A damn' shame
So, I've been listening to an off-the-air recording of Giuseppe Sinopoli's Die Walküre, from the 2000 Bayreuther Festspiele. It's in passable (192 kbps) sound, and obviously taken from a broadcast, but it's still something. This production had Domingo singing Siegmund, Waltraud Meier singing Sieglinde, Alan Titus as Wotan, and Philip Kang as Hunding - about as good a modern cast as you could want. Sinopoli, though, was the star of this show. I, though, am not sure about Schnaut's Brünnhilde, but I haven't been sure about anyone since Nilsson. His tempi are sensible and broad: it's clear he understands how cosmic this drama is and he doesn't rush things. The staging was, shall we say, not well received.
The "damn' shame" is the fact that Deutsche Grammophon, who had Sinopoli's contract, if I recall correctly, didn't take the 2000 Festspiele as an opportunity to record a Ring in sparkling digital sound under a conductor who understood Wagner in the theater - especially the Bayreuth Festspielhaus. Sinopoli wasn't the best Wagner conductor of his generation, but he certainly came closer than others. Of course, with his untimely death, DG won't have a chance to get back on the boat.
Here is a 8 August 1983 Time magazine article on that year's infamous Georg Solti-Peter Hall Ring at Bayreuth. That cycle was a dramatic flop, but - musically - I am beginning to see that cycle as the Ring of the 1980s. It doesn't have Boulez' obsessive (even anti-Wagnerian, depending on whom you ask) drive, but it has plenty of echt-Wagnerian style in an environment that repays such affection with kindness, in spades. Here is what Time said:
Presiding over the music in magisterial fashion at his Bayreuth debut was Solti, 70. The manic drive and headlong energy that once characterized his Wagner have since been tempered by a lyrical impulse that has broadened and deepened his interpretation, although he has lost some of his electric excitement in the process. When, as for much of this Ring, there was nothing compelling to look at onstage, the listener could always concentrate with pleasure on the primary motivating force of Wagner's unique vision: the music.
Solti's 1983 Rheingold is, probably, the best treatment that score received during that decade. Why do I bring this up? Well, the recorded Rings of that time were Boulez' Bayreuth effort (Philips) and Janowski's studio set in Dresden (RCA). I happen to like Janowski's set quite a bit, but Solti had a better (I suppose) cast and a better environment. That, and he wrote the book on Ring recordings. I bring this up, in other words, to show another missed opportunity to get a good set in good - thoroughly modern - digital sound.
I suppose Solti's been amortized and is pure profit, but - still - there's room for one in the house Wagner built. It needs to be the right one.