Wagner: Die Walküre
In Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung, the first act of the Valkyrie takes up a special place. The love triangle of the twins Siegmund and Sieglinde and the ominous Hunding stands out in the context of this tetralogy because it possesses its own dramatic tension and self-enclosed trajectory within what is otherwise such a complex, richly interconnected series of works. In musical terms it goes from one climax to the next, from the turbulent orchestral prelude through to Siegmund’s love song “Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond” and the passionate union of the sibling couple. At the most recent production at the Vienna State Opera, the twins were sung by Nina Stemme and – for the first time in the role – Johan Botha. Their antagonist Hunding was sung by Ain Anger, whose mighty bass voice was paired with a subtle art of characterization. All three received a tumultuous reception, from the public and critics alike. The soprano and tenor have since enjoyed international success in even more dramatic Wagner roles – Nina Stemme, for example, has sung Brünnhilde in San Francisco, Vienna and Milan, while Johan Botha has sung Tannhäuser in Vienna and London. But already as Sieglinde and Siegmund it was evident that they would retain their vocal beauty and legato phrasing despite the heavy-duty nature of their roles. Both Stemme and Botha are also characterized by remarkably clear diction. Besides singing the role of Siegmund at this year’s Bayreuth concert to celebrate Wagner’s 200th birthday, he will do so again on the Bayreuth stage this summer. The Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera was conducted in 2007 by its General Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and was also on top form in the first act of the Valkyrie. Wagner is rarely heard with such opulence and iridescence while still so transparent and unforced. This CD release of the live performance of the first act is thus also ideal for all those who in this Wagner year are curious to hear more, but perhaps hesitate to get to grips with complete, modern performances of the Ring.