Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Jones, Kollo, Jung, McIntyre, Kélémen, Minton, Salminen; Boulez. Bayreuth, 1977

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This set comes from the second summer of the legendary Chéreau/Boulez Ring Cycle at Bayreuth, and although the catcalls at the end of Götterdämmerung suggest that the public was still a few years away from accepting the production, the cheers for the stellar cast confirm that musically they had a triumph on their hands. Those who had the good fortune to have seen Gwyneth Jones live know of her power to draw you into the inner life of a character and although her voice and histrionics were powerful, she knew how to wield both with precision and at times delicacy. The “haters” out there will often point to erratic vocal production that occasionally marred her performances, but I would imagine they would find very little to fault her with here. She was a dramatic soprano in the true sense of the word and unleashes hellfire on the unsuspecting Gibichungs in Act II in a way I have never heard from a soprano past or present. René Kollo finds himself in fine form in the title role of Siegfried, bringing a ringing tenor voice and youthful demeanor. It is a shame that he wasn’t cast in Götterdämmerung as Manfred Jung, although in possession of a fine instrument, struggles to find any other vocal colors besides “loud” (in fairness his performance here is much fresher than the Phillips release.) Donald McIntyre’s Wotan is not the finest sung on record, but he brings a stoic “everyman” quality to the role. Hannelore Bode is a disappointing Sieglinde but Robert Schunk makes up for it by singing Siegmund with rich lyricism. Pierre Boulez favors a more leisurely approach than he would in subsequent years which seems to work to the benefit of the cast, particularly Jones. The rest of the cast includes Karl Ridderbusch as Hagen, Matti Salminen as Hunding, Yvonne Minton as Waltraute, Eva Randová as Fricka, and Siegfried Jerusalem as Froh. The sound is superb.

OD 11195-12

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