WAGNER Arias and Excerpts
It is less than a decade since James Rutherford won the inaugural Seattle Opera International Wagner competition but he has come far. He made his Bayreuth debut as Hans Sachs in 2010 at the tender (for a Wagnerian) age of 38 and his performances of the two most familiar extracts from the role show a young singer who does not sound stretched in any way. Rutherford’s baritone, almost a bass-baritone, is dark, nutty brown in colour, and broad in its phrasing. He could afford to lighten his touch sometimes; but the deep seriousness of his Sachs, his warmth and generosity, come across impressively from his stage experience.
Most of the obvious major Wagner roles for him are included here. The Dutchman’s ‘Die Frist ist um’ suffers from an intermittent vibrato at the top of his range and Wolfram’s ‘O du mein holder Abendstern’ from Tannhäuser, after a perfectly poised recitative, is not quite radiant in its beauty. His Amfortas in Parsifal, though, has a wonderful, unforced dignity, and in Wotan’s Farewell he is remarkably authoritative for one so young – noble, sensitive, no forcing, and with no fear at ‘Wer meines Speeres Spitze fürchtet’. Andrew Litton and his Bergen orchestra support Rutherford with strongly delineated playing and add two tracks of their own. I played Bryn Terfel’s very similar DG disc (4/02) for comparison and that really is special – what poetry Terfel and Abbado find in every piece. But Rutherford’s singing is already about achievement, not merely promise.