Not bad at all; both tenors are excellent
Theodore Shulman | NYC | 05/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"OK this cast is almost all inferior to the 1950s-early60s Bayreuth cast, (Windgassen-Hotter-Greindl-Neidlinger-etc.) but that's a very high bar to set; the cast here is very very good.
Starting with Jean Cox. He's a beautiful heldentenor, bigger than many, and a fine actor, who sings with no trace of Alabama accent. I bought this because I liked him so much as Walther on the Varviso MEISTERSINGER and I am not disappointed.
Same with Ms. Kniplova. Not in the same class as Nilsson, Flagstad, Varnay, Modl, and Grob-Prandl, but plenty good.
Karl Ridderbusch isn't quite low enough--his low F and F# have no vibrato at all (he never recorded Osmin and I've never seen a Sarastro on record) and are significantly softer than everything else; and, contrary to what one might expect from the stories one reads about his offstage behavior and his swastika tatoo and the elaborate Hitler-shrine he kept in his basement and showed to shocked visitors when he got drunk, nasty characters are not his best fach. He's better at benevolent big guys who sing between D-above-MidC and A-above-LowF. Daland, Pogner, Heinrich der Vogler. Even so, he's not bad at all as Fafner.
Alas, the same cannot be said of Theo Adam as the Wanderer. He's not as bad here as elsewhere but he still has all Hotter's faults--wobble and a very specific-to-himself tone, like it's his character rather than Wagner's--but none of Hotter's virtues. He's wobbly AND boring. His best asset is size.
And Zoltan Kelemen is an inadequate substitute for Gustav Neidlinger (PeaceBeUponHim) as Alberich. Kelemen's "ah" vowel is not nasal enough, it's a foreign-sounding, throaty "aw". Another reviewer accurately described his Alberich as "a nasty little thing". I would add, one-dimensional. He has no pathos, nor does he inspire fear; it's just frustration and anger and anger and frustration.
HOWEVER, Erwin Wohlfahrt is as good as any Mime on record--unlike Paul Kuen, Wohlfahrt actually sings the role; he's not as neurotic as Gerhard Stolze; but he is just kooky enough, and he includes a touch of true sweetness in his high notes. You can hear a little of what Mime might have been if he hadn't been so crooked and frightened all the time, like Nog the good ferengi on "Star Trek Deep Space Nine". Besides, his maniacal laugh is better than anyone's in the movies or on TV, including cartoons. A five-star Mime. It's a pity he died so soon after taking his place at the top of the profession. Try to get his performance as the Painter in LULU. (Go on, try.)
I have no complaints about Wolfgang Sawallisch's conducting, nor about the orchestra. They all sound like they're having fun, enjoying the moment. Serious but enthusiastic.
All in all I'm quite glad to have bought this; it's a fine performance for when I get tired of hearing the standard crowd do their thing."