Wagner: Die Walküre - Varnay, Hotter, Shuard, Vinay, Boese, Böhme, Konwitschny. London, 1959
Listen to a Sample:
You wonder if the audience at this performance in 1959 understood that what they were hearing was about as close to perfection as Wagner ever comes. To have all of the main roles cast with singers who would go down in history as some of the finest Wagnerians of their generation seems almost impossible today (not to say that there aren't some very fine Wagnerians out there.) Astrid Varnay is magnificent as Brünnhilde right from her entrance and delivers a nuanced and subtle performance well paired to the dramatic sensitivity of Hans Hotter. The two create one of the most intimate final scenes I have ever heard. As the Wälsungen, we are treated to a young Amy Shuard as Sieglinde and Ramón Vinay as Siegmund. Although Shuard possessed a voice of considerable power, the strength of her singing never came at the expense of beauty and lyricism creating a Sieglinde aligned with the tradition of Lotte Lehmann and Frida Leider. Ramón Vinay was about a year away from transitioning to baritone and you do get the sense that at times navigating the passaggio seems a little more labored than in did in the early 50s. Regardless, the baritonal richness of his voice remains intact and given the lower nature of this role, he manages admirably. The sound is very good.