Wagner: Götterdämmerung - Varnay, Windgassen, Frick, Uhde, Kraus, Shuard; Konwitschny. London, 1959
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If Das Rheingold is a political allegory, Die Walküre is a family drama, Siegfried a comedy, then Götterdämmerung can be broadly characterized as the action film of the group. And if George Bernard Shaw found the whole affair rather tawdry in relationship to the subtlety of the earlier operas, he can easily be overlooked when you assemble a cast like this that is able to ignite the stage in a firestorm of drama and excitement. Astrid Varnay is a force of nature throughout delivering one of the most exciting Act IIs I have ever heard. Wolfgang Windgassen's Siegfried should be well known to Wagner lovers thanks to the Solti and Böhm Rings. Surprisingly, in 1959 his voice actually had a darker hue than in the 60s. Gottlob Frick's Hagen is terrifying both due to the black color of his voice as well as the everyman quality he brought to the role elevating the character out of mythic proportions to a level that is more readily identifiable in the context of real life. As alluded to in my descriptions of the previous installments, Konwitschny seems to favor broader tempos. This, at times, seems to flummox the singers who often get ahead of his beat. This is particularly true of Windgassen. Perhaps this was due to a lack of rehearsal or perhaps the singers were just being willful. In the end, you wish that they had made more of an effort to go with his vision as the breadth he brings to the score is revelatory. The sound is excellent.