Wagner: Siegfried (In English) - Remedios, Hunter, Garrard, Dempsey, Hammond-Stroud, Grant, Masterson; Goodall. London, 1973
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To say that I was excited to find this Siegfried is an understatement, however to find that the sound was very good to the point where barely one word of text didn't come through with crystal clarity, turned my excitement into near delirium! Well, perhaps I am veering towards hyperbole, but if you have A.) enjoyed the previous installments broadcasted from the E.N.O. available exclusively at Opera Depot B.) love opera sung in English featuring performers with both impeccable instruments and diction C.) just plain love Richard Wagner, then this set will be a most welcome addition to your collection. Alberto Remedios may not be the most stentorian of Siegfrieds, but I have no problem asserting that his is the most beautifully sung Siegfried I have ever heard and he highlights that the majority of this role is, in fact, quite lyrical in nature. There are many reasons to acquire this set even if you already own the E.M.I. version; the most notable being the Wanderer of Don Garrard. His voice is more elegant than Norman Bailey's and he manages to navigate the role without ever "barking." Though significantly shorter than the other Brünnhildes, the Siegfried Brünnhilde is still an incredible challenge for sopranos, but Rita Hunter actually makes the role seem easy delivering spot on high notes, opulence of tone and beauty. Gregory Dempsey as Mime embodies everything that is great about a superb English tenor and a superb character tenor. At times he sings with such attention to the text that you might mistake it for a Vaughan Williams song while imbuing the character with a perfect balance of sympathy and revulsion. The same can be said for the Alberich of Derek Hammond-Stroud although Hammond-Stroud paints with larger strokes. I must also mention the luxury of having a woodbird of the caliber of Valerie Masterson (another very welcome difference from the E.M.I. recording). As good as all the parts are the whole performance is even greater than the sum of them due in part to the chemistry of the singers who knew each other very well (for instance Rita Hunter and Alberto Remedios went to school together) and the artistic leadership of Reginald Goodall. Wagner conducted at these tempos has can be deadly in the hands of someone less skilled. Goodall has a way of slowing down time without loosing the forward momentum of a melody and without sacrificing the organic cadence of the language. In fact, the slower tempos give the singers the chance to luxuriate in the vocal line as well as allowing Wagner's exquisite harmonies and orchestral details to come through. The sound is very good and you will not miss a word of the language. The one flaw that I will point out is that it seems as if this was transferred from LP and the beginning of the first act the occasional scratchiness that those of us who remember LPs will remember all to well from a well loved record. The rest of the performance is scratch-free.