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Recorded at the 2008 Bayreuth Festival, this 2-CD set is something of a missed opportunity in that it leaves you wanting either more or less. It must be an impossible job choosing what to include in such a selection, and I’m not convinced that it provides ‘the Ring in a nutshell’ as promised by the blurb on the slipcase. For example, Fricka almost entirely vanishes, Gutrune disappears altogether and Brünnhilde’s slumbers must have been endless as she makes her first appearance in her duet with Siegfried. Similarly it makes it difficult to assess Christian Thielemann’s conducting, which sounds measured, detailed and grand, with a Ride of the Valkyries which verges on the lugubrious.

The casting is erratic and provides mixed pleasures. Albert Dohmen’s Wotan/Wanderer is definitely a bonus as he has the weight and range of voice for the role, and his on-stage experience stands him in good stead; his Farewell is particularly affecting. The Wälsung twins make a good impact, with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Endrik Wottrich both providing the requisite passion; they whip up quite a storm between them. Siegfried is very well sung by Stephen Gould, but although his hefty tenor hits the notes full-on his tone is very straight and there’s not much sense of youth about him – it’s admirable but not loveable. Andrew Shore relishes his chances as Alberich, and likewise Gerhard Siegel as Mime. Hans-Peter König’s Hagen is suitably inky of tone.

The Valkyries are a very mixed bunch and it all gets horribly squally at times. Linda Watson’s Brünnhilde is generally a liability. Admittedly she provides acres of solid mid-voice tone, but it’s neither attractive nor dramatically incisive. Her top is a major liability, and the final notes of the Siegfried duet culminate in a strained yelp; the tessitura of the Immolation Scene sits better for her and she’s certainly got some stamina, but even then she rushes the final phrase and finishes before her conductor.

Overall this release offers many memorable moments, mainly thanks to Dohmen and Thielemann, and is sure to make a worthwhile addition to any Wagner-lover’s collection.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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