Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen - Jones, Cox, McIntyre, Knie, Roberts, Brenneis, Ridderbusch, Mazura, Reynolds; Stein. Bayreuth, 1974
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Careers are often made on the cancellation of star singers. One such indisposition in the summer of 1974 afforded three different budding Wagnerians the opportunity of a lifetime to sing Brünnhilde at Wagner’s own theater. Of the three, the only soprano who would go on to international acclaim was Gwyneth Jones, but don’t let that undermine your expectations of Roberta Knie whose steely, athletic soprano seems right at home as the Walküre Brünnhilde or Brenda Roberts who delivers one of the most stunning Siegfried Brünnhildes I have ever heard (the latter also earns the distinction of the youngest Brünnhilde in the history of the festival.) Why Knie and Roberts did not go on to conquer the world is an entirely different discussion, but captured here at the onset of their careers they display promise that should have made the more established dramatic sopranos of the day nervous. Jean Cox brings his familiar Siegfried back for another summer and displays a youthful if somewhat monochromatic voice that never buckles under the pressure of the orchestra. Donald McIntyre’s commanding yet avuncular Wotan is in remarkably fresh voice, displaying a beauty of tone that had faded slightly by the time he recorded the role for Phillips. The rest of the cast is peppered with excellent cameos, the stand-outs being Karl Ridderbusch’s Fasolt and subsequent Hagen, Franz Mazura’s Alberich and subsequent Gunther, a scene-stealing performance of Mime courtesy of Heinz Zednik and an opulent Gutrune from Eva Randovà. Conductor Horst Stein’s masterful touch keeps the operas from ever getting bogged down in the heaviness of Wagner’s orchestration. The sound is good.