This DVD, then, is mainly of interest to those wanting to explore the Russian repertory, rather than those wanting the primary operatic experience. Subtitles are in English only, and imprinted on the video. The entire opera, lasting almost three hours, is contained on the one DVD.
Recordings held for 50 years and more are still coming onto the market. One assumes they have taken so long because of poor audio quality that modern technology can now do a lot to improve. Whatever the reason, the performance of Wagner’s Siegfried recorded live at Bayreuth on July 30, 1962 is a rare delight. You soon forget the audio shortcomings that remain — very fine recordings were made prior to this date, but in studios — and you’re quickly overwhelmed by the commitment and sheer voraciousness on display on these CDs.
The conductor was Rudolf Kempe, much loved in the UK at the time, and the title role is sung with enormous attack and brilliance by Hans Hopf, apparently tackling the part for the first time. Birgit Nilsson is, as always, an incomparable Brunnhilde, closing the opera on a staggering, trumpet-like note. And Wotan is sung by Otto Wiener in a manner that’s not out of place in the company of his more celebrated co-stars. Five minutes of Wagner is worth three hours of Mussorgsky, you feel.
Remaining on the subject of Wagner, the cancellation last month of the middle performance of Die Walkure in Taipei owing to Typhoon Soulik must have been a terrible disappointment for everyone who’d bought tickets. It had been sold out, as were the other two performances. It is greatly to be hoped that the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) will now stage a revival. They still presumably have the sets — excellent, apparently — and though the visiting soloists may have to be different ones, the NSO management can be almost certain that another two, or even three, performances will be sold out again. It is the least they can do in the aftermath of a devastating, albeit perhaps a necessary, decision.