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This review is from: Wagner: Great Opera Box (Audio CD)
At first blush I was tempted to ask: who buys the complete Wagner operas in one fell swoop, if one doesn't already have any? Is it this person to whom this box is being aimed? For completists, who wish to acquire all the operas? Or those who wish to try alternative performances and who simply can't go wrong at the price? (But check the sellers, as Amazon's own introductory price has rocketed since the set first became available.) In reality, it could be all.
With the exception of Rienzi, which I know only by the Overture, I have all the other operas, and with the Ring about 5 recordings if one includes a couple on DVD. Somewhat amazingly, none of my other performances are replicated in this box set and many of my other versions aren't on CD. So with the ridiculously low price at the time of purchase a couple of months ago, 32£, it wasn't a difficult decision to add this box set to my Wagner collection.
I am fortunate in that whilst I do have some "favourites", usually down to the singers, I can happily listen to performances by different performers/conductors and appreciate each for what it provides. A different approach here, or there, can often provide an insight into a work that is missed if one slavishly only listens to a narrow range, or even single recording. A different balance between singers and orchestra, or even within the orchestra itself, one can hear nuances that some recordings may not project to the same degree, but by the same token, those recordings may have their own issues.
With this set, and given it is still available from some Amazon sellers at a bargain price, I don't think it makes any sense to compare with this and that other specific performance. For one single reason: your opinion can so easily differ from mine. So, with one very minor exception, there really isn't a duff performance here of the mainstream Wagner. Having no alternative version of Rienzi with which to compare, I'll get my one disappointment out of the way: the overture. This is oddly balanced with most of the brass on the left and is quite subdued. This does tend to leave a "hole" on the right when the overture is in full swing, and any brass that is there seems only to be an echo of that playing on the left. There are some sub-sonic rumblings early one and which are easily heard on quality headphones and full range speakers. Needless to say, I have heard far better performances and recordings of what is really a fine overture for an early work. But this is a tiny niggle considering what is on offer here.
Any downsides? Well, no libretti, but at this ridiculously low price for 11 operas, it isn't surprising.