Wagner: Götterdämmerung - Nilsson, Windgassen, Greindl, Stewart, Meyer, Neidlinger; Böhm. Bayreuth, 1965
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Today it is hard to imagine a time in which you could go see a performance of the Ring which not only featured legendary singers in the main roles but also assembled a supporting cast which did not contain one weak link. Birgit Nilsson is an unstoppable force of nature as Brünnhilde whose vocal power is only matched by the beauty of her voice (a rare pairing in Wagner.) Although Wolfgang Windgassen, by his own admission, was never a true heldentenor, his solid technique and intelligence carry him a long way, and if at times we miss the ringing tones of someone like Lauritz Melchoir, he more than makes up for it with the youthful quality he brings to the role. Josef Greindl's black bass delivers a formidable, yet almost reptilian, Hagen. Thomas Stewart's Gunther is a true luxury. So often this part is overlooked by great baritones, perhaps given the unsympathetic nature of the character, but in the hands of a great singer one sees that there are many opportunities to shine and Stewart does just that. Likewise for the Gutrune of Ludmila Dvorakova, a fine Brünnhilde herself, whose attractive slavic sound makes the character come across as a legitimate threat to Brünnhilde and Siegfried's union irrespective of any love potions. In an interesting variation from the Phillips set, we are treated to Kerstin Meyer's Waltraute in place of Martha Mödl. Although you will never hear me say a bad thing about Mödl's artistry, it is no secret that by 1967 the voice was pretty much in tatters. And although Meyer doesn't achieve the magnetic quality that Mödl brought to every character she did, her vocal achievements are very much welcome. The sound is excellent.