The Adelaide Ring

August 23, 2015 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Opera, THEATRE, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, WAGNER | 5 Comments |

(2004: Recording 2012)

The Varnished Culture is leery of greatest hits records.  Everyone’s CD cupboard bursts with them, especially those replenished after an insurance claim.  Yet with The Ring, one can make an exception.  Especially when this is the only record of the sublime Adelaide production seen in 2004, when little Adelaide’s gallant attempt to simulate Bayreuth was almost scuttled by a relatively new State Government (which is still the State Government) quibbling about funding.  Thankfully, a Commonwealth Grant to the Melba Foundation cleared the way.

The Adelaide Ring was the first ‘ground up’ production in Australia and many feared it would be a damp squib, without support from the government, or, regretfully, the ABC.  In the event, with Asher Fisch conducting the ASO beautifully (and in cycle 2, the Vorspiel from Rheingold faultlessly in pitch darkness), production design by the Great, late Elke Neidhardt, and an incomparable cast**, it proved a miraculous triumph, an almost perfect staging of Wagner’s monster, and it is a shame that it has never been repeated (nor filmed). ADRING3 After much talk of a complete record of the cycle, in 2012 came a small but choice memento, produced by Maria Vandamme and Ian Perry, of highlights of the 2004 production.  The selection is, as it had to be, judicious* and here we can revisit some of the more sumptuous moments, beautifully and crisply mixed and mastered. The Varnished Culture‘s only real quibble – some tracks stop abruptly despite obviously running on to a new piece in the original performance.ADRING2 This was the first time P had seen the Ring and he retains a nostalgic reverence for it, but it is a matter of great fortune that we live in the time of hi-fidelity recording (what would Wagner have made of it!) and short of the entire work, or a new production, this will more than do.  The highlights offered in this album are:

*Das Rheingold (I) Vorspiel (ii) Erste Szene: Wohl sicher sind wir und sorgenfrei (iii) Vierte Szene: He da! He da! He do! (The Rhine begins to flow at the dawning of the world; Alberich renounces love and steals the Rhinegold; the Gods enter Valhalla).

Die Walküre (I) Erste Aufzug: Vorspiel (ii) Erste Aufzug, Dritte Szene: Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnenmond; (iii) Zweiter Aufzug: Vorspiel (iv) Zweiter Aufzug, Zweiter Szene: So sah ich Siegvater nie (v) Dritte Aufzug, Erste Szene: Ride of the Valkyries (vi) Dritte Aufzug, Dritte Szene: Leb’ wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind! (Siegmund’s love song; Brünnhilde gets an unwanted order; Wotan waves Brünnhilde bye-bye).

Siegfried (I) Erste Aufzug, Dritte Szene: Notung! Notung! Neidliches Schwert! (ii) Dritte Aufzug, Dritte Szene: Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich (Siegfried goes wild; Siegfried & Brünnhilde enjoy an idyll).

Götterdämmerung (I) Prolog: Tagesgrauen und Siegfried’s Rheinfarht (ii) Dritte Aufzug, Zweiter Szene: Trauermusic beim tod Siegfried (iii) Dritte Aufzug, Dritte Szene: Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort – (The Rhine journey; Siegfried’s funeral march; Brünnhilde’s immolation).

**The splendid cast comprised Jennifer Barnes (Grimgerde); John Bröcheler (Wotan); Andrew Brunsden (Froh); Elizabeth Campbell (Fricka, Waltraute in Götterdämmerung); Christopher Doig (Loge); Timothy Du Fore (Donner); Donna-Marie Dunlop (Wellgunde & Rossweise); Lisa Gasteen (Brünnhilde); Richard Greager (Mime); Lisa Harper-Brown (Ortlinde); David Hibbard (Fafner); Natalie Jones (Woglinde); Liane Keegan (Erda, Waltraute in Die Walküre & First Norn); Kate Ladner (Freia, Helmwige & Third Norn); Gaye MacFarlane (Siegrune & Second Norn); Zan McKendree-Wright (Flosshilde & Schwertleire); Duccio dal Monte (Hagen); Timothy Mussard (Siegfried in Götterdämmerung); Gary Rideout (Siegfried in Siegfried); Deborah Riedel (Sieglinde); Stuart Skelton (Siegmund); Elizabeth Stannard (Gerhilde); and John Wegner (Alberich).

As they say of sporting teams, all played well (extra bouquets for Alberich, Brünnhilde, Freia, FrickaLoge, Mime, Siegmund and Wotan.)


  1. Reply


    August 24, 2015

    An entry well-timed to coincide with this year's Bayreuth. Given the comments about funding, it is worth mentioning that this production was set for a remount in 2008, but then Arts Minister Peter Garrett refused the $5m the federal government would have had to contribute to make it possible. Consequently the show, a triumph consistently rated as one of the best Ring Cycles ever produced anywhere, ended up on the scrap heap, an appalling loss to the Australian cultural landscape.

  2. Reply

    Lesley Jakobsen

    August 28, 2015

    James' reminder is entirely apt, and while we suppose governments must spend the nation's money with care, compared to other federal spending in that year of financial plight, this would have been a good investment. So it must rank as an epic fail, closely behind the Minister's programme to send apprentices to their doom in burning roofs.

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