Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten (Met Live CD) – Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig

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Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten (Met Live CD) – Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig

Composer: Richard Strauss
Artists: Leonie Rysanek, Christa Ludwig, Irene Dalis, James King, Walter Berry, William Dooley, Carlotta Ordassy, Clifford Harvuot, Paul Franke, Lorenzo Alvary, Robert Nagy, et al, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus
Conductor: Karl Böhm
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Metropolitan Opera
Release Date: December 13, 2021

Live performance recorded December 17, 1966

It took 47 years for Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten to make it to the Metropolitan Opera, but its October 2, 1966, company premiere in the new opera house turned out to be worth the wait. Framed in a spectacular new production, the opera arrived to rapturous reviews with a definitive cast, conducted by the composer’s friend and eloquent advocate Karl Böhm.

To realize librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s layered, allegorical story, Strauss wrote a sumptuous and intricate score, calling for a large cast and chorus, with a quartet of leading roles demanding the most virtuosic heroic voices, supported by a huge orchestra. 

“No superior cast can be assembled today,” Harold C. Schonberg wrote in his opening-night review in the New York Times. Soprano Leonie Rysanek triumphed in the demanding title role, the unnamed Empress. Schonberg wrote, “Miss Rysanek has not been heard to better advantage. She is one of the few sopranos who has the strength and the top notes to meet Strauss’s formidable writing.” 

For many critics, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, as the Dyer’s Wife, was at least her equal. “Miss Ludwig captured every volatile mood of this tortured creature to perfection,” the Times of London’s critic stated, “while producing a stream of consistently glorious sound – a magnificent performance.”

Making a successful Met debut in the production, as Barak the Dyer, was bass-baritone Walter Berry. “A fine actor, a superb musician…he took command of the stage,” Schonberg said of Berry. 

As the evil Nurse, who drives the opera’s complex plot, mezzo-soprano Irene Dalis – a tireless Met star for almost a decade at that point – “was malevolence incarnate,” wrote Irving Kolodin of the Saturday Review.

The highest praise for the Met’s Die Frau ohne Schatten may have been reserved for Böhm, whose ovations rivaled the singers’. In Schonberg’s words: “Among the present group of Metropolitan Opera conductors, he towers like a Colossus.”

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Richard Strauss’s Die Frau ohne Schatten

Epic in musical scope and artistic imagination, Strauss and Hofmannsthal’s 1919 work makes extraordinary demands on its five leading singers, the orchestra, and the stage. The score is one of the composer’s richest and most evocative, reflecting the fantastical storyline that weaves together drama, fairy tale, and pure poetry.


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