Wagner: Siegfried - Hopf, Varnay, Wiener, Kraus, Klaus, Höffgen, Holt; Kempe. Bayreuth, 1963
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It is astonishing to think of the talent that was walking the streets of Bayreuth in the summer of 1963. Birgit Nilsson and Astrid Varnay were alternating Isoldes with Karl Böhm, Irene Dalis and Hans Knappertsbusch were participating in now legendary performances of Parsifal, Thomas Schippers was conducting Meistersinger with a 22 year-old Anja Silja as Eva and Rudolf Kempe was leading the Ring. This recording of Siegfried from that historic summer highlights not only the level of singing but also the overall musicianship at work. Rudolf Kempe creates a lightness to the score one rarely hears and the orchestra never lets the formidable technical demands of Wagner's writing get the better of them. In the title role, Hans Hopf delivers some impressive singing even if at times the pitch tends to sag. Astrid Varnay in her brief turn as Brünnhilde demonstrates that even though she was beginning to move into mezzo territory, she still had the goods for a great Brünnhilde, high Cs and all. Otto Wiener brings a baritonal elegance to the role of the Wanderer and Otakar Kraus is a wonderfully malevolent Alberich. The sound is good.