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Just reading the heading should let you know what you are in for. Sets like this one, even when only marginally well done (and this one is very well done), cannot be adequately covered in just a few cursory paragraphs of generalized approbation or condemnation. First comes the important question of from what perspective it is to be approached, for there are (or should be) myriad OQ readers' interests involved here. To my mind, several perspectives must be addressed, and they come down to the following:
- The Wagnerite perspective
- The pure performance perspective
- The general opera lover perspective
- The vocal historian/collector perspective [End Page 472]
Because I believe OQ subscribers are inherently superior to all others of manic disposition, and that their opera-based manias surely encompass more than just one of the above-listed perspectives, I will now go into some detail in each of these areas to better determine the most likely interest group(s) for this new set.
The Wagnerite perspective. When George Bernard Shaw wrote The Perfect Wagnerite, he surely had no idea what such would evolve (devolve?) into. The Wagnerites I know today are, to a large extent, so imbued with the spirit that they pretty much beggar their predecessors. Every time they feel that spirit moving through them, they go running off to Bayreuth, or Seattle, or New York, or to wherever it may be that a new production of even the least of Wagner's operas is being done. Of course, to such adherents there is no such thing as a "least" Wagner work (they are almost as bad as the Verdi claque in Parma). Because they are interested in all things Wagnerian, this naturally extends to the history of Wagnerian singing (or, more precisely, the history of singing Wagner), not just at Bayreuth and Metropolitan Opera levels, but everywhere. They, more than just about anyone else, will normally be interested in how Wagner's operas conquered various audiences not just in the major European countries and in North and South America, but even in the peripheral East European and Scandinavian countries. And since a disproportionate share of the great Wagnerian singers emanated from somewhere north of Germany (Sweden in particular), this new set should be a subject of the greatest possible interest to them, as it gives superb coverage of nearly a full century of Wagner activity at the Stockholm Royal Opera (henceforth usually designated simply as SRO, but not to be confused with Standing Room Only), almost all of it by indigenous Swedish artists, all of whom will be covered in detail later in this review. The main thing for these Wagnerites to know and hold on to at this point is that they can, in the slightly under five hours of listening and one hour of reading provided by this new set, gain a vast new knowledge of the scope of Wagnerian...