People have criticized James Levine for his plodding tempos in his Wagner conducting. However, I believe that his conducting is most true to Wagner's score. I personally think that this Walkure is the best on disc, exceeding the recordings made by Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, Clemens Krauss, and to a certain extent, Karl Böhm. The clear, precise, yet transparent sounds he draws from the Met Orchestra is superb, and he displays the psychological drama of the epic tetralogy to a tee. Dare I say that no other orchestra captures the soundscape of the Ring so clearly and beautifully as the Met does in this recording? The cast is top notch too, with Brunhildde being played by the very youthful sounding Hildegard Behrens in her prime. From the magnificent opening Hojotohos to her farewell with Wotan, none of the dramatic qualities of the part were missed by this gifted German soprano. You have here the feminine qualities perfected by Regine Crespin in her Karajan recording, plus the clarion high notes of Birgit Nilsson, and you have a great Valkyrie. Wotan is played by none other than James Morris, a singer whose Wotan I believe exceeds that of Hans Hotter in the Solti recording. This isn't a Wotan to fear, although that is one of the attributed the great American bass baritone can bring to the music. You also have Wotan the father, the lover, the compassionate head god who is distraught because he no longer has the universe under his control. A reference performance indeed. Gary Lakes plays Siegmund, a part bettered only by James King and Jon Vickers. His Sieglinde is Jessye Norman, and despite this talk about her overmannered Sieglinde, I would say that this is one of her greatest Wagner performances...very touching and vocally magnificent. Christa Ludwig plays Fricka, and although the voice is no longer what it was years ago for Solti, the drama she exudes in the text simply cuts through everything like a knife. This is a reference Fricka that must be held beside the hallmark one she recorded decades earlier for Solti. Finally, Hunding is played by none other than Kurt Moll. I wonder why this singer is cast so sparsely in other recordings when he can command some of the greatest Wagner performances on disc. His Gurnemanz, in my opinion, is the most wonderful in the discography if Hotter were erased from history's annals. The Valkyries are a finely tuned octet of sisters.
This truly is a great recording, and the sound is a miracle beyond miracles. Highly recommended!