Wagner: Götterdämmerung - Nilsson, Hopf, Frick, Stewart, Hoffman, Bjoner; Kempe. Bayreuth, 1960
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This Götterdammerung captures Birgit Nilsson just before the true height of her fame. Even though her voice has often been described as being "made for Wagner" any singer, no matter how gifted, who assumes the Hochdramatische rep, will experience a shift in their vocal mechanism after time. One can clearly appreciate that from this performance as her voice seems just slightly more nimble than later in the decade (the aging process is obviously another factor here). She is joined by Hans Hopf. Hearing him next to her can be a shock to those (like me) who are so used to having her paired with Windgassen. Hopf's voice is slightly more burnished and baritonal but is remarkably tireless, especially in Act III, where he recounts his adventures with the Waldvogel, a section in which many Heldentenors succumb to fatigue. Gottlob Frick is Hagen. He conveys charm, strength, and cunning while never letting you forget that he is only half human. It is a great luxury to have Thomas Stewart as Gunther. His was truly one of the great Wagnerian baritones of the day. Ingrid Bjoner is even more icing on the cake as Gutrune. Rudolf Kempe leads a nice crisp performance. The sound is excellent.