As my reviews usually run on and on, I will try to make this one very short, sort of "black and white" versus my lengthy (Wagner-like) Sturm and Drang!
1. We are in generally sad times for Wagner today, due to a really sad short fall of singers who can navigate the parts written for them, and we know this, coming to this or any new recording.
2. Further, as we all know, with the mobility today of singers, there are many places where they can go to and sing for more money than the old traditional houses can afford to pay them...there no longer exists the "loyalty" and "honor" displayed in earlier days when accomplished singers would not think of not gracing Bayreuth's "Boards" with their presence, for the good of "Art"...it was a given...Nilsson, Windgassen, Konya, Grummer, Varnay...they simply would not disappoint the masses who gathered there every summer...it was unthinkable. Thus, even Bayreuth feels the sad pinch of accomplished singers willing to appear there.
3. So, we come to this recorded document of the Ring presented in 2008 at Bayreuth, with Christian Thielemann at the helm....
The man is a true genious, certainly nobody would doubt that. He is most assuredly the brightest star on the horizon, actually he is no longer on the horizon, but is streaking upward to becoming perhaps the first great German conductor of the new millennium. Everything this man touches becomes brilliant, shining like new again, whether it be a work of Strauss or of Wagner, he seems to be a great visionary...a great renewer, and we must be thankful for that, surely.
That said, the state of the singers is not the same story. We have a certainly somewhat uneven cast here, the saddest parts being the Wotan and Brunnhilde, sort of letting the sides down on this monumental work. However, I find on repeated listening that things are really not nearly as bad as one's first impression would lead them to think....remember, we are listening to this set with thoughts/memories of Nilsson, Windgassen, London, Hotter, etc., in our minds, always in sight, and we seem to ceaselessly always compare to them. In truth, these artists represented are singing and doing their jobs under conditions far different than those singers of the recent past. Today we have UGLY productions, Nasty Designs pervade the world that they populate and inhabit on the stage, and I for one refuse to believe that this does not have an effect on what a person's interpretation of a role may be. Plus, the sheer magnitude of maneuvering through something as difficult as Wagner's great multi-part work with today's ideas or "insights" certainly do not have the coherency of past generations. Luckily, on CD we do not have to be subjected to the visuals of productions.
On an overall standpoint, I would suggest reading other reviews here and elsewhere, and if you can, perhaps, listen to pieces from this set.
It is certain that Thielemann "has it" thumbs-down with this recording...you will not hear a better conducted or more beautiful sounding Ring. The singing certainly has its shortfalls, but truthfully, over all, this is still a darned good ring and it has its place in any staunch Wagnerian's collection.