Notes and Editorial Reviews
Die Frau ohne Schatten
Rudolf Kempe, cond; Hans Hopf (
); Leonie Rysanek (
); Josef Metternich (
); Marianne Schech (
); Lilian Benningsen (
); Kurt Böhme (
); Bavarian St Op O & Ch
MYTO 212 (3 CDs: 194:01) Live: Munich 31/08/1954
Die Frau ohne Schatten
can be counted among Richard Strauss’s greatest operas. Strange enough, it’s a work rarely encountered on the international stage. The reason why is no doubt found in the story and its underlying message. That story has similarities with Mozart’s
in the way that magical and ordinary worlds cross each other all the time. Notwithstanding the fact that this opera belongs among his greatest and most colorful scores, Strauss had a hard time composing it. It was eventually finished in 1915, but was received with mixed feelings. This production dates from a Munich performance in 1954, less than five years after the composer’s death.
Rudolf Kempe is remembered today as one of the greatest Strauss interpreters of his time. His recordings made for EMI in the 1970s still rank among the finest available. His conducting is engaged, with an attentive eye for detail. His greatest merit is his capability to bring clarity and transparency in Strauss’s often-complex scores. Vocal stars of this set are Leonie Rysanek as the Empress, Hans Hopf as the Emperor, and Josef Metternich as Barak. During their lifetimes, these singers already belonged to the very best of Strauss singers. The sound is good but not great for its time; the orchestra sounds muted and too far away; a pity, because it lacks the necessary impact.
Sinopoli’s recording on Teldec might not be a perfect contemporary alternative, but it gives a fresh and colorful view of the music. Voigt, Heppner, and Schwarz bring the main characters to life with verve and energy. Sinopoli’s affinity for Strauss becomes clear once again in this superb recording. Another classic is Böhme’s recording on Deutsche Grammophon with Nilsson, Rysanek, and King.
Rudolf Kempe belonged to a school of conductors to whom truthfulness to the score and reliability of technique were extremely important. No wonder almost all of his recorded work is delivered in a professional, exciting way. Recommended!
FANFARE: Bart Verhaeghe
Works on This Recording
Die Frau ohne Schatten, Op. 65 by Richard Strauss
Leonie Rysanek (Soprano),
Lilian Benningsen (Mezzo Soprano),
Hans Hopf (Tenor),
Marianne Schech (Soprano)
Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,
Bavarian State Opera Chorus
Written: 1914-1918; Germany
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