Studio recording in stereo from
Festspielhaus Bayreuth
Conductor: Pierre Boulez
Siegmund Peter Hofmann
Sieglinde Jeannine Altmeyer
Wotan Donald McIntyre
Brünnhilde Gwyneth Jones
Hunding Matti Salminen
Fricka Hanna Schwarz
Gerhilde Carmen Reppel
Ortlinde Karen Middleton
Waltraute Gabriele Schnaut
Schwertleite Gwendolyn Killebrew
Helmwige Katie Clarke
Siegrune Marga Schiml
Grimgerde Ilse Gramatzki
Roßweiße Elisabeth Glauser
Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele
Philips, 434 422-2 3 CDs DDD
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Review by Graham Clark

As was the case with its predecessor at Bayreuth, the 1967 Böhm cycle, the Walküre is the peak of the Boulez set. The conducting is the most revolutionary before the recent Barenboim "Ring". Boulez has reduced the volume (and in some ways, status) of the orchestra to the the level of chamber music. This provides an almost charming transparancy in the music, as well as the ability for the singers to show off their abilities without being overplayed by the brass.

What a cast it is, too. Sir Donald McIntyre outdoes himself as Wotan, a role which he has sadly given up singing of late. He is even finer than he was in Das Rheingold, making the famous Act Two monologue positively interesting.

Opposite McIntye in the scene between Wotan and Fricka, we find a searing Hanna Schwarz, not a bit timid or wobbly. As Brünnhilde, we are granted Gwyneth Jones. Dame Jones has often been criticized for having a shrill, or even distorted voice. Any listening to her here makes even the toughest critic sound like a fool, for she gives one of the warmest and steadiest readings since the days of Birgit Nilsson.

Otherwise, Jeannine Altmeyer (the youngest singer on the whole Boulez Ring) makes a light, but delightfully dramatic Sieglinde, and Matti Salminen, a threatening Hunding, though his voice can sound oversized for the role at times. Peter Hofmann has been critized again and again for a roughness of tone, and this criticism has some basis. He is involving, but not as sympathetic as he could be.

Boulez's fast speeds here allow the entire Walküre to be comfortably packaged on three CD's instead of the typical four, a considerable price advantage. One the whole, this recording is not as refined as Solti's, as exciting as Böhm's or Krauss's, or as well cast as Janowski's (the last was recorded at approximately the same time), but otherwise very hard to beat.

This Walküre was recorded at the centenary production of the Bayreuth "Ring". It does not match all of its predescessors, but has the added advantage of being on video.

The production video taped was even more revolutionary than the conducting. The director, Patrice Chereau, has Hunding's hut portrayed as a grand mansion, and Hunding himself is a wealthy Baron. Brünnhilde appears as a school-girl in uniform, except when she wears her armor. The first half of Act Two in fact takes place inside Walhall (with the gods dressed as aristocrats). The fire at the end is shockingly realistic for a stage production. Suprisingly, this opera can still be enjoyed (as can Siegfried), as a normal production, as long as you are not too fussy about 19th century style scenery.

This review is from the now closed Wagner on the Web and it is published without the author's consent. I haven't been able to get in touch with him. If the author reads this, please contact me as soon as possible. If you don't want it here, I'll take it of the site immediately.