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Subject: Strauss operas
From: Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Robert White <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 2 Dec 2008 15:16:40 -0500

text/plain (97 lines)

The responses to this thread have made for interesting reading.  Strauss was not
always the best editor of his own music, and that is not restricted to his operas. 
Some of the larger tone poems-- Also sprach Zarathustra, Ein Heldenleben,
Alpensinfonie  have their share of  "in which the musical inspiration disappears for
sometimes pages on end".  His best scores, and in the end I think those are for his
operas, have pages so magnificent, that just about anything that is not can be

Arabella is not one of my favorite works, but my favorite performance has not yet
been mentioned.  It is the Met premiere broadcast in English with Rudolf Kempe
conducting Eleanor Steber, George London, and Hilde Guden (yes in English) all in
superlative form.
I share other posters high esteem of Kempe, and his support of Strauss and the
singers, esp. in the Arabella/Mandryka duet will bring tears (another  thread) to my
eyes every time.  The great music in Arabella (about 50 minutes worth) is as good as
it gets.  I hope the Met and Sirius will see fit to share this classic with its
listeners sometime soon. I got a CD pressing in Europe about 10 years ago and it is
one of my treasures.

Salome was the first Strauss opera I saw (Brenda Lewis with the Met on tour) and she
appeared about two weeks after the Nilsson/Solti Salome appeared with its bilious
green/orange/yellow cover appeared.  Poor Ms. Lewis didnt stand a chance vis a vis
Mmr Nilsson.  Lucky for me less than two years later, I got to see Nilsson in the
new production at the Met and went back several times that season even though I was
a poor student living in Philadelphia.  Later on I discovered the broadcasts and
recordings of Welitsch, and how I envy those who got to see her. She must have been
A recording that I listened to in the early 60s was the Clemens Krauss Decca
recording with Christel Goltz.   Her voice is not one for neophytes, but when I
relistened to it 40 years later, I find Goltz/Krauss have a lot to offer.  As much
as I like Rysanek, I didn't like her first outing at the Met, nor even the RCA
recording from Vienna.  Bumbry was an exciting Salome, and her Chicago broadcast is
one of the hottest performances ever.
I very much like Behrens on the Karajan EMI, but by the time of the Met appearance
it was too late. Marton was very fine in HER new production at the Met, and she was
caught at just the right time.  Studer and Caballe have worthy outings in the
studio, and Mattila managed to have two phenomenal outings at the Met.  Her new
production in 2004  approahced the hysteria associated with the Welitsch years, and
while a tad less secure vocally this year, I thought as a total performance she
surpassed herself this season as seen on HD. FOr all the thrill of Salome, it is a
bit like Butterfly.  The performances can't be too close together or you tire of it,
at least for me.

As for Elektra, Frau and Ariadne, I never tire of them, and others have made points 
on why they endure so well.  I started with Nilsson as Elektra (vocally stunning),
but in the theatre my two favorites have been Eva Marton and Gwyneth Jones.  
Marton's Elektra at Covent Garden (her first run in the part I believe, but very
early in any case ca. 1988) was I believe one of Solti's last outings in the theatre
for the work.  Spine-tingling.

Frau was an ensemble special when the Met did it first in 1966 and I saw several
times;   Marton did a late run in the old production as her breakthrough performance
at the Met in 1981 with Nilsson as the Dyer's Wife.  Thieleman drew inspired
performances (the cast was not a patch on the 1966 crowed, but somehow the magic was
there)  when he premiered the absolutely complete version in 2001 at the Met in its
second production.. I have seen fine Fraus in Florence and even better in Los

I'm out of time for Ariadne, but just as the three men sing the magical finale to
Act 1 of Frau, I feel the same way about the nymphs in their Ariadne llullaby.
Goosebumps to the max.

that's what I think in the end Strauss is all about-- goosebumps. He makes you react

Time to check on those Strauss holdings in our libraries.


Original language enthusiasts don't always include composers who expected audiences
to be listening to the language they spoke, not the way they first set the words.
Robert W. White
Executive Director
Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS)
810 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
201- 489-1904
[log in to unmask]

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