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Wagner: Die Walkure, Act 1 (Nina Stemme/Vienna State Opera/Welser-Most) Live

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Welser-Möst
  • Composer: Richard Wagner
  • Audio CD (1 July 2013)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Live
  • Label: Orfeo
  • ASIN: B00CYYP140
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 149,436 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Vorspiel - Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
  2. Wes Herd Dies Auch Sei
  3. Kühlende Labung Gab Mir Der Quell
  4. Müd' Am Herd Fand Ich Den Mann
  5. Friedmund Darf Ich Nicht Heißen
  6. Aus Dem Wald Trieb Es Mich Fort
  7. Ich Weiß Ein Wildes Geschlecht
  8. Ein Schwert Verhieß Mir Der Vater
  9. Schläfst Du, Gast? - Der Männer Sippe
  10. Winterstürme Wichen Dem Wonnemond
  11. Du Bist Der Lenz
  12. Wehwalt Heißt Du Fürwahr? - Siegmund Heiß' Ich

Product Description

In Richard Wagner s 'Ring of the Nibelung', the first act of 'Die Walküre' takes up a special place. The love triangle of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde and the ominous Hunding stands out in the context of this tetralogy because it possesses its own dramatic tension and self-enclosed trajectory within what is otherwise such a complex, richly interconnected series of works. In musical terms it goes from one climax to the next, from the turbulent orchestral prelude through to Siegmund s love song Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond and the passionate union of the sibling couple. At the most recent production at the Vienna State Opera, the twins were sung by Nina Stemme and for the first time in the role Johan Botha. Their antagonist Hunding was sung by Ain Anger, whose mighty bass voice was paired with a subtle art of characterisation. All three received a tumultuous reception, from the public and critics alike. The soprano and tenor have since enjoyed international success in even more dramatic Wagner roles Nina Stemme, for example, has sung Brünnhilde in San Francisco, Vienna and Milan, and will perform at the BBC Proms with Barenboim; while Johan Botha has sung Tannhäuser in Vienna and London. But already as Sieglinde and Siegmund it was evident that they would retain their vocal beauty and legato phrasing despite the heavy-duty nature of the roles. Both Stemme and Botha are possessed of remarkably clear diction and capable of light and shade. This is no 'stand and deliver' barking. Johann Botha will sing the role of Siegmund at this year's Bayreuth concert to celebrate Wagner s 200th birthday and will do so again on the Bayreuth stage this summer. The luxury accompaniment is the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, conducted in 2007 by its General Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, and was also on top form. Wagner is rarely heard with such opulence and iridescence while still so transparent and unforced. This CD release of the live performance is an absolute must - just listen to the cheers at the end. Nina Stemme was awarded Best Female Singer at the International Opera Awards 2013. She sings all the Brünnhildes in Barenboim's 'Ring' this summer and also apepars on the Mariinsky 'Walküre' with Valery Gergiev.

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When I noticed this disc had been released I ordered it like a shot. Shortly before this Vienna performance in 2007 there was a new production of 'Walkure' in Naples at the San Carlo. The name "Nina Stemme" on the posters as Sieglinde at that time meant nothing to me, I regret to say. Sharing my box happened to be three of The Society of Friends of Bayreuth and before the curtain went up they said, "Watch out for Nina Stemme!"

I didn't have to. When Nina Stemme opened her mouth my jaw dropped. This was a gorgeous voice- fresh, golden, round, warm -and powerful. She reminded me of the first marvellous Sieglinde I heard, Gwyneth Jones in her prime. And Stemme's gentle impersonation of the part was touching.

This new cd is remarkable evidence of Nina Stemme's Sieglinde, however if anything Ms.Stemme's big voice sounds even more beautiful live in the theatre than it does in this recording. She performs Sieglinde with passionate commitment and radiant tone.

In this Vienna performance Johan Botha as Siegmund and Ain Anger as Hunding are both outstanding. Anger is truly stunning -there is nothing morose about this Hunding, as there sometimes can be. He is menacing, but sexy and vitally aware, and here his relationship with Sieglinde makes sense. This is a magnificent voice, very effectively used.

It's wonderful (and rare) to hear a Siegmund fully up to the part, as Johan Botha clearly is. This is not 'chamber Wagner' in any sense, this is a big, baritonal, thrilling sound in the 'heldentenor' tradition. The voice is well-supported, with agility and remarkable range, and Botha is capable of slicing through the orchestra with heroic clarity. His energy here is sometimes astonishing- just listen to "Walse!
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Beautiful orchestral playing, excellent conducting, first rate sound for a live performance - that leaves only the question of the singers, and they are as good as you may generally hear today unless you are lucky enough to get Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund.

Neither lead singer seems to me to be amongst the very best I've heard, however: both have more of an incipient wobble in their vibratos than is ideal for the Wagner singer who needs to maintain complete steadiness of line at often punishing volume, intensity and tessitura. I am always conscious of the beginnings of a bleat when they are under pressure. Nor does Botha have the baritonal heft the role requires; no wonder Ramon Vinay, who was both baritone and tenor in his glorious career, was the ideal Siegmund. Still, Stemme is pretty vibrant, committed and thrilling in her "Der Männer Sippe", which is the best passage in this performance. The Hunding is a bit gruff but perfectly adequate; the main thing is the dramatic thrust of the music in what is surely the best Act in all Wagner. It's hard to shake off memories of old classic versions from Walter, Karajan and Leinsdorf; I find that in particular Melchior's and Vickers' voices have etched themselves into my memory but it's curmudgeonly not to welcome good, modern, live performance such as this.

This was part of a recording project aborted because of the indisposition of the Wotan, so we have only this Act from the 2007 performance directed by Welser-Möst.
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I have already provided a brief scenario of the convoluted politics surrounding the release of the DG recording of the 2011 Ring from Vienna under Thielemann in my review of the set. In its on/off release was a source of speculation-generally that either Franz Welser-Most had vetoed it in his capacity as Music Director, or that Thielemann had vetoed because it had too many flaws. Even Austrian Radio was reluctant to broadcast it!
Both camps strenuously denied the rumours, and as we know it did finally appear, deeply flawed but with its strengths too.
Hot on its heels, we now have a taster from Orfeo of FWM's 2007 performance of what was then a new production-and what a fizzing, exciting account of Walkure Act One it is! It was his conducting of this cycle that in no small way contributed to his "coming up on the rails" to succeed the ailing Ozawa whose flaccid tenure was coming to an end, when Thielemann had been the favourite. On this brief snapshot, one can see why.
The recorded sound, re-mastered from DDD Austrian Radio Master Tapes is superb-actually preferable to that by DG in that it is more sense of air, more sheen and provides a more accurate impression of what its like to be in the house.
FWM proves yet again to be a highly accomplished Wagnerian. In this act he conducts with the luminosity of Karajan-some of the chamber-like effects are breathtaking-but with the drive and energy of Leinsdorf. This is no mean feat!
The opening prelude whips along at a pace Usain Bolt would find difficult to sustain, and he never allows the music to stagnate, while shaping it exquisitely. The orchestra play with absolute assurety, ravishing tone and tremendous weight when FWM allows it.
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I chose this disc because I was interested to hear what the conductor and soloists would make of it. Nina Stemme sings Wagner every where these days, as does Johan Botha. Both sound fresher than I've heard them before,. but the standards for this Act of Die Walküre are so high that I feel they have some way to go. As does Welser-Möst. The prelude to Act 1 goes faster than Usain Bolt could run and is in consequence very disappointing. He can (I hope !) only improve.
Sound quality is very good.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8d4da5ac) out of 5 stars 2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8d4dceb8) out of 5 stars As good as you'd hope to hear today 9 Feb. 2014
By Ralph Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Beautiful orchestral playing, excellent conducting, first rate sound for a live performance - that leaves only the question of the singers, and they are as good as you may generally hear today unless you are lucky enough to get Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund.

Neither lead singer seems to me to be amongst the very best I've heard, however: both have more of an incipient wobble in their vibratos than is ideal for the Wagner singer who needs to maintain complete steadiness of line at often punishing volume, intensity and tessitura. I am always conscious of the beginnings of a bleat when they are under pressure. Nor does Botha have the baritonal heft the role requires; no wonder Ramon Vinay, who was both baritone and tenor in his glorious career, was the ideal Siegmund. Still, Stemme is pretty vibrant, committed and thrilling in her "Der Männer Sippe", which is the best passage in this performance. The Hunding is a bit gruff but perfectly adequate; the main thing is the dramatic thrust of the music in what is surely the best Act in all Wagner. It's hard to shake off memories of old classic versions from Walter, Karajan and Leinsdorf; I find that in particular Melchior's and Vickers' voices have etched themselves into my memory but it's curmudgeonly not to welcome good, modern, live performance such as this.

This was part of a recording project aborted because of the indisposition of the Wotan, so we have only this Act from the 2007 performance directed by Welser-Möst.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e631f3c) out of 5 stars Brilliant-but where's the rest of it? 7 Oct. 2013
By D. S. CROWE - Published on Amazon.com
I have already provided a brief scenario of the convoluted politics surrounding the release of the DG recording of the 2011 Ring from Vienna under Thielemann in my review of the set. In its on/off release was a source of speculation-generally that either Franz Welser-Most had vetoed it in his capacity as Music Director, or that Thielemann had vetoed because it had too many flaws. Even Austrian Radio was reluctant to broadcast it!
Both camps strenuously denied the rumours, and as we know it did finally appear, deeply flawed but with its strengths too.
Hot on its heels, we now have a taster from Orfeo of FWM's 2007 performance of what was then a new production-and what a fizzing, exciting account of Walkure Act One it is! It was his conducting of this cycle that in no small way contributed to his "coming up on the rails" to succeed the ailing Ozawa whose flaccid tenure was coming to an end, when Thielemann had been the favourite. On this brief snapshot, one can see why.
The recorded sound, re-mastered from DDD Austrian Radio Master Tapes is superb-actually preferable to that by DG in that it is more sense of air, more sheen and provides a more accurate impression of what its like to be in the house.
FWM proves yet again to be a highly accomplished Wagnerian. In this act he conducts with the luminosity of Karajan-some of the chamber-like effects are breathtaking-but with the drive and energy of Leinsdorf. This is no mean feat!
The opening prelude whips along at a pace Usain Bolt would find difficult to sustain, and he never allows the music to stagnate, while shaping it exquisitely. The orchestra play with absolute assurety, ravishing tone and tremendous weight when FWM allows it. The deep brass-bass trombone and tuba-growl with a real snarl, and the high brass in the sword motif are thrilling-and impeccable. The strings and woodwind are ravishing, and there is great detail revealed in the recording. Playing, conducting and recording are a triumph!
The singing, if not quite the best we've ever heard, is the best for a long time where Kaufmann is not involved!
Johan Botha's debut here as Siegmund is a major success. His open throated clear voiced Siegmund is streets ahead of Ventris in this role, and he just lacks the last vestige of darker baritonal quality in his voice to be ideal.
His lyrical singing is beautifully mellifluous, his cries of Wälse are thrilling enough, and though one can hear him winding himself up to sustain the final "Wälsungeblut", he brings it off magnificently.
Ain Anger is a dark, firmed voice Hunding who starts off brooding and quietly menacing and builds up to become an imposing threat indeed.
He doesn't quite match the power and menace of Frick or Salminen, but it is a very fine assumption.
The main focus for the promotion of this disc is Nina Stemme's debut as Sieglinde.
In 2007 she was at her peak of course, so I had hoped her Sieglinde would be excellent. It's not excellent-it's utterly superb!
Like Varnay on the second cycle recording of the Keilberth Ring, this Sieglinde is no down-trodden victim waiting for rescue.
This is a Sieglinde simmering with restrained passion, disdainful of the husband forced upon her, and radiant of emotion when she recognises the true object of her desires in Siegmund.
There is no more assured Sieglinde on record-Stemme does not have the limpid beauty of Crespin or Janowitz, but she compensates for this with truly thrilling passionate singing in an interpretation that is worth the cost of the set alone!
The presentation is beautiful, other than a photograph of FWM that makes him look like a nerd with no friends-and of course, in true Orfeo fashion, there is no libretto. However, I cannot imagine that this disc will be bought by anyone other than those who already have a libretto or 10!
Its release poses some questions-where's the rest of it?
Why release only this tantalising snippet? We may one day get to learn of the politics-Vienna strikes again!
I'm happy to assert that it's the best Walkure Act One since the era of Solti, Bohm and Karajan- Gergiev and Kaufmann notwithstanding, as it is so much better played and conducted.
Fans of any of these artists need not hesitate-and diehard Wagnerians are in for a treat- but it is cruelly tantalising. So much better than Thielemann! 5 Stars. Stewart Crowe.
Corollary-since writing this review I have learned that Uusitala as Wotan broke down in Act 2, could not sing and mimed the part on stage while one Oskar Hillebrandt sang the role from the wings. What a shame-but still a pity that a recording of a later performance could not have been " patched in." SC.
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