Der Ring des Nibelungen
Studio recording in stereo
1966 - 70
Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
Berliner Philharmoniker
Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin
Das Rheingold
December 6-28, 1967
Wotan Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Donner Robert Kerns
Froh Donald Grobe
Loge Gerhard Stolze
Alberich Zoltán Kelemen
Mime Erwin Wohlfahrt
Fasolt Martti Talvela
Fafner Karl Ridderbusch
Fricka Josephine Veasey
Freia Simone Mangelsdorff
Erda Oralia Dominguez
Woglinde Helen Donath
Wellgunde Edda Moser
Floßhilde Anna Reynolds
August 25-December 30, 1966
Siegmund Jon Vickers
Sieglinde Gundula Janowitz
Wotan Thomas Stewart
Brünnhilde Régine Crespin
Hunding Martti Talvela
Fricka Josephine Veasey
Gerhilde Liselotte Rebmann
Ortlinde Carlotta Ordassy
Waltraute Ingrid Steger
Schwertleite Lilo Brockhaus
Helmwige Danica Mastilovic
Siegrune Barbro Ericson
Grimgerde Cvetka Ahlin
Roßweiße Helga Jenckel
December, 1968 and February, 1969
Siegfried Jess Thomas
Mime Gerhard Stolze
Brünnhilde Helga Dernesch
Wanderer Thomas Stewart
Alberich Zoltán Kelemen
Fafner Karl Ridderbusch
Erda Oralia Dominguez
Waldvogel Catherine Gayer
October 10-December 29, 1969 and January 2-6, 1970
Brünnhilde Helga Dernesch
Siegfried Helge Brilioth
Hagen Karl Ridderbusch
Alberich Zoltán Kelemen
Gunther Thomas Stewart
Gutrune Gundula Janowitz
Waltraute Christa Ludwig
Woglinde Liselotte Rebmann
Wellgunde Edda Moser
Floßhilde Anna Reynolds
1. Norne Lili Chookasian
2. Norne Christa Ludwig
3. Norne Catarina Ligendza
Deutsche Grammophon, 457 780-2 14 CDs ADD
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Review by Constantijn Blondel

The Karajan-cycle is typically Karajan in that it differs substantially from every other interpretation. Karajan selected a cast of singers he saw as fit for his picture and his idea of the Ring and though he sacrifices consistency of cast to dramatic suitability this works out fine i.m.h.o.

The casting of Dietrich Fischer-Diskau as Wotan is often criticised, but I don't agree with this. In my opinion Fischer-Diskau definitely possesses the authority needed for the role...he just doesn't sing it like Hotter, and if some people can't accept this then so be it...but objectively the role is very well sung, more so since his usual intelligence points out the manipulating and haggling capabilities of the God.

Josephine Veasy is for many people the best Fricka on record, and I agree with this...she possesses enough 'spitfire' (especially in Die Walküre) but she also can soften her tone in the scenes in Rheingold where she tries to soften Wotan. Loge is most brilliantly sung by Gerhard Stolze... One seems to burn his fingers when trying to turn the pages of the booklet where he sings. Zoltán Kelemen sings a good Alberich, with enough 'bark' but also with a lot of melodic sense, which Gustav Neidlinger was expert at. He might not be the best Alberich, neither the most terrifying, but he is definitely convincing.

Siegmund is sung by Jon comment, just listen to him.

The casting of Gundula Janowitz as Sieglinde made for a lot of criticism too...sure, she has a light voice, but it is only a different approach, but not a wrong approach...I very much like the heavier voices of Leonie Rysanek or Lotte Lehman, but in the total picture Janowitz works very well and it is refreshing to hear the lovely aspect of Sieglinde worked out. The same goes for her Gutrune....I finally understood why Siegfried falls for her, which is a compliment.

The Walküre Wotan is sung by Thomas Stewart. He sings good, but is not entirely fit for the role (his acting though is excellent)...I'd have liked to hear Fischer-Diskau as the Walküre Wotan. Stewart is much better as Wanderer, where he projects the world-wisdom and in the Erda-scene the despair excellently.

Régine Crespin is better known for her Solti Sieglinde, but in my opinion she makes a lot of her Walküre Brünnhilde here. She is more the sensuous warrior maiden here instead of the adult god-daughter of more conventional singers. This young, girlish interpretation works very well.

From Siegfried on Brünnhilde is sung by Helga Dernesch. Anyone who liked Ms. Dernesch's Isolde (also with Karajan) shall like her Brünnhilde. I think she has much of Birgit Nilsson in her voice, especially the ringing and eardrum splitting high notes...I like this very much. After Nilsson she is my 2nd favorite Brünnhilde.

Gerhard Stolze is Mime and sings the dwarf just as Mime ugly despicable villain who, when the time comes can do nothing but be beaten by about everyone else...brilliant!

Siegfried is sung by Jess Thomas. Again this is a casting which has been criticized a lot. I agree that he is not a real 'heavy-weight' but that's just the whole point...In "Siegfried" Siegfried is a young boy and the fresh boyish voice of Jess Thomas conveys this magnificently...but I guess you don't have to like it.

In Götterdämmerung Siegfried is sung by Helge Brillioth. He doesn't have the greatest of voices but he is still very good...he has a more mature voice than Jess Thomas, but he still projects the sense that Siegfried is not much of an adult, but more of a somewhat older adolescent. Again, you don't have to like it, but I do. Hagen is sung by Karl Ridderbusch, who also sings Fafner. He is good, but he has too much of a 'Hans Sachs kind of voice' to convince entirely as Hagen. Though his acting is great (as with all singers) and his singing is generally good, he is easily beaten by for instance Josef Greindl and especially the blackest of black Hagens, Philip Kang. Gunther is sung by Thomas Stewart. He is good, and I think this role suits him more then Wotan, but it is still strange to hear Gunther sung by the same singer as Wotan.

The secondary casting is along the whole line excellent and contains no weak links. The playing of the Berliner Philharmoniker is a revelation to listen to and Karajan's like it or you don't. I guess you can qualify me as a Karajan-nut, but I do like it. He is extremely sensitive and sometimes you hold your breath just as not to miss any note. If you like Karajan's other Wagner recordings you'll also like this.

Right now DGG has released the entire set in its "Originals" series for budget price. I bought the cycle for Fl. 225, which is about US$ 175. If one can't look beyond Furtwängler, Melchior, Hotter and Flagstad (no offense meant, because these amongst the truly great artists) then one should better leave this set alone. If one wants to look beyond the conventional horizons, then this set is definitely worth buying. As with all great music...every time I hear this it grows and grows.