STRAUSS: Die frau ohne schatten Stephen Gould (
Emnperor). Camilla Nyland (Empress). Evelyn Herlitzius
(The Nuyrse). Nina Stemme
(The Dyer's Wife).
Wolfgang Koch (Barak).Vienna State Opera Chorus and
Orchestra / Christian Thielemann,cond.
Die frau ohne schatten is Strauss's most complex opera, and the longest—twice as long as either Salome or Elektra. It is also a challenge to cast requiring five heroic voices. The first complete recording was made in 1955, a Vienna State Opera production starring Hans Hopf as the Emperor, Leonie Rysanek as the Empress, Elisabeth Höngen as the Nurse, Paul Schoeffler as Barak and Christel Goltz as Barak's wife, with Karl Böhm conducting. All were so eager to make this recording that they agreed not to charge fees. This was one of London/Decca's earliest stereo recordings and very successful sonically. It is still available, essential in any collection. Böhm conducted Frau often and led the famed performance in 1966 during the inaugural Met season in their grand new opera house. The cast featured Rysanek as the Empress, James King as the Emperor Walter Berry as Barak, Christa Ludwig as the Dyer's wife, and Mignon Dunn as the Nurse. This stunning performance is available in the Met's large Inaugural Season box, that also contains many other treasures.
There have been several more recent recordings of Frau, videos as well. A video of a disappointing 2011 Salzburg production conducted by Christian Thielemann has been mentioned on this site (RTEVIEW). Now we have thus performance from the Vienna State Opera May 2019 also conducted by Thielemann. Two of the cast sang in the earlier recording. Stephen Gould, now a leading heldentenor, was inadequate at that time; Evelyn Herlitzius sang the Dyer's wife, now she is The Nurse; she also has impressed in several recent recordings of Elektra. This new version is impressive. Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund is a powerful Empress, her rich voice soars through this music. Stephen Gould today is a strong Emperor. It is a luxury to have Nina Stimme as the Dyer;s wife. Sebastian Holeck is a commanding Barak. Christian Thielemann is a specialist in music of Strauss, and leads a thrilling performance. A synopsis of the plot is provided but no texts or translations. No question, this is one of the finest recordings of Strauss's masterpiece. There is a superb video of a Bavarian Opera performance on tour in Japan conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch (REVIEW). The Valery Gergiev Mriiskty Opera performance is a dreadful production, poorly sung (REVIEW).
Naxos offers a fascinating release in their American Classics series. Of particular interest is Gershwin's An American in Paris here performed in the the new 2019 criticl edition edited by ccc using Gershwin's original orchestration. This has not be heard for 75 years; it has been restored and edited by Mark Clague who is Editor-in-Chief of the George Gershwin Critical Edition. The episode for three soprano saxophones has been restored for performance by eight different saxophones. Gershwin was very particular in choosing four taxi horns to be used in the introduction, and his original ideas have been restored described in detail in Clague's fine program notes. This familiar favorite is heard in a new and fascinating light, and the excellent performance does justice to it. Leonard Bernstein wrote Songfest 1976-77 to celebrate America's Bicentennial Year. It is his musical setting of poems by leading American poets: Frank O'Hara, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Julia De Burgos, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, June Jordan (two poems were combined in a duet), Anne Bradstreet, Gertrude Stein, Conrad Aiken, Gregory Corso, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Edgar Allen Poe. . All of these look at oppressed segments of society, and details are in the fine program notes by Dr. Richard E. Rodda. Complete texts are included. This CD also contains a more familiar work, Aaron Copland's An Outdoor Overture. All of this music is performed by the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic directed by James Judd, along with members of the Wolf Trap Opera. Performances were recorded June 2018 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Maryland. Engineering is superb. This is an important issue in many ways.
R.E.B. (June 2020)