Two Wagnerian Portraits

This double portrait of Wagner opera scenes by Plácido Domingo and Deborah Voigt presents two complete scenes of Sigfried and Tristan und Isolde that give a more complete picture of Wagner's music than just a piecemeal collection.

The concluding third scene of Act III of the composer's Sigfried begins this collection. The scene opens with Hail Sun, Hail Light (RealAudio excerpt), in which Brünnhilde (Voigt) wakes up from her enchanted sleep. The duet near the end of the opera (RealAudio excerpt) highlights the lovers' bond, with Antonio Pappano leading the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden through thick orchestral textures.

Voigt's fullness and depth is a welcome relief in this age of seemingly endless mezzo-sopranos. Her high notes are approached with ease, and maintain a full, rich sound. Even at age 60, Domingo is still a force to be reckoned with, though some of his high notes don't retain the power heard on his earlier recordings of Verdi's Otello.

The second section presents the entire second scene of Act II of Tristan und Isolde, a scene that foreshadows the couple's demise. Finding refuge in a nighttime garden, the protagonists speak in hushed tones in their duet Descend O Night of Love (RealAudio excerpt).

The two contrasting scenes captured here show love at its inception and conclusion. Together they represent an excellent introduction to Wagner for anyone wary of sitting through the entirety of Sigfried and Tristan und Isolde. As Giacomo Rossini said, "Wagner has great moments, but dull quarter-hours." This is an excellent collection of some of those moments.