Performer: James King, Leonie Rysanek, Birgit Nilsson, Walter Berry
Orchestra: Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Conductor: Karl Böhm
Composer: Richard Strauss
SPARS Code: ADD
Number of Discs: 3 CD box set
Format: FLAC (image+cue)
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
Size: 785 MB
The Emperor – James King
The Empress – Leonie Rysanek
The Nurse – Ruth Hesse
A Spirit-messenger – Peter Wimberger
Keeper of the Gates of the Temple – Lotte Rysanek
Apparition of a Youth – Ewald Aichberger
The Voice of the Falcon – Lotte Rysanek
A Voice from Above – Gertrude Jahn
Barak – Walter Berry
His Wife – Birgit Nilsson
The One-eyed – Hans Helm
The One-armed – Lorenzo Alvary
The Hunchback – Murray Dickie
Children Voice – Gertrude Jahn
Children Voice – Sally Arneson
Children Voice – Marjorie Vance
Children Voice – Sylvia Herman
Children Voice – Milkana Nikolova
Children Voice – Margaretha Hintermeier
Voice of the Nightwatchman – Georg Tichy
Voice of the Nightwatchman – Peter Weber
Voice of the Nightwatchman – Alfred Sramek
Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
01. Die Amme: Licht ueberm See
02. Der Kaiser: Amme! Wachst du?
03. Die Kaiserin: Ist mein Liebster dahin
04. Die Stimme des Falken: Wie soll ich denn nicht weinen?
05. Die Kaiserin: Amme, um alles
06. Orchester: Erdenflug
07. Verwandlung: Im Hause des Faerbers
08. Die Frau: Sie aus dem Hause
09. Die Frau: Dritthalb Jahr
10. Die Frau: Was wollt ihr hier?
11. Orchester: Die Dienerinnen rufen mit suessen stimmen
12. Die Amme: Hat es dich blutige Traenen gekostet
13. Orchester: Die Amme hat befehlend in die Haende geschlagen, lautlos
14. Orchester Die Frau sinkt vorne auf ein Buendel
01. Amme, die Frau, Kaiserin
02. Barak, die Brьder, Bettelkinder
03. (Verwandlung) Das kaiserliche Falk
04. Kaiser ”Falke, Falke
05. (Verwandlung) Die Frau, Barak
06. Die Frau, Jьngling, Amme, Barak
07. Die Frau, Barak ”Ein Handwerk
08. Barak, Kaiserin ”Wer da?
09. Kaiserin, Stimmen, Stimme des Falk
10. Kaiserin ”Wehe, mein Mann!
11. (Verwandlung) Barak, Brьder, Amme
12. Die Frau ”Es gibt derer, die blei..
13. Barak, die Brьder, Amme, Kaiserin
01. Die Frau: Schweigt doch, ihr Stimmen
02. Barak: Mir anvertraut
03. Eine Stimme von oben: Auf, geh nach oben, Mann
04. Die Amme: Fort von hier!
05. Die Amme: Wehe, mein Kind
06. Die Frau und Barak: Sterben! Sterben!
07. Die Kaiserin: Vater, bist dus?
08. Die Kaiserin: Weh mir!
09. Orchester: Das Wasser versinkt ploetzlich
10. Orchester: Verwandlung: Eine schoene Landschaft
11. Barak: Nun will ich jubeln, wie keiner gejubelt
12. Die Stimmen der Ungeborenen: Vater, dir drohet nichts
Solti’s performance has more modern sound, no cuts, a great cast and interpretation – so why do I keep returning to THIS “Frau”?
In a word, Birgit Nilsson ;^)
Leonie Rysanek owned the role of the Empress and has several recordings to survey. But Nilsson had recently added the Dyer’s wife to her repertoire when this performance was recorded. Anyone who loves that steely brilliant voice and spot on attack will not be disappointed – and she was nearly 60!. She brings a novel, authoritative quality to the character of the Dyer’s cold wife, and this provides a very good contrast as her character changes by the end of the opera. By comparison, Hildegard Behrens, in Solti’s wonderful recording, gives us a more vulnerable, defensive Dyer’s wife. Both are very expressive, effective and valid interpretations. Nilsson’s is more exciting to my ears. I simply love anything she does. One thing must be mentioned – Nilsson’s stamina. Some of the biggest challenges comes at the end of 3 hours of music. As she must have done in her Wagner performances, Nilsson knows when to reserve herself along the way, and when to pull out the stops. By the end, when the orchestra is at full afterburner, and all the other singers are singing at full force, you hear her soaring above them all… all except Rysanek who soars as well, and who displays her tendency to hold her high notes just a little bit longer than is written.
Others have commented on James King as a peerless Emperor. I have always loved the physical sound of his voice; strong and heroic. He definitely is all that on this recording, and he is more comfortably expressive than earlier in his career – even if the unforgiving music causes him to strain in 1 or 2 spots. Nonetheless, he could have a certain sameness throughout the course of an opera. But Placido Domingo, in the Solti recording, has far greater expressive and vocal ranges, even though he was into his 50s too. He is thrilling and moving to listen to. A balm to the ears. Effortless, magical.
Walter Berry is a movingly sensitive Barak, heartbreaking at times in his expressive reactions to his wife and his situation. But it is hard to choose between Berry and Jose van Dam (on Solti’s recording). Van Dam is also a very warm and expressive Dyer; he is another a major star and a complete artist. I love both interpretations.
Much has been made elsewhere of Karl Bohm’s special affinity for Strauss – and his habit of making cuts. His cuts are annoying, particularly since a recorded performance is a permanent record. Yet, Bohm is a master of this score. I have his recording dating from the 50s (also with Rysanek but an otherwise inferior cast). His interpretation changed little over the years, but he is more committed, more “into it” in this live performance. Solti’s performance is likewise masterful and very exciting. He is aided by modern technology so we hear everything at any dynamic and the score is essentially complete – no cuts. There are moments of very great excitement and electricity. There is little to choose between these two great Straussians.
One reviewer commented on the fact that the singers were past their prime. Comparing Behrens side by side with Nilsson I cannot agree. Behrens was in her 50s when she performed on the Decca/Solti recording, and Nilsson was nearly 60 in this live performance; Rysanek was in her 50s. All singers sound very good. The same can be said for James King and Walter Berry. Both sound in excellent voice. And even by the end of the evening, amazingly none of the singers sound tired.
So. Where does all this leave us? Solti has a great cast, modern sound, and provides a charged, exciting, and sympathetic interpretation of the complete score. Bohm also delivers the goods with an exciting and nuanced interpretation, with some cuts; he has a great, some would say historic cast who are inspired in live performance. Bohm has Nilsson. Solti has Domingo.
The choice is obvious.
I own both and so should you!