The Boston Globe, March 02, 2013
Valery Gergiev; Mariinsky Orchestra
If you close your eyes and just listen to the opening bars, you can picture Valery Gergiev’s trademark fluttering fingers as he launches the storm that drives Siegmund to the house of his enemy Hunding. The first installment of this Russian “Ring” gives Wagner’s epic a human face, now turbulent, now tender, always dramatic but never tendentious. Gergiev’s own St. Petersburg orchestra is crisp and bracing; the thunder and lightning that announce Hunding’s pursuit are as bright and cutting as Siegmund’s sword.

This is, also, a “Walküre” in which the vocalists sing to each other rather than to the audience. It revolves around René Pape’s fragile Wotan, who in his pursuit of power has renounced love and is painfully aware of what that will cost him. Jonas Kaufmann offers a bluff Siegmund who has no qualms about marrying his already married sister; Anja Kampe grows into Sieglinde, blindly ecstatic at first, then sober and terrified. Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde is a little closed and mature-sounding at the top, but she’s emotionally open in her confrontations with future father-in-law Siegmund and actual father Wotan.

The one disappointment is the closing pages. Brünnhilde’s transformation from dad’s “Wunschmaid,” or filial extension of his will, to independent woman is the pivot on which “Götterdämmerung,” and thus the entire “Ring,” will turn; it needs the kind of weight Furtwängler and Knappertsbusch used to bring to it. Gergiev is all magic fire at this point; he blazes but lacks substance. Still, for nearly four hours, this is an incendiary “Die Walküre” that augurs well for the rest of the set.

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