Das Rheingold

Simone Young
Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Hamburg
23 September 2012
Concert Hall of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre Brisbane
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
WotanFalk Struckmann
DonnerJan Buchwald
FrohChris Lysack
LogeJürgen Sacher
FasoltTigran Martirossian
FafnerAdrian Sampetrean
AlberichEike Wilm Schulte
MimePeter Galliard
FrickaAnna Larsson
FreiaVida Mikneviciute
ErdaDeborah Humble
WoglindeHayoung Lee
WellgundeMarian Markina
FloßhildeAnn-Beth Solvang

The first opera in Richard Wagner’s epic Der Ring des Nibelungen was brilliantly executed by The Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hamburg State Opera at QPAC.

I felt apprehensive. I wondered what it must be like to play in the orchestra and hear the introductory strain of Wagner’s first instalment of the mighty Ring Cycle and know that the required period of concentration was for 150-minutes straight without a break. Then the lights went out and QPAC’s concert hall was in darkness as the deepest sustained note with the faintest of tremors sounded from the 20-strong brass section enriched by Wagnerian tubas. Gradually, the lights went up and a spot illuminated each of the gradually introduced orchestral sections. This stylish beginning inspired confidence.

There was no need for concern that the soloists would be crushed by this monster-sized orchestra either as the three Rheingold maidens burst into song with athletic and reassuringly strong voices. Whenever the orchestra swelled, becoming a tidal wave of sound, Hayoung Lee, Maria Markina and Ann-Beth Solvang’s voices surged and met the challenge with magnificent power.

The brilliant concertmaster’s tone is gorgeous. In his compelling solos, the silence intensified as everyone was drawn to him. In general, the string section’s sound was glorious and the articulation immaculate, and the percussion incisive and never overbearing. Throughout this dramatized concert version of Das Rheingold – for the singers acted, creating compelling theatre – the brass shone with a gleaming sound that could expand into an immense volume or retreat into a glassy pianissimo in a blink of Simone Young’s eye. Young’s conducting was assured, wilful, encouraging and purposeful, supporting the soloists, maintaining excellent balances, and steering the orchestra superbly through all the challenges and complexities of Wagner’s score. Her relative dynamics in shading the ensemble’s theatrical arc impressed, each climactic phrase distinctive and stronger than the last, and she could always coax more or a contrasting impact for the next.

As for the singers, they all ensnared their audience. Wotan, sung by Falk Struckmann, stole the event with a voice of a thousand colours and Rolls Royce power. Anna Larsson was commendable in putting flesh into her two-dimensional role of Fricka, staying in character for the duration and singing persuasively. The tenor Jurgen Sacher acted convincingly, imbuing Wagner’s melodramatic crises crafted around ownership of a ring with theatrical credibility, surprising though-that-may– seem to some, and the Australian-trained mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble as Erda was superb.

In summary, Young’s Das Rheingold was an enjoyable, impressive and highly theatrical event, not just because of Wagner’s hyperbolic language and the brilliant execution by The Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra and their cast of classy soloists, but because of the Brisbane audience’s appreciative reception expressed in a standing ovation that seemed as prolonged as one of Wagner’s operas.

Gillian Wills | 29 August, 2012

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
133 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 143 MByte (MP3)
Broadcast (ABC Classic) of a concert performance