Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Lindholm, Schröder-Feinen, Ligendza, Cox, Adam, Ridderbusch, Jones, Brenneis; Stein. Bayreuth, 1973
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It is not uncommon for two sopranos to split duties as Brünnhilde in the Ring, but I have never come across a complete cycle inhabited by three different Brünnhildes. It had originally been intended for Berit Lindholm to sing the Walküre and Siegfried Brünnhildes and Catarina Ligendza to sing the Götterdämmerung Brünnhilde, but Lindholm fell ill before the performance of Siegfried giving Ursula Schröder-Feinen, who was still relatively unknown at the time, the opportunity to show off her Wagnerian chops. And some mighty fine chops they are, I might add. For my part Schröder-Feinen nearly steels the entire Cycle, tackling the shortest, but arguably most difficult, role in the Ring with seeming ease. Her top is gleaming with seemingly endless reserves and she is able to scale back her voice for the more intimate moments. That is not to short-change the achievements of her colleagues. Lindholm struggles a little at first with the Walküre Brünnhilde but quickly settles into things revealing an alluring, auburn color to her voice, which brought to my mind a young Astrid Varnay. Catarina Ligendza returns for her third summer as Brünnhilde at Bayreuth and seems more confidant and secure than ever. It is unclear to me how well her voice may have cut through the orchestra, but she manages the treacherous role with impressive security and a youthful quality that is all too rare in Wagner. The rest of the cast is very good. Theo Adam sings Wotan, Gwyneth Jones is Sieglinde, Jean Cox delivers a dashing Siegfried (replete with an impressive high C in Götterdämmerung). The smaller roles are no less distinguished, including the likes of Eva Randovà as Gutrune, Franz Mazura as Gunther and Marga Höffgen as Erda. The sound is very good and the performances are complete except for about 30 seconds of music at the beginning of "Ewig war ich" in Act III of Siegfried.