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Wagner Operas Favorite Recordings

post #1 of 150
Thread Starter 
It's time. So, let's have it: what are some of your favorite Wagner operas or recordings of operas?

Let's keep this concentrated on the operas, conductors, casts, and recordings. We don't necessarily need to get into a discussion of Wagner's personal politics, his history in politics, or anything political. I think we'd all like this thread to last.

I'll start: I am very partial to Janowski's 1980-1983 Ring cycle. It was the first digital recording, with Staatskapelle Dresden (Wagner's orchestra). The sound is great, the cast (with the exception of Altmeyer's Brunnhilde) ranges from excellent to great (cf. Schreier's Loge and Mime), and the orchestra is their usual fantastic. Janowski is a great Wagner conductor, and it is a shame he hasn't recorded the whole repertoire.

Also, the set is on a bargain RCA Red Seal-Complete Collection set, and costs about half as much as Solti or Von Karajan.
post #2 of 150
Great thread idea. I'll start by throwing out a few of my favorites from my collection, besides the obvious choice of the Solti Ring Cycle (which is a must-own and should be first on everyone's Wagner list IMO):

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Allow me to put in a good word for the Goodall Cycle in English (recently reissued on Chandos). This cycle features a new English interpretation of Wagner's original libretto (in other words, not a literal word for word translation), that some have said is better than Wagner's original. (Note: You will still need the printed words to follow along, the dialog is not that easy to understand.) The singing and playing is fantastic. This cycle is played very slowly (each opera lasts about an hour longer than usual), but for me the effect is to open up the details of Wagner's orchestration. Not my first choice set (that would be Solti), but certainly a good second Ring.

I also recommend the Levine cycle on DVD. Traditional set design, and the one-two punch of James Morris as Wotan and Siegfried Jerusalem as (what else?) Siegfried. My three kids ages 17 through nine have watched it all the way through several times, and love it like they'd love a broadway musical!

Lohengrin: Again, I like Solti (although it's less of a no-brainer), mainly because of the VPO playing, and the AWESOME lineup of singers (Domingo, Norman and Fischer-Dieskau among others). This is a good first Wagner opera for newbies, by the way.

Die Meistersinger: For me it's a tossup between Jochum and Solti, with the edge going to Jochum for better singing.

Parsifal and The Flying Dutchman: I'm not an expert here, but I have and enjoy the Knappertsbush 1962 set (Parsifal) and The Levine (Dutchman). These two works sit at opposite ends of the Wagner canon - Dutchman is shorter and more naive, while Parsifal is hard-core and somewhat overripe in my opinion. Many feel differently.

Tristan und Isolde: I have several, my favorite is the stereo Karajan set with Vickers and Dernesch on EMI. A very erotic interpretation (sorry to be vulgar, but that's exactly what it is!).

Let the discussion begin!!! I have lots of other opinions, but I will save them for later.
post #3 of 150
Thread Starter 
Speaking of Lohengrin, Opera d'Oro (a mixed bag company for me) has a '54 Bayreuth outing with Jochum conducting. Windgassen is the eponymous character and Nilsson sings Elsa. Theo Adam is Heinrich der Vogler and Fischer-Dieskau sings the Heerrufer. It is an excellent cast with passable '54 live mono. It's not a first Lohengrin, but it is one to get.
post #4 of 150
Well, although it's still in my ever growing "unopened" stack, I've just gotten the Solti remastered Das Rheingold. I really look forward to this "baptism in fire."
post #5 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears
Well, although it's still in my ever growing "unopened" stack, I've just gotten the Solti remastered Das Rheingold. I really look forward to this "baptism in fire."
That Rheingold is one of the best, notwithstanding the merits of the complete cycle. Levine got bogged down with the psychological business and ended up with a ponderous, plodding Rheingold. Solti has no such affliction. The cast is great, and the orchestra is in top form. The descent into Nibelheim passage, with the anvil chorus, is wonderful. One sees then why Solti is still on top.
post #6 of 150
PSmith,

I'm just waiting for the other parts of the cycle to be remastered as well. It's also a lot less painful acquiring them one at a time rather than springing for the whole (expensive) cycle at the same time.

Aside: We really need a new set of emoticons describing the emotional cost of buying all of these recordings. Maybe something with crossed eyes?
post #7 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnyears
PSmith,

I'm just waiting for the other parts of the cycle to be remastered as well. It's also a lot less painful acquiring them one at a time rather than springing for the whole (expensive) cycle at the same time.

Aside: We really need a new set of emoticons describing the emotional cost of buying all of these recordings. Maybe something with crossed eyes?
I've given up trying to feel emotions about the cost of this stuff. If I stopped and thought rationally about what I was doing, I'd go quite insane. Wagner is probably the most expensive composer out there, so if one gets into Wagner, one is in for the long haul. When we get into historical recordings, things are really going to get interesting and expensive. Thankfully, Naxos makes it cheaper, but there are a lot of full price discs floating about.

Speaking of, the 1935 Vienna Walkure with Melchior and Bruno Walter is probably the best act 1 yet committed to record. I know Melchior made his bones as Siegfried, but his Siegmund is as powerful and well-played. He doesn't quite have the naivete that an ideal Siegmund has, but he is excellent. Jon Vickers came close in '62 for Leinsdorf.
post #8 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Sarvis
Great thread idea. I'll start by throwing out a few of my favorites from my collection, besides the obvious choice of the Solti Ring Cycle (which is a must-own and should be first on everyone's Wagner list IMO):

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Allow me to put in a good word for the Goodall Cycle in English (recently reissued on Chandos). This cycle features a new English interpretation of Wagner's original libretto (in other words, not a literal word for word translation), that some have said is better than Wagner's original. (Note: You will still need the printed words to follow along, the dialog is not that easy to understand.) The singing and playing is fantastic. This cycle is played very slowly (each opera lasts about an hour longer than usual), but for me the effect is to open up the details of Wagner's orchestration. Not my first choice set (that would be Solti), but certainly a good second Ring.

I also recommend the Levine cycle on DVD. Traditional set design, and the one-two punch of James Morris as Wotan and Siegfried Jerusalem as (what else?) Siegfried. My three kids ages 17 through nine have watched it all the way through several times, and love it like they'd love a broadway musical!

Lohengrin: Again, I like Solti (although it's less of a no-brainer), mainly because of the VPO playing, and the AWESOME lineup of singers (Domingo, Norman and Fischer-Dieskau among others). This is a good first Wagner opera for newbies, by the way.

Die Meistersinger: For me it's a tossup between Jochum and Solti, with the edge going to Jochum for better singing.

Parsifal and The Flying Dutchman: I'm not an expert here, but I have and enjoy the Knappertsbush 1962 set (Parsifal) and The Levine (Dutchman). These two works sit at opposite ends of the Wagner canon - Dutchman is shorter and more naive, while Parsifal is hard-core and somewhat overripe in my opinion. Many feel differently.

Tristan und Isolde: I have several, my favorite is the stereo Karajan set with Vickers and Dernesch on EMI. A very erotic interpretation (sorry to be vulgar, but that's exactly what it is!).

Let the discussion begin!!! I have lots of other opinions, but I will save them for later.
I also want to put in a plug for the Bohm Ring cycle at Bayreuth. It has a nervous energy that even Solti failed to match. If you don't want to get the whole thing, here's a great bleeding chunks set:

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/...?album_id=1104
post #9 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc Sarvis
I also want to put in a plug for the Bohm Ring cycle at Bayreuth. It has a nervous energy that even Solti failed to match. If you don't want to get the whole thing, here's a great bleeding chunks set:

http://www.arkivmusic.com/classical/...?album_id=1104
This cycle is OOP, except for the bleeding chunks set and the Walkure. However, it is really one of the better Ring cycles, and bests Solti in places and at times. Bohm had an unique understanding of Wagner that shows in his Ring and Tristan.
post #10 of 150
Ring - Solti or Bohm
Parsifal - Knappertsbusch 1962
Lohengrin - Kempe 1964
Tannhauser - Solti 1971
Tristan und Isolde - Bohm 1966
Dutchman - Klemperer 1968

As far as Meistersinger is concerned, the only recording I have is Solti's 1997 version. While I personally like it, a lot of people don't. For all of my choices I stuck with stereo recordings only since I based my decisions on overall quality including sound. If my choices were based on singing only I would have taken mono into consideration.

Anyone have recommendations for Die Feen and Rienzi?
post #11 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by zotjen
Ring - Solti or Bohm
Parsifal - Knappertsbusch 1962
Lohengrin - Kempe 1964
Tannhauser - Solti 1971
Tristan und Isolde - Bohm 1966
Dutchman - Klemperer 1968

As far as Meistersinger is concerned, the only recording I have is Solti's 1997 version. While I personally like it, a lot of people don't. For all of my choices I stuck with stereo recordings only since I based my decisions on overall quality including sound. If my choices were based on singing only I would have taken mono into consideration.

Anyone have recommendations for Die Feen and Rienzi?
I don't think that there are too many recordings of Die Feen floating about, if for no other reason than it isn't very good or included in the Bayreuth "canon." I can't help with Rienzi.

They recently rereleased Kleiber's Tristan, and I recommend that those interested check it out. It isn't Bohm, but Kleiber behaves so differently compared to Bohm that it is difficult to compare them. The sound for Kleiber, 1980s-vintage digital, is a bit better than for Bohm. Also, Kleiber recorded in a studio. While the Festspielhaus has an interesting acoustic, a studio recording is not entirely unwelcome for such a complex work.

Also, there is the 1987 Salzburg recording with Herbert von Karajan leading the Wiener Philharmoniker and Jessye Norman singing the Liebestod. That is one of the best performances on record of that piece. Her voice seems absolutely suited for the ecstatic, decidedly erotic, experience of Isolde's Liebestod. It's a shame that those two didn't work together nearly enough. The recording will certainly test your system. There is a Prelude from Tristan, the overture to Tannhauser, and a nice performance of the Idyll (not one of my favorite works).
post #12 of 150
My usual preferences:

DUTCHMAN: Klemperer
LOHENGRIN: Kempe
TANNHAUSER: Sinopoli
RING: Solti (audio), Levine (video)
MEISTERSINGER: de Burgos (video)
TRISTAN: Bohm
PARSIFAL: Knappertsbusch '62
post #13 of 150
Quote:
Originally Posted by PSmith08
This cycle is OOP, except for the bleeding chunks set and the Walkure. However, it is really one of the better Ring cycles, and bests Solti in places and at times. Bohm had an unique understanding of Wagner that shows in his Ring and Tristan.
The complete Boehm "Ring" may be out of print in the U.S., but it is readily available on Philips from Europe as a budget-priced 14-CD box (no librettos). MDT.co.uk has it for $129, and I've seen it go on sale for less than $100.

Jeffery
post #14 of 150
Quote:
The complete Bohm "Ring" may be out of print in the U.S., but it is readily available on Philips from Europe as a budget-priced 14-CD box (no librettos). MDT.co.uk has it for $129, and I've seen it go on sale for less than $100.
It can often be found on Ebay here in the U.S. for about $70 which is how I got mine.
post #15 of 150
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JefferyK
The complete Boehm "Ring" may be out of print in the U.S., but it is readily available on Philips from Europe as a budget-priced 14-CD box (no librettos). MDT.co.uk has it for $129, and I've seen it go on sale for less than $100.

Jeffery
That's helpful. Right now, I have it on my HD, but I might eventually like to get another CD set.
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