Gergiev's Die Walkure was released earlier this year and it received generally positive reviews. This SACD of Das Rheingold is the second leg of what will be another complete Ring cycle in the catalogue. Siegfried and Götterdämmerung are scheduled for release in 2014. When finished I would wager, if I can judge by this recording of Das Rheingold, that Gergiev's Ring be judged as one of the stronger recorded efforts.
His Das Rheingold is certainly a splendid effort, featuring both excellent singing and brilliant playing by the Mariinsky Orchestra. Gergiev's take on the score is riveting while effectively conveying Wagner's expressive depth. His tempos can vary widely, from the scorching nature of the Prelude to the restrained pacing associated with the entrance of Fasolt and Fafner. Naturally some listeners may prefer a more consistently driven approach, while others may desire a more measured take on the score in order to plumb its many profundities. But Gergiev finds a good balance between the two and thus delivers an intense and quite exciting account.
As for the singers, the Wotan of Rene Pape is quite imposing and Ekaterina Gubanova as Fricka is excellent. Most of the other cast members sing quite splendidly as well and their dramatic skills are excellent too. You have to admire Nikolai Putilin's Alberich and Andrei Popov's Mime for really being able to get inside their characters: try the opening of Scene III, for just one example, when Alberich puts on the magic helmet (Tarnhelm), and reprimands his brother Mime for having attempted to keep it for himself. Note Alberich's delectable arrogance and Mime's perfectly-rendered cowering manner. While some may carp at the diction of some cast members in a few places, there's really very little else to mention on the debit side.
The sound reproduction is excellent on this SACD, though like most discs in this format, you may have to increase the volume a bit. The album booklet contains the complete libretto in German and English, and the notes and biographies are in Russian and English. I have previously reviewed several Das Rheingold video recordings here, including the TDK/Euroarts DVD (2004) led by Lothar Zagrosek (TDK DVOPRDNR/EuroArts 105206), the Opus Arte DVD (2006) led by Hartmut Haenchen (Opus Arte DVD OA0946), and in two separate reviews written in 2012 of the four Ring operas led by Daniel Barenboim in Bayreuth, the first set on DVD (Warner Classics (Unitel) D4755) and the latter on Blu-ray (Unitel Classica Blu-ray BD4755). All were reasonably good, with the Barenboim my preference. The Gergiev is an SACD of course and thus comparison is problematic. Suffice it to say, however, that the Gergiev musically can stand with the Barenboim in most respects, but must be given an edge in sound reproduction, as the older Barenboim set, good as its sound is for its time (1991-92), is not quite as vivid.
Copyright © 2013, Robert Cummings