Limelight, May 2013
By Clive Paget
Wagner - Die Walküre
Gergiev’s 21st-century Ring dream team take off in full Valkyrian flight.
Anyone passionate about Wagner’s Ring Cycle knows that every generation has its own prospective dream team. Cruel twists of fate, aging and contracts have frequently meant that key players never came together on one recording and/or in good voice. Given the paucity of new opera recordings around nowadays, it seems even more remarkable, therefore, that our current generation’s dream team should have coincided on this new Die Walküre from Mariinsky Opera.

Valery Gergiev is solid in Wagner – his 2010 Parsifal proved that he has an ear for Wagner’s orchestral sonorities and is able to sensitively support a vocal line. Given his reputation for being driven, what is surprising here is his breadth of pacing throughout. What he occasionally lacks in climactic payoffs he makes up for with revelatory touches of instrumental colour and meaningfully shaped instrumental phrases. It’s generally very well recorded too, on SACD, with plenty of air around the sound and singers well caught.

His cast, as mentioned, is exemplary. Jonas Kaufmann and Anja Kampe are the Wälsung twins, drawing you inexorably into the drama from the word go. Vocally Kaufmann is unmatched on record, a heroically dark tenor with ringing top notes. Kampe gives him a run for his money with full, rich tone and beautiful text work. Nina Stemme is a fine Brünnhilde, projecting the character’s emotional journey better than any of her current contemporaries. The top is just a little under pressure but she compensates with perfect diction and considerable passion. René
Pape is equally fine as Wotan, warmly resonant and powerfully inside the drama.

This recording is part of a projected Ring Cycle to be released over the next two years (Das Rheingold is due out in September). On this hearing, I for one can’t wait.

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