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Very beautiful 'Rheingold',
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This review is from: Wagner: Das Rheingold (Mariinsky Orchestra/Gergiev) (Audio CD)
I very much enjoyed this first installment of Valery Gergiev's Ring Cycle. Usually I am guilty of concentrating on the vocals in an opera recording but this time, it was the orchestral playing that blew me away. I have listened to a few 'Rheingolds' (although by no means all of them) and I think this may be one of the most beautiful I've heard. The recording is clear and the orchestra transparent - I heard things in the score I've never heard before - it was lovely! On the vocal side, the women are all very good, especially Ekaterina Gubanova as a young and alluring Fricka. It took me a little longer to warm to the men. As Alberich, Nikolai Putilin does not have a beautiful voice BUT he does make good use of the words. The same can be said for Stephan Rugamer as an unusually light and mellifluous Loge - indeed some of the most dramatic scenes in the recording are when these two characters come together in scenes three and four. Even Rene Pape's Wotan comes to dramatic life in these scenes - otherwise he sings beautifully but with little attempt at acting. Actually, as in Gergiev's 'Walkure', I found myself a bit disappointed with Pape. For me, he is a little too light of voice for the role and yet the high notes still do not seem to come easily to him. Of the minor male roles; Alexei Markov does well in his 'big moment' with the hammer, both the giants are a bit on the lightweight side, Mime overacts a bit and Froh is easily the weakest link in the ensemble.
I also own the Solti Ring and I doubt if anything can compare for sheer theatrical entertainment - as well as a terrific veteran cast. This recording has none of the special effects - no screaming Nibelungs or howling Rhinemaidens, Alberich does not burst into maniacal laughter as he absconds with the gold and Donner's hammer strike is pretty dull BUT I think its a pretty good counterpart to the Solti just for sheer beauty of sound...and the rest of the Cycle has Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde!!