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Wagner’s Das Rheingold heralds a new Ring cycle from Naxos. This performance is with the Hong Kong Philharmonic under Jaap van Zweden, not household names amongst Wagnerites. Nevertheless, the orchestra plays very well indeed, though the conductor doesn’t impose much personality on his reading and at times the tension slacks. A major problem is the engineering, which greatly favours the voices over the orchestra, so if you’re listening to it for specific nuances they are often buried in the background; yet percussion gets a starring role, including a tinkly descent into Nibelheim that sounds like a jaunty troupe of Hare Krishnas. Another problem of live recordings is that what works in the flesh can sound overstated on disc, and vice versa. Matthias Goerne tackles Wotan for the first time and is a huge success: suave, sardonic, emotionally and intellectually torn. His voice has a rich legato, though the breathiness around the tone might hinder enjoyment for some. Michelle DeYoung is a competent but faceless Fricka. The same cannot be said for Peter Sidhom’s Alberich, who provides enough voice and character to galvanise any performance, and sometimes it’s just too much – though experienced live it must have been exciting. Kim Begley’s Loge is much the same, and his singing is now rather wide-toned but hugely effective. The remaining cast is generally good. A worthwhile budget option with some interesting interpretations.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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