The first part of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, and the shortest opera in the cycle, Das Rheingold serves as an introductory evening performance that opens the series, followed successively by three full-length music dramas, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Die Götterdämmerung. However, this concert recording by Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra is the second installment in their Ring, following the early 2013 release of Die Walküre. By reviving Wagner's music in Russia, which was banned during the Soviet era and remained little explored for decades, Gergiev has tapped into a rich vein of artistry that brings a fresh appreciation of the Ring's drama and sonorities. The international cast, headed by René Pape as a powerful Wotan, features some of the best Wagner singers available, including Ekaterina Gubanova as Fricka and Nikolai Putilin as Alberich. The critically praised Mariinsky Orchestra has demonstrated its great skill in playing Wagner's demanding score, and the SACD presentation gives it astonishing clarity, depth, and presence, all required to make these mythological music dramas come to life. To complete Gergiev's cycle, Das Rheingold will be followed by releases of Siegfried and Die Götterdämmerung in 2014.