The end of the last act of Wagner’s second Ring opera reaches such an exalted level of artistic achievement that one is almost ready to overlook the awfulness of the personality that created it. No conductor since the beginning of the recording era interpreted Wagner’s music with the skill and insight that was displayed by Wilhelm Furtwängler.

The recording linked below was made shortly before the conductor’s death in 1954. Wotan is sung by the great German bass-baritone Ferdinand Frantz (1906-59). Frantz had the misfortune to have his best years coincide with Nazi rule in his home country. I don’t know how deeply involved with them he was, but he sang regularly in Germany during their regime.

His voice is bright and his singing insightful. He gave 20 performances at the Met between 1949 to 51. Seven of these were as the Walküre Wotan.

The excerpt starts with Wotan’s ‘Leb Wohl’ and runs to the end of the Magic Fire Music. Leb wohl…