Wagner: Götterdämmerung. © 2019 Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg gGmbH

CD Spotlight

Absolutely Superlative

GERALD FENECH listens to Wagner's 'Götterdämmerung' from 'The Ring on the Rhine'

'The performance eschews grandeur from beginning to end, and both singers and orchestra respond magnificently.'


The Rhine is where Richard Wagner's cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen begins and ends - and it was beside the Rhine in 1851 that the composer first dreamed of this equally visionary and monumental work. Even if Wagner's plans for a festival would be finally realised in an entirely different part of Germany, the performance of a Ring on the Rhine will always remain something very special. And where better to make this happen than at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein? Two cities, two orchestras, two casts of singers - with the Rhein Opera's fantastic ensemble of singers and its two outstanding orchestras, the Duisburg Philharmonic and the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, and the two venues in Duisburg and Düsseldorf, the essential conditions were in place.

The 'Ring on the Rhine', staged by Dietrich W Hilsdorf and conductor Axel Kober, gradually began to take shape from June 2017 onwards. The successful conclusion of this two-year music and scenic collaboration was planned for the end of the 2018/19 season with the performance of a complete Ring cycle at each of the two venues. However, a few weeks before the premiere of Götterdämmerung, a defective sprinkle system flooded the Theatre Duisburg. The damage this caused made completing the staged Ring cycle in Duisburg impossible. Fortunately, at short notice, the opportunity to perform The Ring at least in concert form presented itself. The venue was the Mercatorhalle in Duisburg.

Soon after rehearsals started, it was realised that this supposed emergency solution had turned out to be a real stroke of luck. In the brilliant acoustics of the concert hall the singing voices and the sound of the orchestra came together to create a thrilling experience for the listeners - one that the audience present greeted with a standing ovation. A desire was soon expressed to make this experience available to a wider public beyond this one-time concert performance. The result is this live recording of the complete cycle, of which this Götterdämmerung is under review.

Listen — Wagner: Vorspiel (Götterdämmerung Prologue)
(CD1 track 1, 0:00-0:35)
℗ 2020 Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg gGmbH :

Axel Kober's conducting, as in the previous three operas, is absolutely superlative, and the way he paces this gigantic masterpiece is most astute.

Listen — Wagner: Höre mit Sinn - was ich dir sage! (Götterdämmerung Act I)
(CD2 track 9, 0:00-0:48)
℗ 2020 Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg gGmbH :

Indeed, when excitement needs to be whipped up the tempo reaches fever-pitch, but when the music is depicting a softer situation Axel squeezes every ounce of lyricism from it.

Listen — Wagner: Was ist ihr? Ist sie entrückt? (Götterdämmerung Act II)
(CD3 track 10, 0:35-1:20)
℗ 2020 Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg gGmbH :

The performance eschews grandeur from beginning to end, and both singers and orchestra respond magnificently. A prodigious undertaking, brilliantly brought off in the best Wagnerian traditions we have loved and cherished for more than 145 years. And all this in the face of unpremeditated adversity.

Listen — Wagner: Finale (Götterdämmerung Act III)
(CD4 track 22, 3:37-4:27)
℗ 2020 Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg gGmbH :

A compelling conclusion to one of the finest Ring cycles I have heard for years.

Copyright © 23 January 2022 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta










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