Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Varnay, Välkki, Hopf, Adam, Hoffmann, Uhl, Frick; Klobucar. Bayreuth, 1964
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A revival at Bayreuth is different than at other houses. The standard model is that when a house revives a production, they will often bring in an entirely new cast, conductor and an assistant will restage the original director's vision. At Bayreuth, however, the same conductor will return for each subsequent mounting, as well as the original stage director, often bringing new ideas, and for the most part the same cast will return to their respective roles. The result is that as productions come back, the overall concept gets tighter and more nuanced. (Think of how the Chéreau Ring Cycle was a panned in 1976 when it premiered and lauded by the time the videos were made in 1981.) This phenomenon is borne out in this performance of the Ring, which marked the last summer of Wolfgang Wagner's 1960 production. The one very notable difference is that it was conducted by Berislav Klobucar as opposed to Rudolf Kempe, marking his only Ring Cycle at Bayreuth. Klobucar brings an earthier approach to the Ring and if he is less refined than Rudolf Kempe, there is a guttural immediacy and dramatic impact that is lacking from Kempe's cycles. The cast is first rate. Anita Välkki sings the Walküre Brünnhilde and Astrid Varnay sings the Siegfried and Götterdämmerung Brünnhildes. Välkki brings a youthful athleticism to the role whereas Varnay brings her 20 years of experience with the Ring as well as her voluptuous, gleaming high notes. As Siegfried, Hans Hopf's burnished tenor brings to mind Ramón Vinay. Theo Adam sings the Rheingold and Walküre Wotans and Hubert Hoffmann sings the Siegfried Wanderer; an interesting pairing since the two have rather similar voices. The rest of the cast features Fritz Uhl as Siegmund, Jutta Meyfarth as Sieglinde, Gottlob Frick as Hagen, Grace Hoffman as Fricka and Waltraute and Gerhard Stolze as Loge. The sound is very good.