Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten op. 65
Directed by Herbert von Karajan. Rec. at Wiener Staatsoper, 1964-06-11 (Richard Strauss's 100th birthday).
- Cast: Fritz Wunderlich (Erscheinung eines Jünglings/Vision of a Young Man), Jess Thomas (Der Kaiser), Leonie Rysanek (Die Kaiserin), Grace Hoffman (Die Amme), Walter Kreppel (Der Geisterbote), Lucia Popp (Ein Hüter der Schwelle des Tempels; Stimme des Falken; Solostimme; Dienerin), Margarita Lilowa (Eine Stimme von oben), Walter Berry (Barak), Christa Ludwig (Frau des Barak), Siegfried Rudolf Frese (Der Einäugige), Ludwig Welter (Der Einarmige), Erich Majkut (Der Bucklige), Margareta Sjöstedt (Solostimme; Dienerin), Olivera Miljakovic (Solostimme), Laurence Dutoit (Solostimme; Dienerin), Judith Hellwig (Solostimme), Liselotte Maikl (Solostimme), Margarita Lilowa (Solostimme), Chor der Wiener Staatsoper, Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, cond. Herbert von Karajan
- Karl Löbl in "Express", 1964-06-13: "An ideal cast."
- Herbert Schneiber in "Kurier", Vienna, 1964-06: "The cast was of the highest class. Walter Berry filled the central role of Barak with simplicity and sonorous singing to whose clarity of diction he [surely] will be able to add more warmth in the future. For Christa Ludwig, his wife in reality and on stage, this was also a role debut that vocally did not leave anything to be desired, and whose intense expressiveness was even gripping. Her acting, however, should be more stylized, led away a bit from the realistic and informal way that she showed in the constant remarks of indignation. Christa Ludwig's Färberin and Grace Hofmann's radiantly sung Amme lacked some clarity of diction which cannot be compensated by their quality of timbre. Jess Thomas's mastering of the art of forming words is all the better, who made the role of the Kaiser highly credible also in vocal terms. The crowning achievement of the evening was Leonie Rysanek's virtuoso singing, elementary expression and both poetic and majestic acting as the Kaiserin. Outstanding from the rest of the ensemble were Walter Kreppel as a sonorous, vocally solid Geisterbote, Fritz Wunderlich as a definitely desirable voice of a young man, and Lucia Popp with her light, clear soprano. Enthusiasm in the sold-out theatre, extra cheering for Karajan who surely does not depend on forced shoutings and similar gags of his supporters."
- Wolfgang Kraus in "Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung", Hanover, 1964-06: "The ensemble of artists and voices was an extraordinary one: Christa Ludwig was a passionate, enchantingly singing Färberin; Leonie Rysanek-Grossman a radiant Kaiserin; Grace Hoffman a powerful, dangerous Amme. Jess Thomas had all the virility that the role of the Kaiser requires, Walter Berry the dull good-naturedness of Barak. The minor roles were cast sumptuously, too. The 'Wiener Philharmoniker' surpassed themselves, especially in the marvellous orchestral interludes. After each act there was unprecedented applause and cheering, Karajan got curtain-calls - and everybody wondered who would make such evenings possible here if he left Vienna."
- Peter P. Pachl in "nmz" 05/1998: "... But this recording also has its merits: Lucia Popp optimally cast in five smaller parts, and Fritz Wunderlich as vision of a young man. Jess Thomas is a Kaiser who powerfully reaches the heights of the part, Grace Hoffmann gives a first class psychological character study of the Amme, Christa Ludwig is in top form as Färberin, while Leonie Rysanek has severe intonation problems."
- William A. Fregosi, on the Opera-L mailing list, 1998-10-06: "Just a note of warning on the otherwise wonderful Die Frau ohne Schatten from Vienna conducted by von Karajan. Just as Karl Böhm had various cuttings of the score that he used in various venues, von Karajan had his own 'edition' which involves a severe reordering of the scenes in act 2. It can be a real shock if you don't have forewarning of this aspect of the performance.
There are five scenes in act 2, arranged as three in the house of the dyer and one each for the Emperor and Empress which divide the dyer scenes from each other. Von Karajan plays the scenes in this order: 1, 2, 4, 3/5 elided into each other, losing in the process the end of 3 and the beginning of 5. This has the effect of strengthening the Emperor/Empress scenes by placing them in the central position of act 2 and relating them directly to each other. On the other hand, the material lost is both important and revealing of the journey the Empress is taking. An especially unhappy loss is the wonderful exchange between the disguised Empress and Barak where she bows before him and says, 'It is I, lord, your servant.' This moment clearly shows that she recognizes the moral superiority of Barak to the course the Nurse has plotted for her and it is a shame to lose it, especially as Rysanek always made the moment shine - as what moment did she not?!
Otherwise, this is a fantastic performance. Jess Thomas was at his height and the Emperor suited his sturdy, monochromatic but attractive voice to perfection, Rysanek, Ludwig and Berry are sui generis and Hoffmann, in the company of the recorded Hanna Schwarz and only a very few others, really sings every note of the Nurse in addition to giving the part a strong odor of malignancy."
- "Don Bartolo" in the neswsgroup rec.music.opera, 1998-12-12: "One glance at the cast and you know this is going to be a magnificent performance. Everybody is in great voice singing with great sensitivity and beautiful musicianship. Of course Rysanek is fantastic in one of her great signature roles but Ludwig steals the show. She is simply extraordinary, singing like a goddess. Jess Thomas is a strong Emperor, just a tad rough at the top. Berry is excellent, and Hoffman just marvelous as the Nurse. Popp and Wunderlich are in fresh voice for their small roles. Karajan is simply unbelievable, eliciting the most fantastic effects from the orchestra that you don't hear on the other versions either stereo or mono. The 3rd Act left me in a trance. There are big cuts and rearrangement of scenes, but no doubt these rather drastic measures were necessary to save the singers' voices and make it easier for production. In any case, I wouldn't let it deter you from experiencing an unforgettable performance. Karajan never again conducted FROSCH which makes this CD all the more valuable. The digitally remastered mono sound is excellent. The libretto is in German only with an article about Karajan in English, and some pictures of the production." [see also Don Bartolo's Webpage]
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|DG 457 679-2 Wiener Staatsoper Live (3 CD)
|Arkadia/Hunt 3CDKAR 207.3 (3 CD)
|Nuova Era 103 611-2 (2 CD)
|Nuova Era 2288/90 (3 CD)
|Note: There were two performances of "Frau ohne Schatten" under Karajan in June/July 1964. According to Loek Laudy, the recording issued on Gala GL 100.607 (3 CD) is taken from the costume rehearsal of the performance on 1964-07-17, with Ermanno Lorenzi as "Erscheinung eines Jünglings" and hence without Fritz Wunderlich.
Fritz Wunderlich Discography