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Subject: The Wide, Wide World of Strauss
From: "paolo (G. P. Padillo)" <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:paolo (G. P. Padillo)
Date:Tue, 2 Dec 2008 16:03:59 -0500

text/plain (110 lines)

This has certainly been an interesting and enlightening thread.  You can 
soundly put me in the camp that pretty much liked every note penned by Herr 
Strauss – including all of the non-operatic music, tone poems, chamber music, 
lied and ballets.  Certainly I’m more prone to be more fond of some than others 
but those works I like are at the top of my “like” pile (e.g., Elektra, probably 
my favorite opera by anyone). 

I grow a little wary of those who call works like Rosenkavelier or Die Frau Ohne 
Schatten “too long” – this seems to be a phrase that is being bandied about 
more than ever.  I always wonder how modern life with all of its supposed time-
saving advantages affording us more free time than at any other point in 
recorded history, has people complaining that an opera is “too long” – but talk 
about cutting a bar in Wagner and the world stops on a dime to call you a 
heretic (not that I’d cut a note of Wagner – If Elektra is my favorite girl, then 
Parsifal’s my boy).   The first time I saw the Solti/Salzburg “Frau” – warts and 
all – I fixed myself a sandwich, poured a beer and watched it in its entirety all 
over again.  Too long?  The only thing too long is a bad thing.  (My dad had a 
saying, if a movie or show holds your attention from start to finish, it’s never 
too long.  If it has your mind straying within the first few minutes – 10 minutes 
is too long.)  

The only live professional opera my father saw, was a production I took him to 
of Salome.  A 31 year old Josephine Barstow had us fighting for the binoculars 
the entire time!  (Incidentally, my dad loved the show – had no idea what 
those records I was forever playing might look like on the stage).  

There are so many wonderful Straussian moments recorded both on audio and 
video that one need never go too long without a Strauss fix.  While some will 
always harken back to the audio only – there is a treasure trove of Strauss on 
video that simply must be explored and offers, in my opinion, a fine “course” 
on why so many of us wax rhapsodic at the mere mention of his name.  Some 
of my favorite moments on video:

Tatiana Troyanos as the Composer in the 1961 Aix Festival “Ariadne” (available 
through pirates only) – offers some of the most spectacular singing imaginable 
from the young, beautiful Troyanos.  She is coltish in both appearance and 
movements, and the voice –well it is jaw droppingly beautiful – filled with all 
the passion, presence and youthful ardor demanded from this role.  

For those not won over by Daphne (the Lucia Popp recording alone should be 
enough to win one over), the Dynamic DVD of a 2006 production from La 
Fenice featuring June Anderson in stunning voice, is the way to go.  Paul 
Curran’s production is visually arresting, non-too-literal, but affords the right 
feel to the playing space and the ending is simply gorgeous with Anderson’s 
Daphne spinning out that Lost-in-Space-like vocalise ending to utter 
perfection.  The supporting cast ain’t too shabby either, with the young 
mezzo, Birgit Remmert diving down into the baritonal range and offering some 
of the most thrilling singing of the night.  This is a “must have” iDVD

While I love the Bohm film version of Ariadne which was finally recently 
released on DVD, two others come to mind more immediately:  

A 1969 concert performance of Leinsdorf leading the Boston Symphony 
supporting Claire Watson, John Reardon and Robert Nagy boasts Beverly Sills in 
the dizzying original coloratura-mad version of Zerbinetta’s already too wild 
showpiece.  Dazzling and electrifying are the words that most immediately 
spring to mind.  

30-some odd years later, a DVD from Dresden featuring an international cast 
led by Sir Colin Davis – offers up a modern telling of this madcap tale that is no 
less compelling and allowing a true feeling for Strauss’s sui generis tragi-
comedy hybrid romance.  It’s a delight.  

There are a pair of  DVDs of “Die Frau Ohne Schatten” that, despite lacking 
Rysanek or Nilsson, I’d be hard pressed to have to select between.  The 
Solti/Salzburg production with Studer, Moser, Lipovsek, Marton and Hale offers 
great pleasure in an interesting staging (featuring a young Bryn Terfel as the 
Messenger).  Studer is a revelation here, and her big scene leading to the 
dumb show of the discovery of her shadow is as moving as anything I’ve ever 
seen on an opera stage.  

The second is the of the 1990 Sawallisch-led Bavarian Opera on tour in Japan.  
While Sawallisch keeps the customary cuts, Ennosuke Ichikawa’s production is 
positively eye popping, glorious to look at – and listen to – at every turn.  

Where once there were none, more and more Salomes seem to be appearing 
on DVD, all of them having something to offer, but my favorite is a pirate of 
Mattila’s first Salome at the Paris Opera.  While not as demented as she would 
prove to be this past season at the Met, her voice easily rides over the 
orchestra and has a considerably more girlish and pure sound, though the 
lower reaches do not quite have the necessary “oomph.”  And she’s delicious.  

For me there are also a pair of Elektras that I won’t be without – both from 
the Met.  First, is the commercially released return of Nilsson, with Rysanek 
matching her “sister’s” intensity note-for-bloody-note.  Then there is the still 
somewhat controversial (and non-released) telecast of Behrens, returning 
after a few season’s absence from the company.  Behrens’ voice is not to all 
likings and some find her “all wrong” for this role, but my Lord, she inhabits it 
as almost no one else I can think of.  A pre-slimmed Voigt never sounded 
better in anything than she does here as Chrysothemis.  I love this staging 
and this performance ranks as one of my favorites of any opera – by its end, 
I’m utterly destroyed.  THAT’s how I like my Strauss!


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