Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a part of a new RCA series called "Vienna State Opera Live." It was recorded on New Year's Eve in 1960. As such it is typical of Austrian Radio tapes of the era. The sound is very close and dry but not unpleasant. Most of the singing and dialog are very clear, though there are spots, due to the movement of characters on the stage, where they are "off mike," to the detriment of balances. Then, as now, this was one of the prime musical occasions of the year in Vienna. The audience was clearly in a happy, relaxed mood, but also expected a special experience, and von K. clearly did his best to provide it. The second act isn't quite the non-Strauss extravaganza that Karajan delivered on his London recording made earlier that same year. Some will find this more satisfactory in that its insertions don't range as far afield from Strauss. The singing here is generally superior to the London issue, but that one has marvelous stereo sound.
One drawback to this new edition is the expanded dialog, which the audience clearly enjoys but which will be incomprehensible to non-German speakers. This is especially frustrating as there are no texts or translations provided. The New Year's insertions include five numbers plus a longer-than-average-ballet sequence. The extras include "Meine sehr verehrten Damen und Herren" sung by Walter Berry; "Ich führ' zwei harbe Rappen" by Erich Kunz; "Aus Fernem Land" by Berry; "O sole mio" by Giuseppe di Stefano; and di Stefano singing "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz" from Lehar's The Merry Widow. Each of these is well done and thunderously received by the happy audience. I must admit that if I wanted a Karajan recording of Die Fledermaus, I would opt for the 1955 monaural recording with Schwarzkopf as Rosalinde and a superb cast that largely duplicates this one but that is six years younger, thus vocally more secure. Another personal favorite is the DG set conducted by Carlos Kleiber but, alas, issued only on laser disc. I would hope that this lavishly staged version will appear on DVD before long, as it is a true visual as well as aural treat. (Avoid the CD version by Kleiber, which has Ivan Rebroff as an abominable travesty of Prince Orlovsky.) Admittedly, Karajan also substitutes a male (Stolze) in this role, but at least he avoids the nasty falsetto that Rebroff seems to think funny. On the other hand, Stolze gives a generally pedestrian performance. Regina Resnik is certainly preferable in Karajan 's London. If we must have a tenor Orlovsky, then Rudolf Christ in Karajan 's 1955 edition is the best of these substitutions. I must admit to being totally smitten, both visually and vocally, by Brigitte Fassbaender in the Kleiber video edition.
This is a set that will be well received by Karajan's admirers and by those who want documentation of a unique historic event.
-- John Bauman, FANFARE