WAGNER: Die Walküre
Falk Struckmann (Hunding).Stuart Skelton (Siegmund). Matthias Goerne (Wotan). Heidi Melton (Sieglinde). Petra Lang (Brünnhilde).Michelle DeYoung (Fricka),Hong Kong Philharmonic/Jaap van Zweden, cond.
NAXOS CD 8.660394-397 (4 disks) TT: 3:56:32

Arias from Cavalleria rusticana, Adriana Lecouvreus, Leds Troyens, Don Carlo, Samson et Dalila, Boris Godunov, Hérodiade, Mign0n, La forza del destino, La Gioconda, Werther La Boh`eme (Leoncavallo), Henry VIII
Elina Garancia, mezzo-soprano. Valencien Chorus and Orch/Roberto Abbado, cond.
DGG CD 479 5937 TT: 62 min.

'A JOURNEY" - Pretty Yende, soprano. RAI Symphonic Orch/Marco Armeliato, cond. Arias from Il barbiere di Siviglia: Beatrice di Tenda: Le Comte Ory, Roméo et Juliette, I Puritani, Lakmé, and Lucia di Lammermoor.
SONY CD 532169 TT: 69 min.

This site recently praised the first installment - Das Rheingold - in the new Naxos Ring cycle conducted by Jap van Zweden, Music Director of the Hog Kong Philharmonic (REVIEW). Now we have the second music drama, Die Walküre, and it has many pluses and one major minus. The first act is particularly fine, with Stuart Skelton and Heidi Melton as an ideal pair of unfortunate lovers. The major flaw is Petra Lang as Brünnhilde. The German soprano (now 53) has had a long career, particularly in Wagner, but at this stage her voice is insecure and lacks warmth. She also sang this role in the recent Pentatone SACDs of Die Walküre and Götterdammerung, the only disappointing singer in both casts. Now, several years later, she is even more taxed. It is unfortunate another soprano isn't involved, as the remainder of the cast is strong. The Chinese orchestra impresses, and the Naxos sound is †terrific. This recording is available on regular CD and Blu-Ray, the latter with excellent muli-track sound, and both versions cost about the same. You might wish to investigate this performance for its impressive moments —and there are many.

Latvian mezzo Elina Garancia is in an enviable position in the world of opera, in demand everywhere. A magnificent versatile singer, she has a voice of remarkable beauty and agility, at home in bel canto coloratura as well as earthy roles (her Carmen is one of the best). Her prime recording company is DGG and she has had a series of solo disks with various titles representing the repertory including Meditation, Ari Cantilena, Habanera, and the latest, Revive, which focuses on strong-willed women in moments of weakness. It is a fine collection including some rarely-heard music from Massenet's Herodiade, Leoncavallo's La Bohème, and Saint-Saëns' Henry VIII.It is always a pleasure to hear this remarkable singer, and here she has st splendid support from the fine chorus and orchestra led by Roberto Abbado. Excellent sound as well, and complete texts/translations are included.

Young South African coloratura soprano Pretty Yenda's career is off to a fantastic start. Born in 1985, she has been winning prizes since 2009, sang at La Scala, and made her Met debut in 2013 in Le Comte Ory as a last minute substitute. Since then she has sung in Los angeles and Paris, to highest acclaim. Next year she will be singing with a half-dozen major opera companies, including the Met where she will sing Rosina. A very beautiful young woman (she lives up to her name!), she can be seen on YouTube. This is her first disk under a long-term contract with Sony, a collection of music closely associated with her career. Instead of the Bell Song fromLakmé, we have the famous duet (with mezzo Kate Aldrich) the first opera music Yenda had heard, pivotal in her decision to become an opera singer. She certainly impresses on this recording tossing off these coloratura showpieces with the greatest of ease and precision. An exciting star, worth hearing.

R.E.B. (November 2016)