Wagner: Die Walküre - Crespin, Stewart, Janowitz, Vickers, Talvela, Ludwig; Karajan. Salzburg, 1967
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Casting-wise, this performance of Die Walküre is probably one of the most youthful you are likely to hear. Régine Crespin, in the title role, is superb. It is a shame that she never delved deeper into the Wagnerian soprano roles (a decision she later regretted) as she has the vocal goods to compete with the orchestration as well as the artistry to paint some of the many intimate scenes with Wotan with the delicacy of an accomplished recitalist. In the role of Wotan, Thomas Stewart's suave baritone brings all of the bluster without any of the bark. Although there is certainly a long list of excellent recorded Wotans to choose from, his may be one of the most beautifully sung. Gundula Janowitz is the only singer in the cast who seems to be pushed just to the maximum of her vocal capabilities. Although she lacks the soaring power of Leonie Rysanek, her lyric soprano brings a vulnerability to Sieglinde's music which adds an interesting new color to the role. Jon Vickers, no stranger to the role of Siegmund, tones down his usual histrionics (no doubt at the insistence of the maestro) and delivers a lyrical and sensitive Siegmund. Christa Ludwig's vocal beauty, coupled with the righteous indignance of a spurned wife, make her brief cameo as Fricka quite memorable. Herbert von Karajan achieves a transparency in the score that I have never heard before particularly in the Todesverkündigung scene. The sound is good.