Wagner: Die Walküre - Nilsson, Caballé, Stewart, Cassilly, Salminen; Wallat. Barcelona, 1977
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Although this performance is an astounding gathering of the greatest Wagner singers of their day, it is most notable because it represents the role debut of Montserrat Caballé as Sieglinde. On paper this role may seem like an odd choice for a bel canto specialist, but she proves herself to be almost ideal. By the late seventies Caballé was starting to lose her ability to float exquisite high notes but to make up for it her voice seemed to gain in size and certainly steel. This makes for some ravishing Wagnerian outbursts. What is doubly remarkable is that she apparently showed up not knowing the role at all, as she was accustomed to doing. Richard Cassilly, the Siegmund on this evening, told me that they had to cancel most of the rehearsals to focus on teaching her the part. Fortunately Caballé had a very strong musical foundation and she not only delivers the notes on the page, she shows a command of Wagnerian style and the meaning of the drama. She certainly benefits from excellent colleagues who were already veteran Wagnerians. Despite nearing 60, Birgit Nilsson shows absolutely no fear with the "Hojotohos" and then goes on to give one of the most deeply nuanced Brünnhildes I have ever heard her sing. Although at times the purity of tone might be missing, she makes up for it with her profound understanding of the character and her relationship with her father. As Wotan, Thomas Stewart is in top form alternating touchingly between virile and tender. Richard Cassilly shows here that he was certainly one of the greatest Heldentenors of all times as Siegmund. His voice is both robust and sweet. A young Matti Salminen almost sounds too good to be a convincing Hunding. The sound is excellent.