Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Kniplová, Cox, Adam, Ridderbusch, Dalis, Hillebrecht, Martin; Sawallisch. Roma, 1968
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When surveying the Rings of the 50s and 60s it gets easy for them to blend into one and another after a while given that only a handful of singers (albeit great ones) were dominating their respective roles. This Ring truly stands out from the pack thanks to the inspired (and at times peculiar) casting as well as the musical leadership of Wolfgang Sawallisch. Sawallisch delivers one of the fastest Rings you are likely to hear. Although this at times comes at the cost of some of Wagner’s more expansive passages, it is remarkable how a swift pace can keep the momentum of the drama from flagging (a danger in Wagner) as well as allowing the singers to opt for a more conversational approach to their discourse. Nedezda Kniplová sings Brünnhilde and brings a rich slavic quality, faring equally well in delivering lyrical opulence as well as dramatic punch. Jean Cox would own the role of Siegfried in the 70s, and like many tenors who go the dramatic route, that direction would ultimately take a toll on the lyrical nature of his instrument. This performance, however, captures him in fresh voice which helps to convey the character’s boyishness. Theo Adam delivers a magisterial Wotan, Janis Martin offers a calculating Fricka and Irene Dalis delivers one of the greatest Waltraute scenes I have ever heard. Additional kudos go to the Fafner of Karl Ridderbusch, the Alberich of Zoltan Kelemen and the lush Erda of Oralia Dominguez. The set is in very good monaural sound.