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Subject: Re: Strauss Operas [Scanned]
From: "Volpe, Russell" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Volpe, Russell
Date:Mon, 1 Dec 2008 15:46:13 -0500
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Reading through Professor Conrad's list of recommended Strauss CD's and
DVD's I noticed he didn't make a recommendation for an Elektra on DVD.

I'd like to direct anyone interested in an outstanding Elektra on DVD to
the Nilsson, Rysanek performance from the Met with Levine conducting.
The production is the fine prior long-lasting one before we got the
current one with the fallen horse statuary and the giant wall with flame
lanterns (come to think of it maybe that Elektra production presaged the
new trend of broad, horizontal spaces way downstage we seem to be
getting of late at the Met...???)

Anyway, I digress.  This Elektra, late in both women's careers is just a
glorious opportunity to revel in two great performances of signature
roles by eminent Strauss interpreters.  And Levine and the Met Orchestra
are at their considerable finest with this score.

It was released on DVD in the last two years or so and should be widely
available.

Enjoy,

Russ Volpe

Russell G. Volpe, DPM
Professor
Department of Orthopedics and Pediatrics
New York College of Podiatric Medicine
Foot Clinics of New York
1800 Park Avenue
New York, New York 10035
phone: 212 410 8129
fax; 212 410 8440

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion of opera and related issues
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Jon Alan Conrad
Sent: Monday, December 01, 2008 3:03 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Strauss Operas [Scanned]

On Dec 1, 2008, at 6:36 PM, Ed Zeke Zubrow wrote:

> I enjoy
> Rosenkavalier --though I find it overstuffed and overlong-- and I  
> have come
> to terms pretty well with Salome and Elektra.

It sounds to me as if your judgement is in pretty good shape. Salome  
and Elektra stand high among all his achievements. So does Der  
Rosenkavalier, and I adore it, but you're not wrong to find it  
overstuffed and overlong. Delightful though all the details are, I  
must admit after all these years that there is in some sense too much  
of it -- given that the story is sort of an anecdote, there's some  
disproportion going on. (Having said that, I still want to stick up  
for its overextended gloriousness... but I'll let it go.)

> But I would welcome guidance on how to approach the others:

I'm not sure if "guidance" is possible, given your love of his  
orchestral music and your general good aesthetic understand (see your  
first sentence quoted above). I'd say that it's possible that you may  
be temperamentally not cut out for most of his operas. We don't all  
have to like everything (and I've taken plenty of flak, on this list  
and elsewhere, for the operas that don't speak to me).

> Ariadne just baffles me,

I think it all depends on how much you're willing to be entranced by  
vocal-orchestral filigree and ingenuity, and whether you're willing  
to buy into the whole "simultaneous seria and buffa at gunpoint"  
premise for an evening's entertainment. I didn't buy it on first  
hearing, but for some reason it jelled for me a couple of years later.

> and based upon one
> or two hearings on CD, Egyptian Helen, Die Frau Ohne Schatten seem  
> pretty
> recondite also.

I would say that Egyptian Helen can be left till late on the list, if  
ever (I mean, The Omniscient Mussel?). by contrast, I've come to love  
Frau enormously, but it didn't happen quickly. I had to think about  
what the story meant to me (as opposed to what it may have meant for  
Hofmannthal), and it took a particularly sympathetic performance to  
make it all cohere (the Sawallisch studio recording on EMI, in fact).

> Lastly, I have the impression that Capriccio and Arabella
> are relatively minor affairs, and may not be deserving of too much  
> attention
> by a beginner.

I would say the Capriccio is more compelling than that, and more  
worth attention. My own feeling is that after the "basic 3" (Salome,  
Elektra, Rosenkavalier), there is a "secondary 3" (Ariadne, Frau,  
Capriccio) worthy of attention and respect. Even so, I concede that  
the premise of Capriccio (which of two men will Countess Madeleine  
choose, and what does this say about whether words or music matter  
more in opera?) can seem intolerably precious if one is not in the  
mood. But sometimes I'm in the mood.

All of this is of course very personal, even more so than with most  
composers, and subject to revision over time.

You asked about recordings. Here are my current favorites:

Salome
CD: Sinopoli (DG): Studer, Terfel
DVD: Boehm (DG): Stratas, Weikl

Elektra
CD: Sawallisch (EMI): Marton, Studer, Lipovsek (it has everything  
except an Elektra)
don't know the DVDs

Rosenkavalier
CD: Solti (Decca): Crespin, Donath, Minton, Jungwirth
DVD: C Kleiber (DG): Jones, Popp, Fassbaender, Jungwirth

Ariadne auf Naxos
CD: Kempe (EMI): Janowitz, Geszty, Zylis-Gara, King, Prey
don't know a DVD that I really love

Frau ohne Schatten
CD: Sawallisch (EMI): Studer, Schwarz, Kollo Muff
not in love with any of the DVDs

Capriccio
CD: Boehm (DG): Janowitz, Troyanos, Schreier, Prey, Ridderbusch
don't know the DVDs

Of all of these, the two audio recordings that seem to me to have  
"classic" status by any standard are the Kempe ARIADNE and the  
Sawallisch FRAU. Time and again I have sampled a scene, planning to  
stop after 5 minutes, and ended up listening to the end.

Jon Alan Conrad
Department of Music
University of Delaware

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