Sixten Ehrling
Orchestra of the Royal Opera Stockholm
14 March 1987
Kungliga Operan Stockholm
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegfriedMatti Kastu
MimeFranz Kasemann
WotanJerker Arvidson
AlberichBjörn Asker
FafnerSten Wahlund
ErdaGunilla Söderström
BrünnhildeLaila Andersson-Palme
WaldvogelHilde Leidland

Last year I had the opportunity to review Sterling’s release of a live recording of Richard Strauss’ Salome review. Now Sterling has brought to light a recording of the third music drama in Wagner’s Ring cycle. As I had found much to enjoy in the Salome, I anticipated a similar experience with Siegfried, only to find it mostly a disappointment. The singers who graced the stage of the Royal Swedish Opera during the 1970s and 80s are not very well documented on recordings, so in some ways this set is valuable on that score. However, the recording suffers from a low sound level and fairly distant placement of the microphones for most of the singers to make any sort of impact.

For a while during the late 1970s I can recall tenor Matti Kastu was being mentioned in the music press as the next great heldentenor successor. The hoped for helden-messiah did not materialize, as it was with so many of the other contenders from that same period. Eventually Placido Domingo and Siegfried Jerusalem assumed the Wagner tenor mantle with distinction. Also, the sudden appearance of swan knight Ben Heppner gave the world a brief rosy period during which Wagner’s tenor heroes were in safe larynxes. On this recording Kastu takes a fairly good stab at Siegfried, although he is better at conveying the boyish rather than heroic side of the character. His tone is clear but becomes rather piercing as it ascends the staff. As the performance proceeds gradually his pitch begins to stray and by the third act he is generally lunging at the notes, as his vocal stamina falters. His voice is also not contrasted enough from Franz Kasemann’s excellent Mime to be able to tell either singer apart from one another easily. Kasemann provides much of the chief pleasure of this set, although he is the singer most affected by the distance from the microphones. Jerker Arvidson makes a very fatherly sounding Wanderer. His soft-grained tone ensures a degree of sympathy towards the character. He has a somewhat short sounding upper range which causes him to lunge for the higher phrases also. Ultimately he doesn’t come across as sufficiently world-weary for the Wanderer.

In the second act Björn Asker’s Alberich is strongly vocalized but he doesn’t project the level of pride and malevolence that distinguished interpreters have on other recordings. Sten Wahlund’s granite-like tone delivers up a superb Fafner. Hilde Leidland doesn’t get to make much of an impression as the Woodbird because she is placed too distantly. One can encounter her more vividly in Daniel Barenboim’s Teldec recording, made live at Bayreuth in 1992.

In the third act the earth goddess Erda surfaces in the person of Gunilla Söderström. She is a light voiced alto with a distinctly fluttery tone that ultimately lacks sufficient gravity to convey Erda’s elemental force. Laila Andersson-Palme’s Brünnhilde provides the set’s biggest disappointment. Despite the laser-like quality of her soprano which made such a riveting Salome, here she is often a shaky vocalist without the heroic stature of a true Brünnhilde. She would be better suited cast as the Third Norn than Wagner’s impetuous heroine.

The orchestra of the Stockholm Opera frequently falters throughout. This fact is highlighted by their close proximity to the microphones, far closer than the singers are permitted to be. Sixten Ehrling’s view of the work could be called mercurial rather than weighty. His tempi steadfastly resist lingering on anything and contribute to one of the shortest recordings of this opera in the catalogue. Ultimately, his view of the score, while propulsive, lacks any hint of the malicious force that the ring’s curse exerts on all of the action in Siegfried. It’s sad to report that this Siegfried is not competitive against several other previous versions on disc.

Mike Parr | June 2022

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A production by Folke Abenius (1970)