Visiting with some friends one asked how easy was it for me to become fluent in several Romance languages besides my native Spanish. “Spanish and Portuguese… they’re just about the same, aren’t they?” I weighed my answer carefully as I didn’t want to give my friend a bad answer. So, instead, I decided to write this post as my answer on my blog where I have readers from more than 100 countries.

I looked over my translations several times, and the only exact cognate words I could find were two: tempo (time) in both Italian and Portuguese, and finestra in Italian and Catalan.

English: The girl took her doll and threw it out the window. She then knelt down on the floor, surrounded by her toys and called her grandmother, crying like a baby.

Português do Brasil: A garota agarrou a boneca e atirou-a pela janela. Ela então ajoelhou-se no chão, cercada por seus brinquedos e chamou sua avó, todo o tempo chorando como uma criança.

Português de Portugal: A rapariga pegou na boneca e atirou-a pela janela fora. Em seguida ajoelhou-se no chão, rodeada pelos seus brinquedos e chamou pela sua avó enquanto chorava como uma criança.

Italiano: La ragazza afferrò la sua bambola e la gettò fuori dalla finestra. Poi si inginocchiò sul pavimento, circondata dai suoi giocattoli e chiamò la nonna, per tutto il tempo piangendo come una bambina.

Español: La chica agarró su muñeca y la tiró por la ventana. Luego se arrodilló en el suelo, rodeada de sus juguetes y llamó a su abuela, mientras lloraba como una niña.

Català: La nena va agafar la seva nina i tirar per la finestra. Ella llavors agenollar a terra, envoltada per les seves joguines i anomenat la seva àvia, tota l’estona plorant com un nen.

Galego: A rapaza colleu a boneca e arroxouno pola fiestra. Ela entón arroxouse no chan, rodeada dos seus xoguetes e chamou á súa avoa, mentres tanto choraba como una nena.

Français: La fille saisit sa poupée et la jeta par la fenêtre. Elle s’est ensuite agenouillée sur le sol, entourée de ses jouets et a appelé sa grand-mère, tout en pleurant comme un enfant.

Română: Fata și-a luat păpușa și a aruncat-o pe fereastră. Apoi a îngenuncheat pe podea, înconjurată de jucăriile ei și a sunat-o pe bunica ei, în timp ce plângea ca un copil.

Latinum: Puella pupa tulit eam, et miserunt eum in fenestra. Tunc pronus in area, et vocavit eam aviam cincta se nugas omnes qui dum a puero quasi clamantis.



Die Walküre is the second of the four operas that form part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It was performed as a stand-alone work in 1870, and it was not until 1876 that it was given as part two of the Ring Cycle, a massive undertaking conceived by its composer-librettist in random order: one text here, its music there…

But we won’t quibble about chronology, and here’s hoping our readers won’t either as we now settle down to share our random thoughts on the Jaap van Zweden Ring Cycle, including Die Walküre.

Two of the main ingredients in the just recently released NAXOS Die Walküre, part of a four CD boxed set just recorded live this past January are: A) The top notch sound engineers: Phil Rowlands, James Clark and Roy Cheung and B) The superb Hong Kong Philharmonic, led by Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden.

In the NAXOS release, van Zweden (and I quote from two other reviews of ours) “delivers…a superb reading of Wagner’s score” and “crafts an architectural vision of this epic which he translates into a magnificent musical construct…”

The reasons to buy another “Ring” (if you already own one or more) are simply two: a) the conductor, and b) the singers. I would encourage all Wagner enthusiasts to add this NAXOS RING to their libraries. It is that good.

Bass-baritone Matthias Goerne is a constant presence as Wotan in the Naxos Ring, which pleased this listener no end. In his Farewell he is moving when moved, thundering as to put the fear of the gods in all within earshot.

I try to avoid comparisons among living singers, especially in a role as difficult as this one is. That said, one recalls Goerne’s plangent sound as eerily similar to that of the young Hans Hotter.

Higher praise I cannot give.

Not knowing the why and wherefore of casting vagaries, I can only state the facts: Gun-Brit Barkmin was the sensational Brünhilde in Götterdämmerung. Heidi Melton as Brünhilde sang up a storm in the final scene of Siegfried. Petra Lang as the Brünnhilde in Die Walküre is a true-blue Wagnerian soprano.

Three Brünhildes: three great singers.

Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung makes an impact as the troublesome goddess of marriage Fricka keeping errant husband Wotan in line throughout the cycle, and delivering all along supple and subtle singing. She again does so in Die Walküre.

Once tenor Simon O’Neill opens up in the forging scene at the end of act one of Siegfried you will hear one of the best heroic tenor voices before the public today.

Tenor Stuart Skelton as a stentorian Siegmund, and the versatile Heidi Melton as a lyrical Sieglinde are both excellent in their key roles in Die Walküre

Bass-baritone Falk Struckmann is impressive as Hunding, and Sarah Castle is very fine in the important role of Waltraute.

About the Götterdämmerung singers I sang praises: “The soloists form a wonderful mix of veteran Wagnerians and up-and-coming stars integrated, thanks to Van Zweden into as good an ensemble as ever heard in a Wagner opera by this listener – every leading and supporting role is flawlessly cast.”

I make all these kudos extensive to the casts of this Ring Cycle. I extend a salute to all the artistic and technical personnel involved in this herculean enterprise, and hats off to the folks at NAXOS for making it a reality.

Rafael de Acha

Addenda – our reviews:

Oct. 17 – Götterdämmerung
Dec. 7 – Das Rheingold
Dec 16 – Siegfried



This is not a review.

How could one begin to evaluate the life and music of Mstislav Rostropovich in a few paragraphs in the context of a blog DVD review.

I cannot.

Suffice for me to encourage any and all lovers of great music to consider acquiring the just released NAXOS DVD MSTISLAV ROSTROPOVICH L’ARCHET INDOMPTABLE (The Indomitable Bow).

In this film documentary by Bruno Monsaingeon, black and white film clips of Rostropovich, von Karajan, Menuhin, Vishnevskaya, Casals, Kempf, Dutilleux, Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Messiaen, Penderecki, Britten, Hindemith and other 20th century musicians are interspersed with interviews with the family and friends of Rostropovich.

There are documentary clips of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, of the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, of the Rostropovich family’s return to their country of birth. Filmed conversations with the cellist himself bypass chronological order yet create a vivid picture of one of the great musicians of our time who became  one of the great pacifist political dissidents of the 20th century.

The music in the CD spans the centuries. We hear snippets of compositions created for Rostropovich by Dutilleux, Britten, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Messiaen, Penderecki, Britten, and Hindemith, played or conducted by Rostropovich with his unequalled energy and impeccable technique. We are treated to his all encompassing music making, playing the cello, playing the piano, conducting, accompanying his beloved wife Galina Vishnevskaya in recital, coaching young cellists.

To hear other musicians speak of him, love him, embrace him, clown around with him, fete him is extremely touching and revealing of the affection so many had for this little giant of a man.

Elsewhere in the film there are many details on the brother-like friendship between the cellist and Solzhenitsyn. Monsaingeon’s cameras close in on Rostropovich’s well lived-in face as he deals with the news that he and his family have been stripped of their Russian citizenship because of their dissident views and their support of the author of The Gulag Archipelago.

The DVD offers a bonus section in which one can watch and listen to Rostropovich play more Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.

This listener is still in awe of Rostropovich’s performance of J.S. Bach’s Sarabande from the Cello Suite no. 2 that brings this wonderful film to a memorable close.

Rafael de Acha


Peter Schaaf

So that we are clear, I did not happen to come upon Peter Schaaf’s CD Chopin: 17 Waltzes. The enterprising pianist happened to find this blog and did subsequently send us a copy of his October 2018 release. (SR 103).

Enterprising indeed.

This is the third of three releases on Schaaf’s own label, Schaaf Records. The nicely packaged and engineered album (SR 103) is available both for downloading and on hard copies from

Visit Schaaf there and you will encounter two site choices: Peter Schaaf, the photographer and Peter Schaaf, the pianist.

Both these labels belong to the same artist, one from whom I look forward to hear in the future.

Schaaf became the photographer of musical artists, after enjoying a two decade-plus career as a chamber musician and collaborative pianist.

He played for Vickers, Tebaldi, Yo-Yo Ma, Kyung-Wha Chung…

Lucky for us music lured Schaaf back via Isaac Albeniz’s pianistic  minefield Iberia and here he is helming his own label.

Enterprising indeed.

Chopin has long had a false reputation as a composer of dreamy salon pieces all perfume and sighs. Dig deeper, please, and you will encounter music full of emotion, elegance, and quintessentially-Polish strength. That, as long as it is in the hands of a knowing interpreter, which Peter Schaaf is.

Schaaf brings to his music making agility, joy, virility, intensity, flawless technique, and impeccable musicality underpinned by meticulous research of the material.

In addition to the gift of his protean pianistic qualities, Peter Schaaf also makes a gift to those who wish to disseminate this music.

For more details go to his website:

Enterprising indeed!

Rafael de Acha




Who doesn’t love those hefty Wagnerian preludes and instrumental passages that precede and link the scenes of his operas? The three that lead to the first and second and third acts of Siegfried are among his best, and they help set the mood of things to come in this SIEGFRIED, the third chapter of Wagner’s Ring, a recent release of NAXOS.

We then have to slug through three long – make that very long – acts that feature various lengthy conversations between the deformed Mime and his ward, Siegfried, between the Wanderer and Mime, between the Wanderer and Alberich (here the sonorous Werner van Mechelen), and, best of the lot in Act three, between the Wanderer and Siegfried.

And hardly a set piece is in sight save for a couple of lovely soliloquies for the Wanderer, here sung by the indispensable Matthias Goerne with a larger than life sound yet characterized with the vulnerability of a deeply humanized god about to be fallen.

During those hours we get a quick Cliff Notes review of leitmotifs to remind us of who’s who and what’s what and what has led to what at this point in Wagner’ monumental tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

You will have to wait to hear the New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill open up  in the forging scene at the end of act one. Once he does you will hear one of the best heroic tenor voices before the public today.

As in the previous two operas of the tetralogy which I have thus far reviewed out of order, Jaap von Zweden crafts an architectural vision of this epic which he translates into a magnificent musical construct with the committed work of the remarkable Hong Long Philharmonic.

The producer-engineer, Phil Rowlands does a miraculous job of recording this live in two sessions in January of 2017.

Wagner sets yet one more hurdle before us that makes it hard to engage emotionally or at least sympathize with the male characters in the third opera of his Ring: they are all morally-compromised, deceitful, self-serving creatures. Alright, Siegfried is not a bad guy, but he is a bumbling fool.

Finally in Act three: Brunhilde, who other than the quickly-in-and-out-of-the-earth Erda (the fine mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble) is the only female voice Wagner provides to bring comfort to our ears from the excess of basses and baritones and character tenors and heroic tenors that people this opera.

Happy to trade her horse-riding, warrior saving duties for a life as a human woman enriched by love, the character of Wotan’s favorite daughter calls for one of those once-in-a-great-while voices.

Heidi Melton is the real deal.

But you will have to wait until the end of the four hour opera to get an idea of what I mean. She can spin out Ewig war ich, ewig bin ich, ewig in süss sehnender Wonne, Wagner’s sublimely beautiful melody which he elsewhere uses in the Siegfried Idyll, while husbanding her plentiful vocal resources only to then open up full throttle for the ending duet with Simon O’Neill as her partner in decibels and sensitivity.

I will listen to those final scenes again just to be blown away by Melton’s voice and O’Neill’s.

As you have by now gathered, Siegfried is not my cup of mead. But with Melton’s melting sound to bring the evening to a big ending I will happily pay the price of admission and try to stay awake through the first two thirds of this Siegfried.

Next up and, I know, out of order: Die Walküre.

Rafael de Acha



Verdi got a commission from the Teatro San Carlo in Naples in 1857. He was to write an opera to be premiered a year later during the Neapolitan Carnival. The composer then secured Antonio Somma to provide a libretto for what had been Verdi’s lifelong dream: an operatic setting of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

After a few months of work, practicality prevailed, and both composer and librettist turned their sights to an easier subject matter: an opera about an 18th century Swedish king, victim of an assassination.

But this was Italy in 1858, and the Austrian censors stopped Verdi’s project demanding another subject matter or at the very least a change of time and place. They wanted something more remote, just in case any Italian patriot got the wrong idea.

Déjà vu Rigoletto.

So the Swedish King became the Governor of Boston in Colonial America, and the opera had its premiere in 1859. Verdi described this rocky journey from Stockholm to Boston as one of the low points of his musical travels, and these days the opera is staged in its Swedish setting, which Verdi much preferred.

I have no idea of what the time and place are meant to be in Johannes Erath’s surrealist staging for the Bayerisches Staatsoper, now available on a UNITEL DVD.

From the look of the set and costumes one might conclude we are in an unnamed European country in the late 19th century, or possibly in the first decade of the 20th.

We can guess time and location  from the top hats and cutaways of the male members of the chorus, even though some of the male principals don Don Corleone outfits straight out of The Godfather.

The costumes for the two female principals (Oscar is a pants-role) come from different eras: Ulrica, described in Somma’s libretto as a hag, is here given an evening gown with a plummeting décolletage. Amelia, here played by the ever elegant Anja Harteros is given modestly subdued Edwardian gowns.

There is a unit set with a giant staircase going nowhere, lots of shadowy corners, a giant disappearing and reappearing King-size bed where Riccardo likes to conduct both his kingly and carnal businesses in an appliquéd dressing gown.

There’s a large dummy which the King likes to put to work at key moments, such as in Di tu se Fedele. There are white globes meant to symbolize the Earth that everyone gets to play with.

These are largely the facts as much as one can be factual in describing the visual elements of a production. For a better idea, the reader may want to look on line at some of the photographs of this production and make up his or her mind.

The big guns cast members certainly know what they are up to vocally, starting with Piotr Beczala in the demanding role of Gustav III. Verdi conceived this tenore di forza role for Gaetano Fraschini, who had scored a success as Manrico years before.

Beczala who has so far in his carefully managed career steered clear of the more dramatic Verdi parts here reveals himself as a Verdian tenor of the first order. And he can act convincingly the role of the conflicted ruler in love with the wife of his best friend.

Anja Harteros can and does sing just about anything and does so with stylish and vocal assurance, her Amelia being no exception. She stops the show twice: first with an impassioned Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa, and later with a moving Morrò, ma prima in grazia. With her tall figure and jet black hair she looks great, and she acts her assignment with conviction.

The part of Renato is sung by the vocally and dramatically impressive George Petean. From his first entrance, beautifully capped by a gorgeous Dalla vita che t’arride to his formidably sung Eri tu, the Rumanian baritone convinces one that he is a rightful heir to the great dramatic baritone crown earlier worn by his compatriot Nicolae Herlea.

Okka von der Damerau is a vocally light though visually stunning Ulrica. Sofia Fomina is a pert Oscar with plenty of voice. Zubin Mehta conducts idiomatically.

Rafael de Acha


th.gifThroughout more than sixty years of opera-going, opera recordings-collecting, opera-singing, opera-directing, and opera-producing this listener has been blessed to see and hear some wonderful productions and been subjected as well to quite a number of feeble-minded, ego-driven directorial dribble.

I speak not only of The Curse of Regietheater first imported to the US by a number of European regisseurs to then be picked up and aped by American directors and funded by clueless donors. I also include in my diatribe the products of several homegrown directors who have found fertile ground for their sorry experiments on the stages of several opera houses in America, a few of which are led by men and women who have legitimately earned their stripes as arts administrators.

So, what were they thinking?

Criteria regarding what artistic proposals to approve and which to reject leave much to be desired in today’s world of concept staging.

Thus, the widely maligned 20 Million + MET Ring, with its malfunctioning Machine and its Science Fiction costuming limps on until that day far into the future when the ill-fated exercise in staging nonsense finally pays for itself.

I recall with dread the Aida when the poor tenor playing Radames got water-boarded at the end of Act IV.

And then there’s the Traviata we all remember and most of us loathed – the one, you know, with the entire chorus – sopranos and altos included – dressed as male fans of Violetta in tuxes… You know… the one with all the clocks…

Or how about the Tosca they pulled off the rep in a hurry… You now the company and you know about the fallout after chunks of the audience walked out at the sight of the baritone playing Scarpia having a threesome with some ladies of the night after masturbating in the middle of Santa Maria dell Croce…

Davanti alla Madonna!

Why there was even a local production of Bernstein’s Candide set in a janitor’s room that climaxed (I’m not making this up) with a fight with rolls of toilet paper tossed by the cast at each other just in time for Make Our Garden Grow.

Anyone out there remember the MET’s Jack-in-the-Box Peter Grimes?

You name it we’ve all been there and lived through it.

And that’s just here in the States. Good luck if you can snag a pair of tickets to any Bayreuth or Salzburg production between now and the end of time and even more good luck to you if you do, because there’s no telling what kind of experience you will get in today’s world in which real Brunhilde’s and Siegfried’s and Wotan’s and even Don Giovanni’s are as rare as hen teeth while egotistical directors are a pfennig a dozen.

So, should we then be content to settle into our favorite recliner at home and put on the Victoria de los Angeles/Henri Legay Manon and close our eyes and visualize our own staging in 18th century costumes in the Paris of Prévost’s time?

I, for one, prefer my opera live and seen and heard, so I will wait with hope in my heart for the next MET HD of La traviata.

I hear the singing is really good.

Rafael de Acha


DE3532Cover-768x768 In the DELOS CD A Tribute to Gilbert Duprez (DE3532) American tenor John Osborn pays homage to the 19th century French tenor Gilbert Duprez (1806-1896), creator of many roles- Edgardo in Donizetti’s Lucia among them.

Listening to Osborn’s fine singing of rarities from the French repertoire is a pleasure. In sound and in approach he is similar to several favorite tenors of mine, all three, like Osborn, lean of voice and utterly elegant in style: Henri Legay, Alain Vanzo, and Léopold Simoneau. But Osborn’s is a voice destined for bigger roles than those associated with those three artists.

Similar to the beefier French dramatic tenors of the Belle Époque, John Osborn has the needed meat on the bone to take on Arnold’s Asile Héreditaire, with a row of effortless high C’s in the cabaletta that follows the aria.

Oh, and speaking of effortless, take in the top E in alt at the end of Oui, j’irai dans leur temple from Donizetti’s Les martyrs ( )

Osborn can also spin out a seamless legato in two Donizetti gems: Seul sur la terre from Dom Sébastien, and in Ange si pur from La favorite.

His French is entirely unaccented, and his elegant musicality unimpeachable – both boons in this particular repertoire.

The ubiquitous Constantine Orbelian is a perfect singer’s conductor, and he leads the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra with stylistic authority.

Vilius Keras and Alexandra Keriené are the highly capable producer-engineers.

The well-written accompanying booklet by Lindsay Koob, Anne Maley and David Brin provides good information and sensible translations of the lyrics.

NAXOS again keeps the bar high by tapping into unexplored corners of the vocal repertoire. My thanks!

Rafael de Acha

César Vezzani (1888-1951) a Corsican with a mix of French and Italian blood flowing in his veins, belies all our misconceptions about how French tenors are supposed to sound. Just listen to his Rachel, quand du Seigneur ( Vezzani must have been an impressive Eléazar in his prime.

Then there’s Augustarello Affre (1858-1931), very much a rare specimen: a French heroic tenor. Hear him in an old acoustic recording of O paradis from Meyerbeer’s L’africaine (, and if you can ignore the scratchy recording  you will perhaps agree with this listener that this is a remarkable voice.

There are others. Give two minutes of your time to check out Léon Escalaïs
(1859-1940) in Je veux encore entendre from Verdi’s Jérusalem (

Finally enjoy Georges Thill’s (1898-1984) electric recording of Ah fuyez douce image from Massenet’s Manon. (





Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky announced to the world in June 2015 that he had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. That ailment would take his life at the age of 55, less than three years after the terrible news.

After undergoing treatment for his malady the Russian baritone defiantly resumed his performance and recording schedule. It seems to be nothing short of miraculous that this artist could summon the energy and resolve to record this album of excerpts from Russian operas during October of 2015, barely four months after the terrible news.

In the DELOS (DE3517) CD Dmitri Hvorostovsky Sings of War, Peace and Sorrow the artist delivers an impressively artistic product that adds one more triumph to his recorded legacy.

And it is not only Hvorostovsky’s attention to the textual and musical details of this music that astounds this listener, but the riveting sound of a true dramatic baritone at the height of his vocal powers.

The selection of arias – altogether six extended ones – is unpredictable. The album has six tracks, each dedicated to a scene from several operas off the beaten path, even for Russian Opera.

Hvorostovsky sings the entire opening scene from Prokofiev’s War and Peace, a mid-20th century work that still inhabited the Russian Romanticism of the previous century. The role of Prince Andrej is really more that of a bass-baritone, but Hvorostovsky sings it with his usual big-voiced expressivity.

Joining him in the scene, soprano Asmik Grigorian and mezzo-soprano Irina Shiskova both make a strong impression.

O Mariya, Mariya! from Tchaikovsky’s rarely seen Mazeppa again showcases Hvorostovsky in an impassioned declaration of mature love. Robert’s aria from the same composer’s Iolanta is also a description of love, but that of a young man speaking to his best friend. In both we hear Hvorostovsky’s legendary top voice and elegant musicality.

Tomsky’s Tri karty from Pikovaya Dama is a chilling narrative that Hvorostovsky handles with the skill of a great actor, assisted by two Russian colleagues: Igor Morozov and Mikhail Guzhov.

In Yesli b milyye devitsy Hvorostovsky lightens the mood with a folksy ditty about the birds and the bees and the girls sung by the cad Tomsky.

Hvorostovsky saves the big vocal and musical guns for the end, singing the final scene from Anton Rubinstein’s The Demon. As the object of his demonic affections, Asmik Grigorian and countertenor Vadim Volkov as his heavenly rival make the scene come alive.

How tragic that much as Hvorostovsky wanted to perform some of these rarities on stage no enterprising opera company inside or outside of Russia ever mounted Mazeppa or The Demon for him, let alone the huge War and Peace. Many of us did see him as Yelevsky in Pikovaya Dama and in the title role of Eugene Onegin and we will cherish those memories.

As is always her trademark, DELOS’s Carol Roenberger assembled a world class artistic and technical team with which to surround Hvorostovsky. Finest in this fine list, Constantine Orbelian leading the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia and the Helikon Opera Chorus, provides immense support to his star. Genaddy Papin flawlessly engineered the project.

Rafael de Acha



It’s been over a month since I received and reviewed the superb NAXOS Gotterdammerung and here I am, about to write in a retrograde fashion about the NAXOS Das Rheingold, a TWO-CD prologue to the trilogy that makes up Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Having listened to the opera in which all the bad business, double dealings, betrayals, murders, compromises, and incestuous relationships that plague the sixteen hours of music drama that make up Wagner’s most ambitious undertaking begin to go south very quickly, one begins to get a sense of what it is that Wagner has up his sleeves by listening to Das Rheingold.

Exposition…Development…Recapitulation… The three structural cornerstones of most music written during the two or so centuries leading up to the composition of Wagner’s Ring anchor his musical and dramatic battle plans. And clocking in at approximately two and one half hours, Das Rheingold, goodness knows, has a lot of exposition in it.

All those long stretches of dialogue set to music with no arias or ensembles in sight cause this listener to grow weary. Throughout the opening scene between the Rhinemaidens and Alberich, the second scene between Wotan and Fricka and Freia and Fasolt and Fafner, the next scene between Alberich and Mime and Wotan and Loge, and the fourth and final scene involving all the gods and dwarfs and giants and nymphs in this cast we get overexposed to exposition that leaves little room for flights of lyricism.

In this, Wagner’s first true Gesamtkunstwerk the most compelling element often turns out to be for me the orchestral sections, and since I am familiar with the plots of this and the following Ring operas and can follow the German libretto reasonably well, I always end up looking forward to the orchestral passages.

The opening Prelude with that primordial C Major drone, the short ascent to Wotan’s territory up in the clouds, the subsequent descent to Nibelheim with its pervading ostinato figures of hammering on anvils can tell the story more concisely in a show me don’t tell me manner than many of the lengthy conversations between mythological figures, with no humans within earshot.

And that is one reason why I can sit through the entire Act I of Götterdämmerung riveted by the dysfunctional and oh-so-human negotiations between Gunther and Hagen and Gutrune and Siegfried and the defrocked and now human Brunhilde and at the end of one hour and twenty minutes wonder how the time flew so fast. And that’s just one act in a four-hour opera.

But I digress.

As was the case with Götterdämmerung , the cast, orchestra and conductor of this Rheingold are pure gold.

At the epicenter of the principals, Matthias Goerne is a Wotan to be reckoned with: commanding, conflicted, complex, vocally-ideal, with a ringing baritone top voice and the necessary low notes when needed. His Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge reminds this listener of the young Hans Hotter’s.

The wonderful mezzo Michelle De Young is a vibrant Fricka who vocally and dramatically gives as good as she gets in her verbal spats with her husband.

Helming the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Jaap van Zweden pulls together all fourteen cast members and his orchestra and delivers a superb reading of Wagner’s score, greatly enhanced by the engineering of Phil Rowlands.

Up next and past the already reviewed Götterdämmerung, we’ll visit Siegfried, an opera in which the humans give the gods what they have coming.

Rafael de Acha