Reviewed by Joel Kasow in Paris
Karita Mattila, soprano (Eva); Iris Vermillion, mezzo-soprano (Magdalena); Ben Heppner, tenor (Walther); Herbert Lippert, tenor (David); José van Dam, bass-baritone (Hans Sachs); René Pape, bass (Pogner); Alan Opie, baritone (Beckmesser); Albert Dohmen, baritone (Kothner)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Sir Georg Solti
Decca 452 606-2. (4 CDs)
Georg Solti evidently wanted to have another go at Wagner's comic
masterpiece as his earlier attempt was not entirely satisfactory. No expense was
spared, and fortunately Solti's long-standing contact with the Chicago Orchestra
resulted in the necessary setting: the recording was made at live performances
between 23 and 27 September 1995. There is no denying the conductor's grasp of
the score, but he is too often betrayed by the sound engineers who have once
again provided the sort of glassy sound that someone must think essential to a
Solti recording. One is too aware of distinct musical lines to the detriment of
any sort of blend - and we know that this Rolls-Royce of orchestras is capable
of better - also noticeable with the singers.
This is unfortunate as the exceptional cast deserved better. José
van Dam is perhaps the most complete shoemaker around today, easily encompassing
the notes and always going beyond to give us a memorable portrayal. Karita
Mattila's artistic generosity finds a role to measure as Eva, while Ben Heppner
may be the only tenor today who has the vocal resources for Walther and also the
poetry without which the opera falls apart. In those scenes involving these
three performers, we might almost think we were in a new golden age. Supporting
perfomers are all excellent, with the exception of Herbert Lippert's anemic
David and Albert Dohmen's bullish Kothner.
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