Wagner: Das Rheingold - Adam, Martin, Dernesch, Windgassen, Neidlinger, Ridderbusch, Greindl; Maazel. Bayreuth, 1968
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When excerpted in concert or in "highlights" CDs, Das Rheingold always seems to get shortchanged. With the exception of the finale there are very few of Wagner's signature show-stopping orchestral moments. Rheingold, however, is worth much more than the sum of a few grand opera numbers and perhaps more than any other opera Wagner wrote, it is the most successful of achieving his ideal for "Unendlische Melodien" or unending melody. Almost the whole opera is an accompagnado recitativo crafted with acute attention to the natural inflection of speech and sensitivity to the text. All of these features are highlighted in this recording by the singing actors who bring the drama to life. Theo Adam is a virile and young sounding Wotan; finding a seamless mix between brash and elegant. Janis Martin lends her attractive and slender voice as Fricka, Helga Dernesch is a winsome and voluptuous Freia and Josef Greindl and Karl Ridderbusch make an excellent pair of lumbering yet sympathetic giants. The real star of the evening for me was the Loge of Wolfgang Windgassen. Unencumbered by the normal demands usually placed on him by the heldentenor roles that he assumed, he demonstrates that he was more than just a big voice. Lorin Maazel may not have been a career opera conductor, but he nonetheless shows a keen understanding for both musical and dramatic pacing. The sound is very good.