Post by REP Post by Bert Coules
To someone who started record buying in the early sixties it seems
incredible even to suggest this - but is it possible that there are simply
too many Rings available now?
In one sense, yes. But it's not just about the market; it's about documenting great performances. If Hotter, Nilsson, Neidlinger, etc. hadn't been recorded in their most famous roles, we'd consider it a great loss. The same might be said of singers today.
But there probably _has_ been a glut of Rings lately featuring -- how to put it -- less than stellar casts. Partly because recording has become cheaper, I imagine, but also because we don't have the Wagnerian stars on hand to create a definitive Ring for our age.
Yes, there probably are too many, and some are pretty appalling, or, almost worse, anodyne. But it's hard to imagine anything one could do about that, and proliferation does have advantages -- it tends to make recordings cheaper and more accessible, for example. When there were only one or two the companies could charge much more for them, and did.
But the biggest problem is undoubtedly the dearth of star singers, and that is a wholly separate question involving all sorts of factors -- training, lack of apprenticeship, taking roles too early, performance styles, jetset scheduling, and, yes, modern production fashions. That last one struck me particularly strongly when I was looking at the present La Scala Ring, in Guy Cassiers' production. There are some excellent voices, but the acting... Even Nina Stemme, though she sings passionately enough, seems wooden and lacking. Undoubtedly the producer's fault, mainly, but no singer who was really used to acting what they were singing about could normally deliver such a static stand-and-deliver job. Where's the personeneregie that's so often advanced as a justification for extreme production styles? Too often it's exaggerated gesture, no more, in situations so unrealistic that any instinctive response in the singer is deadened. Just as much as in the old gather-round-the-footlights style, they're going through the motions, and have nothing much to carry over to other stagings. Whereas, say, Windgassen had a solid Bayreuth grounding with which he could fill in a poor production elsewhere