Notes and Editorial Reviews
Johan Botha’s unfailingly radiant and yet powerfully carrying voice established him over many years as a Strauss and Wagner singer par excellence, but most of all as a youthful hero, and not as a weighty heroic tenor. In fact, Tannhauser was something of a marginal role for him, but what a role! The recording of the Rome episode in the Vienna State Opera premiere of June 16, 2010, with which the release’s four-part Wagner portrait begins with excerpts from Vienna Staatsoper productions, movingly reveals how as a suffering yet passionate pilgrim he returns from Rome dejected and unredeemed. The bridal-chamber scene from the third act of Lohengrin looks back to Botha’s early years at the Staatsoper. Fifteen years later, he is an ideal Walther von Stolzing, who after a night of dreams reveals his Prize Song to cobbler-poet Hans Sachs, who in turn refines it and writes it down. The most moving scene comes perhaps at the close of Ariadne auf Naxos, when a figure hailed as Hermes, the divine messenger of death, proves to be Bacchus, the god of love. The recording captures one of Botha’s last appearances at the Vienna Staatsoper.