Melba Recordings Debuts First SACD in Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle

Die Walkьre is the first SACD release in Melba’s recording of the State Opera of South Australia’s 2004 production of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle. The cycle of four operas which comprise The Ring is the largest single recording project ever undertaken in Australia. Maria Vandamme, the founder of the Melba Foundation, said the recording of the ‘Ring’ Cycle would not have been possible without the support of the Australian Government.

In May 2004, the Federal Government awarded a grant of $5 million over five years to the Melba Foundation for the production of high-quality music recordings to showcase Australian artists on the world classical music stage.

The four operas of approximately 16 hours duration is the world’s first 6-channel super audio CD (SACD) recording of The Ring in surround sound. The significance of this was noted in the January 2005 editorial of Gramophone magazine.

It is a lasting tribute to the outstanding Adelaide production of Wagner’s masterpiece and to the predominantly Australian cast. The $15.3 million production blitzed the 2005 Helpmann Awards, winning ten of its eleven nominations and earning critical accolades.

Brilliant young Israeli conductor Asher Fisch conducts the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and singers Lisa Gasteen, who is cast as Brьnnhilde, Stuart Skelton as Siegmund, John Wegner as Alberich, Richard Greager as Mime, Deborah Riedel as Sieglinde and Jonathan Summers as Gunther.

The recording involved 65 microphones recording 60 hours of performances at the Adelaide Festival Centre. It is distributed internationally under the Melba Recordings label. The production itself was massive, involving 129 orchestral players, 70 chorus members, 27 principal singers – all but three of them Australian – and a backstage crew of 75.

The Melba Foundation was established with the support of founding benefactor Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, patrons Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge and launched by Barry Humphries in July 2003.

Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Joan Sutherland are inspiring examples of what can be achieved when gifted Australians make it to the international stage,” according to Melba director, Maria Vandamme.

The role of the Melba Foundation is to help the Nellie Melbas and the Joan Sutherlands of today to develop a profile on the international music platform.

We see The Ring as the most important Australian recording ever produced. It is a testament to the Adelaide performances of 1998 and 2004, and the achievement of all involved.

Every Ring draws its spirit from the interaction of the cast – in this case the 24 wonderful Australian artists complemented by 3 fine guest singers – and the orchestra – Adelaide Symphony, a major orchestra excited by the adventure of such an undertaking – and with the conductor Asher Fisch, together with the stage staff and production team.

The Adelaide performances are exciting and emotionally intense. They fit perfectly with Melba’s manifesto of showcasing the most exciting Australian performers and performances with cutting edge technology.

In a time of transition in the recording industry we have access to recording techniques unimagined before the digital age. Our aim is to exploit these in recordings which will endure. We believe there is no point in merely producing a document of these performances. Just as it is important to perform The Ring to the highest standards it is also important to create recordings which will stand the test of time and become a lasting legacy in which we can have enduring pride.

The Ring is the Everest of opera. Wagner changed the concept of the art form by seeing it as a “total art work” (Gesamptkunstwerk) and creating a work to which we can give the deepest consideration and contemplation.

Great myths and epics tell us much about human nature, relationships and ideals. The Ring is based on ancient Norse stories of good and evil, tempered with Wagner’s intense political and psychological insights and adapted by him to demonstrate the gradual corruption by greed, and redemption through love. These themes are the same fixations of today’s movie and theatrical culture. Every generation and place can find its own inspiration in Wagner’s timeless masterpiece and Melba is proud to have recorded Adelaide’s 21st century interpretation and exploration of Der Ring des Nibelungen.

The recording of Die Walkьre (MR 301091-94) is the first release in this Melba cycle, scheduled for June 2006. Das Rheingold will follow in October, with Siegfried in February 2007, Gцtterdдmmerung in June and the Ring cycle as a set scheduled for release in October 2007.

Die Walkьre was made utilising the SADiE H64 multi track editing work station. The resulting 5.1 multi channel stereo mix was mastered for SACD on the SADiE DSD8 Mastering Workstation. SADiE was equipment supplied by Grevillea Distribution.