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Richard Wagner: Die Walküre
John Bröcheler (Wotan), John Keyes (Siegmund), Kurt Rydl (Hunding), Nadine Secunde (Sieglinde), Jeannine Altmeyer (Brünnhilde), Reinhild Runkel (Fricka), Irmgard Vilsmaier (Gerhilde), Annegeer Stumphius (Ortlinde), Hanna Schaer (Waltraute), Hebe Dijkstra (Schwertleite), Kirsi Tiihonen (Siegrune), Regina Mauel (Grimgerde), Elzbieta Ardam (Rossweisse), Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, Harmut Haenchen (Conductor), Pierre Audi (Director), George Tsypin (Set Designer), Eiko Ishioka (Costume Designer), Wolfgang Göbbel (Lighting Designer), Klaus Bertisch (Dramaturgy), Hans Hulscher (TV Director)
Recorded live at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam (1999) – 260'
3 DVDs Opus Arte catalogue #: MO 6008 D – Audio format LPCM 2.0 – DTS Digital Surround – Picture16:9 Anamorphic – All regions – Liner synopsis in English, French, & German

This is a re-release of Amsterdam's 1999 Die Walküre conducted by Harmut Haenchen. It is a very attractive staging of Day one of the Ring Cycle by French-Lebanese Director Pierre Audi. Audi utilizes the beautiful Amsterdam Opera Theater in a groundbreaking manner. He circles the stage out into the audience, placing the orchestra and conductor within the circumference of the wide swinging ramp that loops out into the theater. With musicians and conductor in full view and at the center of the action, similarly to the Japanese Noh, the orchestra becomes part of the drama. The stage for this Walküre is largely sparse and uncluttered by props. Audi has pared everything down to the minimum, allowing the cosmic nature of the sets to create a timeless atmosphere within which these gods walk amongst the human race. The sets are high tech and do not indicate any specific historic time. Costumes by Eiko Ishioka are pretty striking, especially those of an aging Fricka (all clad in white, with white hair put into a huge bun), and of the Walkyries, Japanese-inspired mated with haute-couture modernism.

Although it does not reach the level of excellence of the greatest Walküre, the singing is more than acceptable. John Bröcheler is an amazing Wotan; his confrontations with Fricka in Act II, and with Brünnhilde in Act III are powerful, the latter ending on a heartwrenching farewell to his daughter. John Keyes is a strong Siegmund. The voice has a darker tone than other tenors cast as Siegelinde's brother but it suits the part even better. Nadine Secunde as Sieglinde acquits herself honorably, and so do Kurt Rydl as Hunding and Reinhild Runkel as Fricka. Jeannine Altmeyer was no longer in her prime at the time of this production, and her Brünnhilde is nothing but decent. Years have taken their toll and, in 1999, she no longer was at the level of her 1980 Sieglinde under Marek Janowski. The seven other Walkyries are creditable enough.

Harmut Haenchen leads the Netherlands Philharmonic with confidence and assurance and delivers on the depth and passion of Wagner's music. Overall, it is a beautifully paced and shaped performance, allowed to breathe when needed, but not rushed through. Except for the brass, the sound of the Netherlands Philharmonic is lush, especially in the woodwind section.

All in all, this is an interesting, visually attractive Walküre with a conductor that rises to the occasion. Although it is musically estimable, it does not play in the same league as the great studio or live recordings of the past.

Christian Dalzon




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