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By reconfiguring the layout of the Musiektheater in Amsterdam, Pierre Audi’s 1999 Nederlandse Opera production physically involves the audience as surely never before. George Tsypins’s monumental sets sweep out into the auditorium, at times surrounding the orchestra and providing the performers with a catwalk that thrusts right out to the viewer. Experienced live this must have been overwhelming – on film it has pros and cons. The sheer scale is sometimes lost and the sound varies slightly between operas (Das Rheingold seems slightly less bright than the others). Effects that probably overwhelmed in the theatre can look overly artificial, for example, the opening scene where the Rhinemaidens look all too like singers in bodysuits rolling on a steeply raked set. However, it is mostly magnificent and the major set pieces are often astounding – this production doesn’t shirk the big moments and given the vast series of ramps and floors, the set is extraordinarily mobile and fluid in its changes. Technical challenges are met head on – you get fire, gods and giants galore.

Hartmut Haenchen conducts a new complete version of the score, leading his orchestras with vigour (the Hague Philharmonic for Das Rheingold, Netherlands Philharmonic for Die Walküre and Götterdämmerung, Rotterdam Philharmonic for Siegfried – all are equal to the challenge).

Haenchen’s cast is predictably variable. John Bröcheler’s Wotan/ Wanderer is vocally strong (if a bit pushed at the top), but at times a little faceless. Reinhild Runkel’s Fricka is stolid in Rheingold, livelier in Walküre. Henk Smit’s as Alberich gives an involved if not classic performance. Chris Merritt’s Loge is excellent, as is Graham Clark’s Mime.

John Keyes’s Siegmund and Nadine Secunde’s Sieglinde are vocally adequate but curiously passionless; at the end of their duet he gives the impression of someone boarding the first bus that comes along rather than the one they actually want. Kurt Rydl’s Hunding and Hagen are both petrifying, his voice cavernous. Jeannine Altmeyer’s Brünnhilde has ripened considerably since her recording for Janowski (see review on page 67, opposite). She is still a totally committed performer with bags of energy and class, but although the middle voice is still rich the top is often effortful.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Opera Now, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing