Wagner: Götterdämmerung - Dernesch, Thomas, Ridderbusch, Stewart, Janowitz, Ludwig, Ligendza, Moser; Karajan. Salzburg, 1970
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There is one thing for certain, you will never see a cast of Götterdämmerung as glittering as this one ever again. Herbert von Karajan, not accustomed to being turned down, managed to get people like Gundula Janowitz, Catarina Ligendza, Lili Chookasian and Edda Moser to sing Gutrune, the First Norn, Wellgunde and Third Norn respectively. Whether or not this glut of talent in the smaller roles may have revealed some of the shortcomings of the leads is a different story. Because Karajan's Ring was meant as a clear answer to Solti's, comparison's between Helga Dernesch and Birgit Nilsson are inevitable. Does Dernesch reach Nilsson's brilliance? No. But that is not to say that she doesn't bring a lot to the table. The warmth of Dernesch's voice remains consistent throughout the entire evening even during the most dramatic singing and if at times her voice can seem a little monochromatic, her default vocal color has enough interest to sustain one through the many hours of Wagner. By the 1970s the youthful sheen of Jess Thomas' voice was beginning to fade. Although he is remarkably sturdy, the frayed edges of his heldentenor are all to apparent. Karl Ridderbusch is a stand-out as Hagen. Ridderbusch is no stranger to lovers of the Ring, having made this role a staple of his long career, however, Karajan compels him to give some very delicate (not a word often associated with Hagen) singing particularly in his scene with Alberich which left me fantasizing about what his Winterreise might have been like. Thomas Stewart is glorious as Gunther. The real star of the evening is the maestro and whether or not you have issues with Karajan's unconventional casting, the musicality that he evokes from the orchestra is a true revelation. The sound is excellent.