew Brunsdon (Froh)
Christopher Doig (Loge)
Elizabeth Campbell (Fricka)
Kate Ladner (Freia)
Liane Keegan (Erda)
John Wegner (Alberich)
Richard Greager (Mime)
Andrew Collis (Fasolt)
David Hibbard (Fafner)
Natalie Jones (Woglinde)
Donna-Maree Dunlop (Wellgunde)
Zan McKendree-Wright (Flosshilde)
The State Opera of South Australia
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Asher Fisch (conductor)
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Comment by threerandot - July 7, 2016 (1 of 1)
Review by threerandot April 12, 2008
Performance: 4 1/2
Sonics: 4 1/2 (MCH)
Asher Fisch and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra are matched with a solid cast in this excellent recording of Wagner's Das Rheingold. Fisch proves himself to be a formidable Wagnerian conductor.
At one time, complete recordings of the Ring were difficult to make. When people talk about the Ring, the first recording usually mentioned is the recording by Sir Georg Solti. Since that time, there have been dozens of Ring recordings. Now there is the complete cycle recorded by Asher Fisch and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra with what is an excellent cast, but things are not all smooth. There are some bumps in this performance, which is the first of its kind for Super Audio CD. When I heard that the complete Ring cycle was to be released on SA-CD, I knew I simply had to have it. The State Opera of South Australia prove that they are more than up to the task in this live recording of Das Rheingold. Living in Canada, getting my hands on the complete cycle took several months as distribution in Canada was limited during 2007 for this cycle. Thankfully, I was able to secure each of the four operas in the cycle and which I am now in the process of reviewing.
The Adelaide Symphony are indeed an impressive body of musicians and Asher Fisch is an excellent dramatist. This recording of Das Rheingold shows Fisch's understanding of the score and he displays an ability to keep the action moving forward with just the right energy. Rarely does the action lag. I sat with libretto and was kept engrossed throughout the entire two and a half hours of listening. There were only a few brief moments where the action slowed.
I have always found it fascinating that Die Walkure and not Das Rheingold, has been the most popular opera in the cycle. Yes, Die Walkure is filled with some of Wagner's most beautiful music and singing, but I personally find Das Rheingold is filled with more action and the pace never lets up. I kind of see it as the "Action Movie" of the Ring Cycle. I have always felt that Rheingold is the first opera anyone listening to Wagner for the first time should hear.
In Scene 1, Fisch creates an exciting buildup from the very first notes with an impressive and slow crescendo. This also displays the wide dynamic range of this recording. I did find that the sound could be a little harsh if I got too excited with the volume of my system.
The first scene betweeen the Rhinemaidens and Alberich features just the right atmosphere, brought about by the depth and wide range of this recording. Alberich is suitably impressive. The Maidens display the right kind of naivete. They are all excellent singers. The first appearance of the Gold is impressively punctuated by bold and impressive brass.
Scene 2 opens with warm and noble brass, but John Bröcheler is a flawed Wotan. When he sings of his beloved Walhalla, he is unsteady and lacks power in his voice. This is one of the problem moments in this Rheingold recording. His singing does improve as the performance progresses, but again, at the end, when he sings of the Mighty Hall, he shows some faltering. Not as much as at the beginning, but again, lacking in power. Elizabeth Campbell is not a terrible Fricka, but she does have some problems as well, lacking a steady and controlled voice at times. Freia (Kate Ladner), is however, a strong vocalist and makes the most of her time onstage, as any singer does with smaller roles. She is sympathetic and has a beautiful voice.
Another scene worth mentioning is the entry of the Giants, which is very impressive. Both powerful singers, Andrew Collis (Fasolt) and David Hibbard (Fafner) are excellent as the Giants and their scene where they fight over the gold is another highlight, with bombastic and exciting kettle drums punctuating the drama. Truly memorable! Froh and Donner protecting Freia from the Giants is another exciting scene.
Another important asset to this production was Christopher Doig as Loge. Loge is an important factor in this drama as so much of the action revolves around this character. Christopher Doig is an excellent and powerful singer and realizes this character so vividly. In this particular opera, a strong Loge is a necessity. Listen for Loge singing about his travels to find what men throughout the world could possibly value more than the love of a woman. An excellently drawn characterization.
In Scene 3 Alberich is imposing and Mime is truly wretched and evil. These are two pivotal characters and again, brought to life vividly by John Wegner (Alberich) and Richard Greager (Mime). Their first moments with Alberich beating Mime are truly frantic. I also appreciate when Loge and Wotan match wits with Alberich and fool him into turning himself into a toad. The audience laughs at this point. This is the only point in this recording where I could hear the audience, such was their attention to the action onstage.
Asher Fisch is an intelligent conductor and he understands how to build climaxes that are truly memorable. The heaping of the Gold in front of Freia is one such example. John Wegner (Alberich) tears up the scenery when he puts his curse upon all who would gain control of the Ring. We also get a remarkable Erda in Scene 4. As Erda's part is so small, again, singers want to make the most of their moments on stage. Liane Keegan is an exceptional Erda with great control and a very strong voice. Her moment is a highlight.
Another singer who is not at his best is Timothy DuFore as Donner. His voice is a little too shaky and wobbly for my liking, but his summoning of the forces of nature is marked by the strong forces of the Orchestra. The Rhinemdaidens at the end of Act Four are caught in such a way that they sound as though they are singing from deep below the stage. Listen for the harps coming out of your Left Surround Speaker. A very nice touch to their voices. The final closing moments of this recording features truly impressive fanfares as the cast enters Walhalla.
The packaging of these SA-CDs from Melba Recordings features a Jewel Case sized booklet with the SA-CDs inside cardboard pockets within the book. I did not really like the idea of taking my SA-CDs in and out of the sleeves, so I placed them in my own Jewel Cases. The problem with the cardboard sleeves is that there is sometimes a little glue on the discs themselves, which meant I had to wash them. I do understand that putting this package together did cut down on costs. However, my discs came in good condition and cleaning took a little work. The book is also covered in a kind of heavy clear plastic to protect the booklet, which I can appreciate. Overall I would have preferred a packaging more closely resembling the Harmonia Mundi operas. Nevertheless, this will not really detract from my final rating of these recordings. The book contains the synopsis, essays, photos, bios on the performers, a complete list of the performers in the Adelaide Symphony, recording information, as well as info on the Melba foundation. The Libretto features only German and English. A french version can be downloaded from the Melba website.
Asher Fisch has proved himself to be a first rate Wagner conductor and apart from some bumps here and there, this is a very excellent recording of Das Rheingold. The Surround Sound recording is very impressive, if perhaps having a little too much depth at times, but this rarely caused too much distraction. The orchestra is set somewhat further back with the singers in front. The Wide dynamic range is impressive, but I did occasionally have to adjust my volume somewhat. No matter. This is a very good recording of Das Rheingold and I think many will be pleased with it. If you can accept the few bumps in it, it makes for an exciting evening of Wagner. Highly Recommended.
(This review refers to the Multichannel portion of this disc.)