Die Walküre

Ádám Fischer
Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra
16 June 2023
Béla Bartók National Concert Hall Budapest
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
SiegmundStuart Skelton
HundingAlbert Dohmen
WotanAris Argiris
SieglindeSimone Schneider
BrünnhildeIréne Theorin
FrickaAtala Schöck
HelmwigeGertrúd Wittinger
GerhildeZita Váradi
OrtlindeBeatrix Fodor
WaltrauteGabriella Fodor
SiegruneÉva Várhelyi
GrimgerdeErika Gál
SchwertleiteSzilvia Szilágyi
RoßweißeZsófia Kálnay

Simone Schneider and Stuart Skelton shine at Budapest Wagner Days There was a storm of applause even before a single note of music would be heard, greeting Ádám Fischer’s entrance. It was a well-deserved ovation: the “Little Bayreuth”, now in its 17th outing and delivering its 13th Ring, owes its place as Müpa’s crown jewel to Fischer’s masterful leadership. And it was Fischer and the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra who emerged, once again, as the unquestionable stars of the Budapest Wagner Days festival.

A deft magician, Fischer conducts with minute attention to detail, a perfect sense of balance between pit and stage, and an unwavering sense of drama – in over four hours, he never let tension drop or attention wander. Under his baton, the orchestra rendered Wagner’s score not only with sumptuous, luminous sound (the Act 1 cello solos will stay long in the memory), but also a searing, almost punishing intensity, at turns electrifying and heartrending.

The cast was a mixed bag, with the Wälsungs emerging as the strongest element. Simone Schneider and Stuart Skelton delivered not only the best singing, but also touchingly acted and remarkably intimate portrayals of the doomed twins. Skelton proved the most impressive Siegmund I’ve heard at the Wagner Days in recent years, his clarion tenor equally capable of a thrilling force in “Ein Schwert verhieß mir der Vater” and the Todesverkündigung, turning dulcet-toned in his scenes with Sieglinde. His performance was matched by Schneider (also the Sieglinde in the Wiener Staatsoper’s current Ring!), singing with a gripping sense of drama. Her round, gleaming soprano delighted with its remarkable smoothness and unity of tone, sailing through “O hehrstes Wunder!” with enchanting ease.

Similarly laudable were Albrecht Dohmen’s menacing Hunding and Atala Schöck’s scene-stealing Fricka. Schöck played her with an entertaining mix of haughtiness and sardonic condescension, her plummy mezzo lending her character an air of unshakeable self-assurance, turning her scene with Wotan into one of the evening’s most memorable. The all-Hungarian ensemble of Valkyries sang with admirably fiery tone.

Iréne Theorin, a Wagner Days veteran, acted with an arresting sense of character. Her Brünnhilde was flesh and blood, as charming in her rebelliousness as sympathetic in her later plight, at turns terrified, devastated, resentful and frustrated. But vocally, that same prowess was missing. Though her “Hojotoho!” cries were tossed out with impressive ease and her high notes still came with thrillingly piercing force, her performance showed obvious signs of wear and tear – a loose vibrato, foggy diction and a somewhat underpowered middle register.

On the other side of the family feud, Aris Argiris initially displayed no such issues as Wotan. Though at first appearing somewhat timid (and then rather static), his rich, noble baritone lent itself well to Wotan’s angst-filled Act 2, acquiring an appropriately snarly edge in Act 3. But then came Wotan’s farewell, which was bewilderingly off-pitch, marring what was an otherwise fine, if not particularly memorable performance. After such an electrifying Brünnhilde–Wotan duo from Catherine Foster and Egils Silins last year, this was a particular letdown.

Providing the dramatic framework for the evening, Fischer and Hartmut Schörghofer’s production is a known quantity, involving projections, dancers and a somewhat laissez-faire sense of Personenregie. Having been ‘renovated’ in 2019, the new projections feel more stylistically unified and impactful (the grim view of Hunding’s mountainside realm burning away into a sunrise at the end of Act 1 is a lovely moment), and revival director Etelka Polgár must be credited for the greater sensitively and vividly drawn portrayals. This Walküre is still a jewel for Budapest – it’s just a shame a few of its jewels shone dimly.

Orsolya Gyárfás | 17 Juni 2023

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Media Type/Label
Technical Specifications
320 kbit/s CBR, 48.0 kHz, 522 MByte (MP3)
Broadcast (Bartók Rádió) from the Budapest Wagner Days 2023
A production by Hartmut Schörghofer
This recording is part of a complete Ring cycle.