Astrid Varnay / Ramón Vinay / Dimitri Mitropoulos

Richard Wagner: Götterdämmerung Complete Act 3

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This disc, which includes "Forest Murmurs" from Siegfried and all of Act III of Götterdämmerung from a live 1955 concert performance with the New York Philharmonic, should be of interest to fans of Dimitri Mitropoulos. Like most of Mitropoulos' performances, this one is supercharged with energy and intensity; every line, chord, note, and rest is full to the brim with musical meaning. Because this is opera, Mitropoulos' performance of Götterdämmerung is also extremely dramatic; every gesture and nuanced moment moves the drama relentlessly forward to one of the most overwhelming climaxes in all music. To a certain degree, Mitropoulos is let down by the singers. His Siegfried, Ramón Vinay, lacks heft, heroism, an upper range, and endurance, while the Gibichung siblings -- Clifford Harvuot as Gunther, Lucine Amara as Gutrune, and Lubomir Vichegonov as Hagan -- are hardly up to international standards. Thankfully, Mitropoulos is not let down by Brünnhilde, the fiery Astrid Varnay, who blows all the other singers away when she makes her entrance. Brünnhilde doesn't make her entrance until two-thirds of the way through the act, though, leaving the hapless listener at the mercy of the squabbling Gibichungs. Varnay appears as Brünnhilde in several complete Götterdämmerungs from the early '50s, and anyone thrilled by this performance is urged to try those as well. But it would be a loss to miss the magnificence of Mitropoulos' interpretation here. While Archipel's sound isn't entirely unendurable, it is small, gray, and cramped by modern standards.

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