Cher Public

Composer’s intentions

A recent spate of comments about sopranos vs. mezzos as the Composer in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos prompted me for this week’s “Trove Thursday” to dig out a live broadcast of the opera’s prologue featuring Julia Varady, a favorite soprano in a role she sang only rarely. 

Many will know the knotty genesis of Ariadne: it premiered in 1912 as the conclusion of a long entertainment that began with Hugo von Hofmannstahl’s adaptation of Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. The unwieldy enterprise flopped and eventually Strauss and Hofmannstahl set about trying to salvage the work.

Versions of this earlier incarnation are still performed occasionally; perhaps the most celebrated was a concert of just the opera (preserved on DVD) by the Boston Symphony conducted by Erich Leinsdorf starring an all-American trio: the luminous Claire Watson and Robert Nagy as Ariadne and Bacchus with Beverly Sills giving her best shot at Zerbinetta’s longer, higher aria.

It was also staged to mark the centenary of its premiere at the 2012 Salzburg Festival with Emily Magee, Jonas Kaufmann and Elena Mosuc.

The 1916 revision though is what we inevitably hear today.

The biggest change was the addition of a forty-minute prologue focusing on a young composer whose opera is about to be invaded by a band of commedia dell’arte actors. As he did in Der Rosenkavalier several years earlier, Strauss composed this part as a trouser role, originally to be premiered at the Vienna Staatsoper by Marie Gutheil-Schoder. However, she fell ill before the final rehearsal and her understudy, the 28-year-old Lotte Lehmann, was awarded the opening night and became the talk of the town.

My first acquaintance with the latter-Ariadne featured a soprano as the Composer—Sena Jurinac on the RCA recording. Even as I began to hear other versions, she remained my touchstone until I discovered Irmgard Seefried. I had always avoided the Herbert von Karajan LPs due to my aversion to its leading lady. But eventually I came across the live 1944 performance conducted by Karl Böhm with Maria Reining Max Lorenz and and was transported by Seefried’s shining and ecstatic portrayal.

I’m not entirely sure when mezzos came to be expected in the role but Christa Ludwig sang the Composer in the 50s and Kerstin Meyer was awarded the Met premiere in 1963. Beginning in the mid-60s and continuing for nearly twenty years, Tatiana Troyanos was regarded as its leading exponent and she recorded it twice and appeared on telecasts from Aix-en-Provence and the Met. However I found her lush mezzo with its wonderfully free top too dark and heavy for the Composer.

Although its first season of Ariadne there featured Elisabeth Söderström in two performances as the Composer, the Met has followed the trend and generally cast mezzos. In addition to Troyanos, there has been among others Maria Ewing, Susanne Mentzer, Sarah Connolly, the late Kristine Jepson (marvelous at Christine Brewer’s debut), Susan Graham and Joyce DiDonato, the last sadly an unfortunate choice —strained, strident and wildly sharp.

Other than Evelyn Lear’s 1970 Composers (which I understand were not a success), the most fascinating Met soprano Composer must be Teresa Stratas who took the role there just eight times stretching over 31 years from 1963 to 1994. I missed those final ones but I understand they were dramatically compelling if vocally reduced and hard-pressed. There’s reportedly a 1967 Munich Ariadne broadcast with Stratas floating around that I’d love to hear.

I was surprised to discover on a website devoted to Varady that she sang onstage just two Strauss roles—the Composer and Arabella. She did, of course, also record the Kaiserin in Die Frau ohne Schatten with Georg Solti, Feuersnot and a marvelous collection (now out of print) on Orfeo of excerpts from Salome, Capriccio and Die Liebe der Danae. That CD also included Ariadne’s monologue, but she dropped out of an announced new production in Munich in which she would have debuted the title role.

I used to have a copy of this complete performance but the opera has vanished into mp3-heaven like so many other things. This surviving prologue, conducted by her longtime Munich collaborator Wolfgang Sawallisch, finds Varady in flaming, volatile form if not the last word in verbal clarity and specificity, often her weak point. Those who know her Composer only from the lackluster Kurt Masur recording on Philips done 12 years after this RAI broadcast and paired with the charmless Edita Gruberovà may discover here a fresher, livelier portrayal.

R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (Prologue only)
Orchestra Sinfonica RAI di Roma
18 March 1976

Komponist – Julia Varady
Zerbinetta – Patricia Wise
Prima Donna – Johanna Meier
Major-domo- Klaus Bertram
Music Master – Roland Hermann
Tenor – James King
Dancing Master/Brighella – Matti Juani
Arlecchino Wolfgang Schone
Scaramuccia – Peter Hage
Truffaldino – Boris Carmeli

Conductor – Wolfgang Sawallisch

To download Ariadne’s Prologue, just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

In addition, more than 70 other “Trove Thursday” podcasts (including Varady’s Cio-Cio-San) are available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.

  • Yalma Cuder-Zicci

    Varady, closing scene from Capriccio

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJVCmc0n4Is

    • Liz.S

      Is DFD conducting and singing at the same time?

  • PATRICK MACK

    I’m a big fan of Varady and have all of her Orfeo recital discs. It’s pretty amazing to hear anyone with that kind of technical assurance in such a wide range of repertoire. Her Wagner and Strauss are really her best. I also have a live Aida from Berlin with Pavarotti that’s pretty wonderful (if you can overlook her husband DFD as Amanasro…woops) and a Sinopoli led Trovatore with her Leonora.
    Your right about her being verbally mushy at times but versatile is the word.

    • fletcher

      Funny that you mention her diction -- her Judit for Sawallisch is so clear and beautiful, so comfortable with the Hungarian (one of the few native speakers singing the role in studio recordings, maybe?) on a recording that is otherwise not a favorite of mine, as much as I love all the people involved.

    • PCally

      LOVE that later Leonora (she was 51 at the time!), one her best Italian recordings. That Judit fletcher mentions is one of the finest. Orfeo also has a collection of live excerpts of her Elettra and Vitellia which IMO are far superior to her commercial recordings.

    • fletcher

      Oh wow… listening to that Trovatore now… wow.

  • Peter

    Meier and Patricia Wise sang Ariadne and Zerbinetta in the mid-70’s at the New York City Opera with Marilyn Niska as a soprano Composer. So not that unusual back then to hear a soprano composer.

    • Bill

      Varady is quite good, actually excellent in this rendition -- and Christopher Corwin, you are correct, her diction is not as precise as some other Composers but she has all the notes top to bottom and with considerable beauty of tone -- I also thought that of Troyanos, clarity of diction was missing.

      I have written before that I thought that Stratas was the best
      Composer I ever heard at the Met having seen most of them.

      If you have an aversion to Schwarzkopf on the EMI
      Ariadne, one can listen to Seefried as the Composer not only live from 1944 in Vienna but from 1954 live from Salzburg (Boehm conducting with della Casa) or later live
      from Chicago in 1964 (Jochim with Crespin).

      Jurinac is available not only on the RCA recording you mention but in several later performances from Salzburg (Boehm) or Vienna.

      Welitsch sang the Composer at the Volksoper during the war and only once at the Staatsoper. She must have been superb but she did not continue the role after 1944

      One of the best mezzo Composers I saw was Trudeliese Schmidt. There were some Mezzos who sang the Composer prior to WWII but most of those essaying the role were full sopranos or Zwischenfach. A few light sopranos attempted the role, Elisabeth Schumann and
      Anneliese Rothenberger but only a few performances each.

      • PCally

        Schmidt was a really terrific singer, I was unaware of her until recently when I came across her Monteverdi performances for Harnoncourt. Her Ottavia in particular is stunning.

  • Armerjacquino

    I find the idea of Gruberova being a ‘charmless’ Zerbinetta hard to deal with- in both her recordings and when I saw her live in the part she radiates charm. I can understand people not liking her voice, but the smile in it in that role feels unmissable to me.

    • PCally

      Gruberova is basically my go to Zerbinetta, but I do think she’s pretty blank and at less than her best on the Masur recording. There are fortunately several earlier recordings who IMO are basically perfect.

      • Daniel Swick

        She sings the part brilliantly but she’s just too arch for my blood. Grist is my favorite Zerbinetta… beautifully sung and utterly charming.
        Dessay acts the part with such intensity and intelligence that I can forgive her idiosyncrasies vocally (her strange way of teasing and bulging the vocal line can drive me nuts).
        I thought Swenson might have been impressive in the part but the audio I heard of her Met attempt showed her to be miscast. Battle always felt wrong for Zerbinetta to me…small voice and a screechy top.
        Sills is pretty fucking impressive in the original music.

        • PCally

          Love Grist in the role, the most purely beautiful sound I’ve heard in the role. I thought dessays first met run was (literally) staggering, stunningly sung and such a comlicated three-dimensional take on the part. The later runs, though super impressive, didn’t quite match that initial run. Sills is impressive but that sound is just really not one I can listen to for long periods of time, it’s just a bit monochromatic and strident for my taste.

          The other Zerbinetta I like quite a bit is Gueden. She’s overparted, but I think the voice is bit fuller than one gets in that role and her act one dialogue with the composer (Seefried) is georgeous. It’s a very witty interpertation but suprisingly vulnerable in unexpected moments. Not a fan of Bohm but that particular performance is pretty has some really amazing women in the cast.

        • Funny, one of the hallmarks of Battle’s singing for me is that her top is not screechy and that she was able to retain that roundness of tone even above high C.

          I have heard that her run at the Met (with Jessye) was uneven and what made it on the video release had some post-performance clean-up by way of splicing/editing. But I have heard a live recording of her in the part just a couple of years earlier from London (1985 --again, with Jessye) in which she was positively brilliant.

          What do you and others think of Damrau’s Zerbinetta? I never heard it but I know she caused a sensation at the Met with the role.

          • Desert Island Girl

            My memory of Damrau (unrefreshed by recordings, so this is all memory) is that it was technically impressive but entirely too cutesy/shallow, all surface sparkle and none of the deeper feeling and pain.

            • southerndoc1

              “none of the deeper feeling and pain”

              And brining that out was Dessay’s strength in the role -- she always had me in tears by the end of her scene with the Composer.

            • Armerjacquino

              ‘brining’ and ‘tears’- a nicely coincidental typo.

            • Daniel Swick

              Me too!! The augenblick bit is heartbreaking to me ONLY when Dessay sings it…but it’s not just the singing but also the acting which is so moving. Her posture alone says so much.
              https://youtu.be/FtzcKthnSqs

            • Armerjacquino

              That’s my memory of her Zerbinetta at CG in 2004, too. The stars that night were Schwanewilms and Graham: it was the first time I heard Damrau and while the notes were all securely there and she wasn’t lacking charisma, it wasn’t a particularly memorable assumption of the role.

              However, cut to a few years later and Jane Archibald managed to make the whole character unaccountably dull. I never thought I’d hear that aria get a polite cricket clap.

            • AGH

              Am I alone in not being able (or even wish)clearly to rank all the Zerbinetta’s I have heard? Like Amerjacquino I was not very impressed by Jane Archibald’s account of the role at CG, but would not dare to rank, say, Grist, Gueden, Battle and Damrau. They all gave me great pleasure. If one must rank and compare them then recordings are a great help, but these can never convey the impressions that they left in an actual performance. My dimming memories are that Battle (in 1985) was the one whose acting and personality seemed to me to fit the role best. So far as voices go, I am always delighted to listen to the recordings posted on this site, but like Luvtennis, I am frequently surprised at the differences in the sound of the recordings and how one recalled their voices from actual performances -- and these of course, usually changed greatly over their careers.

            • Bill

              AGH -- in recording my favorite Zerbinetta has been Rita Streich and I have seen most of the famous Zerbinettas but not Streich in that role and nor Gueden who only did it in
              Salzburg in 1954 and less than 10 performances of it in Vienna about the same time. However I have read in various reviews that Streich (who also did not have a large voice but was able to project admirably) was not always so perfectly accurate as on the EMI recording). Streich, however, even on the recording does not attempt a trill on the highest note and here Gruberova, whom I saw numerous times on stage, had a technical facility which allowed her vocally to do what other Zerbinettas could not even bother to attempt -- I saw Popp once sing Zerbinetta in Koeln but she missed the long extended high note, threw down her fan and never attempted Zerbinetta elsewhere (but otherwise was quite wonderful in the role). I preferred Grist (so sparkling on stage and exceedingly accurate vocally) to Battle who seemed a little bland (seen only at the Met). Erica Miklosa, who may not have done it before, is singing it this month in Budapest.

            • Luvtennis

              She won an Olivier Award for her performances in the role at Covent Garden. Same year I think. 1985. I recall reading a review in a back edition of Opera or maybe Gramophone.

          • Luvtennis

            I heard both Battle and Varady live in orchestral recitals within a few years of one another. Battle’s voice live was small, but so well projected and tonally pure that I had no trouble hearing her and the sound was so heady that your ears were just ravished. Varady, who was clearly a wonderful and incredibly versatile artist, was very different. The sound was hard to describe -- you had no real trouble hearing her but it was like she was in another room. There were few overtones and the color was sort of a pale gray. It was obviously a much larger voice but the projection of the sound was not as effective.

            Of course, my reaction may have been an anomaly caused by the surrounding acoustic (in both cases). But I left the Varady concert puzzled at the disparity between her live sound and her recordings. Strangely it was the first time and only time I have had such an experience. Voigt (pre- weught loss), Norman, Racette, Zajick, Price, etc. -- all struck me as much more impressive live. Varady was just the opposite.

            • Antikitschychick

              Very interesting. Battle is one of those singers I really wish I had heard live. I’ve loved every single recording I’ve heard of hers. Her voice was gorgeous, she was a great musician and her singing was so clean and crisp. I haven’t heard enough of Varady to form an opinion on her but I obvs realize she was very accomplished.

            • Armerjacquino

              It’s become de rigeur to rave about Varady, but there’s always something missing for me whenever I hear her. It’s a lovely voice and she’s always good, but she never blows me away.

            • Luvtennis

              With all due respect to Varady, Zylis-Gara is my favorite Composer!

            • Bill

              Zylis-Gara (on the EMI recording) sings the Composer gorgeously -- she does not however at least on this recording infuse
              the role vocally with as much dramatic inflection as Seefried or Jurinac (or Troyanos for that matter). Varady seems on this hearing also more into the drama of the role
              but Zylis-Gara’s creamy voice is remarkably
              beautiful and again illustrates why this is indeed a soprano role.

            • Luvtennis

              I think Varady made changes in her vocal production in the early 80’s. The recordings from the 70’s show a very strongly projected tone, but you can also hear tension in the sound that comes out in the juddery vibrato that marred some phrases -- especially true of the Rosalinda under Kleiber’s relentless direction. By the time of the Elvira she recorded, the sound is much smoother and she is not pressing on the sound all the time. At the same time though, some of the color and distinctiveness of her earlier days was lost. A fair trade-off given the resulting longevity.

              Still a great artist, of course.

  • Christian Ocier

    If Varady were younger today she would be an excellent shoo-in for Melania Trump’s character in an opera written about this period of American politics.

  • PCally

    I understand Varady is the focal point of this post and she is indeed excellent, but there is a complete performance of the opera available on Opera depot (oddly, some of it is English, some of in German) with Meier as Ariadne and she is INCREDIBLE. I cannot believe there aren’t recordings with this woman. I had only ever heard her Isolde from Bayreuth, which is quite lovely in a small scaled way, but her Ariadne is in a different category entirely.

    • steveac10

      Meier’s Ariadne as a cover (for either Caballe or Price- I can’t remember who disappointed me until act 2 got going) back in the late 70’s at the Met was glorious. I also will always remember her Sieglinde and Ellen Orford with Vickers on the Met’s penultimate tour with far more than fondness.

      • Porgy Amor

        With Leontyne Price able to sing only two of the scheduled performances (Feb. 17, March 15, the first on Feb. 13 having been canceled due to no one to fill the title role), the bulk of Ariadne’s fell to Miss Meier, whose powerful, glowing soprano and superior sense of style and line, coupled with handsome looks and stature, made her ideal as the abandoned princess. (Jacobson, May 1979 Opera News)

        • JR

          As a huge fan of Price, I was really disappointed, until Meier sang. At that point I decided Price could not have been better.

        • She filled in for Price in the 1979 run; she earlier filled in for (or mopped up after) Caballé for two shows in 1976.

    • Christian Ocier

      Johanna Meier is indeed severely underrepresented in recordings. That Ponelle Tristan aside, there appear to be virtually no recordings of her live or studio work in non-bootleg commercial sites. In fact, the only other item that officially lists her as a contributor on amazon is this book documenting her father’s work in South Dakota.
      https://www.amazon.com/Black-Hills-Passion-Images-America/dp/0738552356/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1497790856&sr=8-3&keywords=johanna+meier

      A shame really, given the remarkable quality of her voice and her stage presence. Her Isolde on that Ponelle film was quite memorable for its lyric approach--in a way, Meier represented the kind of lyric-dramatic soprano who fit in a mould occupied by the likes of Anne Evans and Linda Esther Gray. Except, unlike the latter, Meier actually succeeded in portraying the role along with a number of other challenging dramatic soprano parts onstage for many years. Unlike Anne Evans, Meier possessed a fuller and more voluptuous voice, which contributed to the success of her Isolde with Barenboim. I suppose recording companies were not really interested in documenting that kind of voice, since talent agents were probably on the lookout for a Nilsson or Flagstad type of dramatic soprano, when what she really had was a Frida Leider type of voice (more of that Donna Anna evolving into Chrysothemis evolving into Isolde and finally Brunnhilde). I’ve heard bootleg recordings of her Fidelio, her Met Ariadne with Kollo, and a Brunnhilde with Caballe (see video), and in all of them I’ve found her very musically and dramatically compelling. The Walkure below finds her in good voice, and features a strong cast that includes Hans Sotin’s Wotan, Helga Dernesch’s regal and imperious Fricka (another favorite of mine. I wish she had paced herself more during the early part of her career rather than investing all of her resources in Wagner during her late 20s/early 30s), Siegfried Jerusalem as Siegmund, and a weird Sieglinde from Montsy.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nmbQmKBji8

      • Bill

        Christian -- it is often the problem with certain singers that they do not have a recording contract
        with any particular label and some of their rivals
        at the time do. The other problem is that perhaps
        Johanna Meier did not perform as often as some others at the time (Janowitz for example) with high profile conductors who are often able to pick and choose their casts to a degree for certain recordings.
        I saw Meier’s city opera debut in Capriccio and she was quite wonderful but she was the second cast after Helen Vanni. Meier probably did not have
        many premieres at the Met and aside from her
        Bayreuth Isolde she may not have sung in many
        high profile performances in Europe. When I last
        heard her as Fidelio at the Met, perhaps because her Isolde’s stretched her voice to the maximum, she had become rather wobbly vocally and it was little pleasure. Another City Opera singer who coincided with Meier and was mentioned above,
        Patricia Wise, seems also to have little exposure
        on tape or disc but etched out an attractive career first at the City Opera and then in Vienna and Hamburg.

        • Christian Ocier

          Didn’t Patricia Wise play Lulu in Tate’s recording?

          • Bill

            Christian -- quite likely but one recording does not create a recorded legacy. It is similar to Pilou’s one studio recording,
            a Micaela to Crespin’s Carmen. Patricia Wise did sing an unbelievable number of
            Rosenkavalier Sophies in Vienna 82 in a 15 year period. Only Elisabeth Schumann essayed more Sophies in the history of the Vienna Opera -- 85. There is an underground recording of Wise’s Marie in the Daughter of the Regiment at the Volksoper (in German) where she followed Grist and Auger in the role but I have not heard it.

            • Christian Ocier

              No, apart from that Lulu and two official bootlegs, she has no discography to speak of. However, she imprinted herself on Lulu’s character quite memorably, much in the same way that Marlis Petersen and Teresa Stratas did when they were still singing the role. So while her recorded evidence is sparse, what little she left behind for future audiences speaks volumes about her abilities as a musician and artist. You should listen to that recording--the cast is phenomenal. And the much underrated Tate provides a very galvanizing and intelligent reading of the score.

        • Armerjacquino

          I don’t think Johanna Meier was kept out of the studio by Janowitz, who recorded Mozart, Fidelio, Agathe, lighter Strauss and lighter Wagner, most of it before Meier’s career kicked off.

          The singer who was in the studio in Meier’s prime, recording most of her main roles, was Behrens.

          • Christian Ocier

            You know how much I want mrsjohnclaggart to intone on this conversation right now regarding Behrens. :) And then I want Marshie to come to Behrens’ defense.

          • PCally

            Also the timing is a bit off. Janowitz had been at the top for almost two decades before Meier was even singing internationally.

            • Bill

              PCally -- well not quite Johanna Meier sang her first Tosca in Vienna in 1978 and her first Fidelio there in 1983. Janowitz sang her first
              Fidelio in 1976, her first Marschallin there in 1978, her first Capriccio there in 1977, her first Sieglinde there in 1985 though Salzburg came earlier as did the Met, Perhaps
              Anna Tomowa-Sintow who only made her debut in Vienna in 1977 would have been a closer example and Tomowa-Sintow did make a number of recordings. Janowitz’ earlier career was more devoted to Mozart,
              Cherubino, Barbarina, Pamina and such
              Marzelline, Marenka, (though a single Kaiserin in 1964) but in the late 1960s
              began to take on heavier roles such as Elisabeth, Eva, Fiordiligi. Johanna Meier made her debut as early as 1960 in Florida as Siebel ( I do not recall what year Meier made her City Opera debut in Capriccio but it must have been around 1969) and Janowitz sang also for the first time in Vienna in 1960 as Barbarina.
              Janowitz’s advantage was that von Karajan and then Boehm and Krips took an early interest in her -- Janowitz, born in 1937 was maybe 5 years older than J. Meier. Meier did have many important engagements eventually but simply made fewer recordings than others of her era. I liked her particularly in lyric R. Strauss.

            • PCally

              Bill-my point still stands. I said that by the time Meier started singing internationally (outside of the United States) Janowitz and been singing internationally for nearly two decades and had been a major recording artist for virtually the same amount of time. I’m well aware Meier had been singing almost as long but according to opera news she didn’t sing in Europe until 1976. Janowitz had already had a huge discrography at that point, so the idea that she was taking recordings contracts from Meier makes no sense since the period they overlapped in repertoire found Meier almost exclusively in the US and by the time Meier did get to Europe she was singing predominately heavier repertoire than the kind of things Janowitz was singing on a regular basis (a few choice roles notwithstanding), thus confirming Armers point that someone like Behrens was more directly in competition with Meier than Janowitz would have been.

            • Bill

              I stand corrected though I kind of figure that
              J. Meier sang Isolde (some performances) and Fidelio but to my knowledge did not
              venture some of Behren’s more famous later roles, Salome, Elektra, Bruennhilde, Marie in Wozzeck etc. The last time I guess I saw J. Meier was a very tremulous
              wobbly Fidelio at the Met -- quite underwhelming. And I guess also after
              the labels RCA and US Columbia stopped recording operas for the most part, USA based singers (with the exception of the late Sills) had a tougher time being engaged for recordings unless they were in Europe for substantial periods of time.

            • Christian Ocier

              Meier did sing Brunnhilde and Elektra during the last half-decade of her career.

            • MisterSnow

              In 1990, Meier sang Turandot with Opera Pacific. I was in the chorus. She held back in the rehearsals and seemed to take a bit to warm up (starting cold with In quests reggia is as tough as starting cold with Celeste Aida), but once she got going, great streams of rich tone seemed to roll out and her Act 3 was particularly effective. I had seen her a decade earlier (with NYCO) doing Elena in Mephistopheles before her career began to exams in Europe,

            • Christian Ocier

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E9lhbbNvvc

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think she is playing Brunnhilde in the Schenk production with Donald McIntyre (??) or Hans Sotin (?) as Wotan.

            • Of her three Met Brünnhildes, all in the Schenk production, one (1987) was with McIntyre (she had been the Sieglinde in that run with Behrens and Altmeyer as Brünnhilde); the others were with Theo Adam (1988) and James Morris (1989).

      • southerndoc1

        Love Dernesch. She struggled with the top as a soprano, and then struggled with the bottom as a mezzo, but still -- the presence, the really glamorous sound to the the voice always won me over.

        • Christian Ocier

          Dernesch’s auburn sound--that beautiful, plaintive tone so unique to her--has always been one of my ideal templates for what a Wagnerian heroine should sound like. Up until 1969/1970, the voice as a whole still worked, but at the time she had already been singing Elsa’s and Eva’s and big juicy Verdi roles. An early recital from the 60s had her doing the Forza Leonora in German. Big sound, nice bloom at the top, but she was only 21/22 at the time! Had she disciplined her choice of repertoire a bit more (more Mozart roles, a bit of lighter Verdi fare, some lighter Schwarzkopf-esque Strauss roles like Ariadne or Marschallin, Sieglinde at most until she turned 32), I wonder if her career as a soprano would have lasted longer into the 80s. She is a very intelligent singer--one who interacts deeply with the texts and creates a very human portrait of her characters. In my mind, no one makes more out of the spoken texts and recitatives from Fidelio. Even if her 1972 Isolde is largely a finished studio product (her broadcasts from Salzburg in 72 and 73 found her struggling with the higher notes), I still find it to be one of the finest portrayals committed to record. In 1976 (a 37 year old Farberin!), she did the Dyer’s Wife with Solti, and from that broadcast one could hear why she had to curtail her soprano career. I’m glad she went on singing many mezzo parts though, because we were at least able to get a sample of her incredible artistry. Loved her as Waltraute and Fricka, her Goneril from Lear, her Weill, her Klytamnestra, Amme (when it worked), and Herodias. One can only dream of what a working Kundry or Ortrud would have sounded like had she assumed those parts.

          • Bill

            Christian -- Dernesch actually started the first 6 years or so in smaller opera houses, the Vienna Volksoper, Bern in Switzerland from 1961 and then Wiesbaden and further to Koeln. But then she was at Bayreuth in 1967 singing Elisabeth when she was about 28. In 1979 she sang her last soprano role in Vienna, Kassandra in Les Troyens and in the same season was already
            singing Klytemnestra. Her last role in Vienna
            (her birthplace but not her major opera house) was the old Countess in Pique Dame in 1996 -- so a good 35+ some odd years or so on the stage.

            • Christian Ocier

              And if I’m not mistaken, she was hired to sing the old Burja in Kirill Petrenko’s Jenufa at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 2009. Impressive career for someone who nearly had her career derailed by an early dose of heavy roles.

          • southerndoc1

            And a mystical, seductive Marfa -- even though she lacked Borodina’s rich lower tones.

          • rhinestonecowgirl

            Dernesch did sing Marschallin and Ariadne for Scottish Opera in the 70’s, as well as these other roles, and I was very lucky to hear most of them apart from the Ring.

            http://www.operascotland.org/person/1305/Helga-Dernesch

            She usually tried new roles out in Scotland before going on to sing them with Karajan. The Strauss roles were alongside Janet Baker, and she also featured on a Scottish Opera highlights disc of Rosenkavalier with a different cast.

            Helga Dernesch
            Born Vienna, 3 February 1939.

            Austrian soprano, later mezzo-soprano.

            Roles in Scotland
            Gutrune a Gibichung, Gunther’s sister
            Götterdämmerung 1968
            Leonore Florestan’s wife, disguised as Fidelio
            Fidelio 1970
            Fidelio 1974
            Fidelio 1977
            Brünnhilde a Valkyrie
            Valkyrie 1971
            Brünnhilde now a mortal
            Siegfried 1971
            Feldmarschallin Marie-Therese, Princess of Werdenberg (the Field-Marshal’s wife)
            Rosenkavalier 1971
            Rosenkavalier 1974
            Cassandra a prophetess (Cassandre)
            Trojans 1972
            Ghost of Cassandra
            Trojans 1972
            Isolde an Irish princess
            Tristan und Isolde 1973
            Prima Donna Ariadne in the opera
            Ariadne on Naxos 1977

            • Christian Ocier

              What a treat, to have heard her perform these roles during her brief prime as a dramatic soprano!

              Another thing I noticed about Dernesch: if you listen to her live performances (e.g. Jungfer Marianne’s clip of the Salzburg Tristan), she always appears to be in excellent shape during the beginning of each performance. And everytime she performs, she really gets under the role’s dramatic and psychological skin. (Listen to Act 1 of that Tristan. All the elements of the ideal Isolde are there. She even sings the high Cs in the moments preceding the Act 2 love duet). Hence, at the beginning of her performances, one hears a truly world class soprano who has a fantastic sense for character development. However, by the evening’s end, she tires a lot and the problems begin creeping in as she ascends the scale. I think we can largely attribute this to her technique’s flaws or her lack of vocal stamina. In itself, the base material is golden--as good as any we have heard since the golden age of Wagnerian singing. Her technique, however, is inconsistent, and I imagine that had she taken the time to develop her higher register by doing more breath-support heavy, long line roles like Contessa’s, Fiordiligi’s, Donna Anna’s, Marschallin’s, Eva’s, and Ariadne’s (with the occasional Sieglinde or Elisabeth), I think her soprano would have been in prime condition for many decades. I’m grateful that she recorded her Brunnhildes and Isolde’s, as they are some of my favorite characterizations on record. But I can’t help but wonder how history would have played out had she waited until her mid-30s (or until her stamina and technique had sufficiently matured) to play those difficult dramatic parts.

            • PCally

              She also did a pretty admirable job of keeping her basic timbre intact far beyond what one would expect of an ex-soprano transitioning into character roles. I saw her several times at the met and while the top notes were always pretty rocky, the sound was big, rich, and usually steady. She was also a beautiful woman to boot and managed to make characters usually depicted as old hags into something a bit more striking and glamorous. I also saw those 2009 Jenufas and despite being 72 she actually sang the part quite nicely, though the lameness of the production meant she really didn’t get to have much dramatic impact. Apparently excerpts from those early Fiordiligis exist somewhere. MrsJohnClaggart has sad multiple times that they are incredible. There are at least two recordings of her Sieglinde (a video from Japan and a recording of Act One, both of which are beautifully sung for the most part though the unrelenting darkness of her sound gives a pretty gloomy idea of the role).

              Incidentally she did sing Ariadne, I believe it was one of her last soprano assumptions. It’s one of those party records that gets tossed around on occasion and is a pretty sad outing, though her timbre is quite right for the part.

            • Christian Ocier

              I actually love how she reshaped her low register post mezzo transition!

              Do you have those Jenufa broadcasts on tape? Or, do you know anyone who may be in possession of those tapes? I would love to hear them if possible.

              This is my first time using SoundCloud. Do let me know if you can access these files.
              Here is her Come Scoglio in German:
              https://soundcloud.com/christian-ocier/01-come-scoglio-cosi-fan-tutte

              And here is her Porgi amor, also in German
              https://soundcloud.com/christian-ocier/porgi-amor-dernesch-1961

            • PCally

              Unfortunately I don’t know of any recordings of those Jenufa performances, which is a shame because the Jenufa was Westbroek who was sensational.

            • Christian Ocier

              Here is something I acquired from Opera Depot’s big Strauss sale last week. The sound is terrible, but it documents her Chrysothemis with Nilsson as Elektra, Resnik as Klytamnestra, and Solti on the podium.

              https://soundcloud.com/christian-ocier/04-ich-kann-nicht-sitzen

            • fletcher

              Was a Dernesch Amme recorded? I found a Sawallisch FrOSch with Studer and Bjøner from 1988 on youtube -- wondering if that’s what you’re referring to.

            • Christian Ocier

              A number of them were, even some with Rysanek as the Kaiserin.

            • fletcher

              Google is turning up some interesting results, including something about Dernesch fainting onstage at the Met? And yes a Rysanek/Jones/Dernesch FrOSch from Hamburg in 1983, when I was -4 and not yet making bootlegs in European auditoria. I wonder if the sound is any good (guessing not).

            • Christian Ocier

              I have that bootleg. The sound is not spectactular, but the performance is. Dohnanyi conducts the performance.

              You should read Mrs. John Claggart’s stories about fainting Helga in last September’s post about the Salzburg Tristan. Hilarious.

            • CCorwinNYC

              I saw Dernesch three times at the Met during the 80s including as Amme during the final run of the Merrill-O’Hearn production. I didn’t know Frau very well at the time so she didn’t make much of an impression on me in what in retrospect was a very respectable cast--Johanna Meier (as the Kaiserin in her last Met appearances), Janis Martin, Robert Schunk and Bernd Weikl who canceled the broadcast with this cast and was replaced by James Courtney.

              I also saw her Mar debut role--Marfa in the first run of Khovanshchina--my recollection is that she was brought in somewhat late to replace (I think) Florence Quivar who had dropped out. I remember her being hypnotic and I was surprised that the voice had become so deep and rich. But most striking was her appearance in the Lehnhoff Salome where dramatically she quite stole the show from Eva Marton. Her sleek, elegant Herodias blithely strolled off-stage at the end on the arm of the hunky executioner!

            • Camille

              You mean—
              She wrested away due attention to The Dance of the Seven Veals? How could that be? I would have thought Frau Eva’s terpsichorean exploits thrilling.

              I take note of the Khovanschina you mention as it is, interestingly, more or less the impression I gleaned from her performance in the same opera but in San Francisco, 1984. About the voice I remember little— other than it was intense and, as you said, hypnotic. It was mostly all lost on me as there were no titles, I know ten words in Russian and knew not much of the opera.

              Christian Ocier — I find your holding forth on Helga Dernesch both very interesting and informative. It was only two years ago I first listened to her recording of Isolde and was just so shocked by it, for I’d had no idea how good, how specific in her expression especially, she had been. I must make time to study that recording or go to listen to Jungfer Marianne’s as I had intended—but—am afraid of becoming engulfed in that world again—and it is such a demanding work. Maybe I’ll just listen to Act II, which is what I heard over the radio one night. Magical Liebesnacht.

              Thank you for all your thoughts on this very fine artist. A pleasure to hear you speak of her.

            • Christian Ocier

              Hi Camille! I’d recommend the studio recording over the broadcast, but only because both principals are in better voice in the recording. When possible, listen to the the 1994 remastering, since the balance in the 1988 is just bizarre. I’ve attached a spotify link here.

              https://open.spotify.com/album/6ACmpITKntLxiP5c0QpJPi

            • Camille

              Thank you again and very kind. I shall make an attempt to spotify but I am very creaky with these newfangled means!

              As well, thanks for differentiating between versions. What I was so struck by was the interpretation of the text and want to study it again when I have time.

              Also, regarding Stemme’s Isolde — perhaps I will give a listen to it as it would have been something quite different ten years back. She is a marvelous artist whom I respect very much but this past season’s Isolde was done at a time when the bloom was clearly fallen from the rose. Her Brünnhilde of 2010, live in S.F, made an indelible impression on me. Wonderful in every way.

              Thanks.

            • Christian Ocier

              :)

              I’ll make this next newfangled means easier for you. This video captures the second act from the recent Vienna opera Parsifal, featuring Stemme’s debut in the role of Kundry.

              I saw Stemme’s Isolde twice at the Met--the first time I was in the house during the broadcast, and the second time a few days later. If you’ve only seen the cinecast from the Met, her voice will seem to have lost that bloom. I was actually surprised by the quality of her sound while listening to the video on the website. While the current state of her voice is indeed edgier and more metallic (and less supple compared to her work last decade), it sounded so much richer in the house. Must be something about audio equipment’s shortcomings when capturing dramatic voices. It’s certainly not as fresh as the SF Brunnhilde, but the Isolde I heard on the Met On Demand website was very different from the one I experienced in house.

              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWb6BBXkeL0

            • Camille

              Thanks VErY much for this tantalizing tidbit! I’ve been thinking for some time that Kundry might be the role for her latter career days.

              Very sweet of you and very appreciated!

            • Christian Ocier

              Enjoy the performance! :) Stemme is one of my favorite artists, and while I recognize the unfortunate and inevitable changes that time and wear have brought to her voice, she remains one of the most mesmerizing/arresting individuals I’ve ever seen or heard in this repertory.

              And yes, Turandot might not have been the ideal repertory for her voice’s center of gravity--her middle is so rich (even now, I still find her voice more beautiful than the likes of Varnay or Nilsson) that interspersing her big Wagnerian heroines with Strauss’s creamier leading ladies (e.g. Marschallin, Ariadne) may have kept it just a little bit fresher. But no matter--this Kundry is pretty amazing. I can’t wait for her to take on the Dyer’s Wife someday.

            • southerndoc1

              Thank you, Christian.

            • southerndoc1

              On the old Parterre box, an excerpt from the Ariadne was featured in the Filth section, along with the clucking Donna Anna et al.

            • Christian Ocier

              Haha, wow, I still remember that old parterre page--truly, a great educational source for any opera fan young or old. Is the old Dr. Repertoire glossary still around? I think the clucking Donna Anna may have been Elinor Ross.

              By the time Helga became a mezzo, I think she had solved one of her vocal technique’s biggest shortcomings--her breath control. I noted in many of her Wagnerian soprano performances that she clipped a few phrases short, indicating that she may not have sufficiently developed a technique for singing long phrases well. Some of these were not even higher notes, and it sounded to me that the voice wasn’t consistently well supported. Ultimately, what I think did Helga’s soprano in was that she was convinced into singing many challenging roles as young woman due to her remarkably mature sounding instrument, even without having developed a stronger vocal musculature. Thankfully, she was smart enough to recognize that (or Dohnanyi helped do so), giving us that great Moedlrollen half of her career.

              Here is a clip of her singing the Nietzsche poem from Mahler 3 with Solti. Not sure what her live performances sounded like, but it’s clear that she’s done her homework.
              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGpgnh67Ia4

            • Porgy Amor

              I remember that, southerndoc1, and I remember my reaction. With the others in that collection, it was obvious very quickly why they were included. With Dernesch’s Ariadne, at first I was thinking, “What is this doing here?” It sounded gorgeous to me, a beautifully settled sound, an intelligent interpretation, good handling of the text. And then some high notes came. Or didn’t.

            • rhinestonecowgirl

              I still rate her Scottish Opera Fidelio Leonora as the most exciting I have seen live. When she did the big reveal she tore off her hat and all that beautiful golden hair showered down and caught the spotlight. And the first run of Rosenkavalier was also very special -- even the night the lights went out in the pit during the final trio. Time (rather aptly for the Marschallin) actually seemed to stand still, and the second rendition was even lovelier.

            • Christian Ocier

              Helga is indeed a strikingly beautiful woman--I can’t imagine many other sopranos being able to create such a physical impact with the role of Leonore. I’m too young to have seen her, but even the aural impression I get from Karajan’s recording alone is sufficient to create a portrait of her character in my mind. Her work in the spoken is also exemplary--you could feel the complex array of emotions her character is experiencing just from the way the inflects the dialogue verbally.

              Although she spent more of her career covering the Amme, yu should check out her very moving, feminine, and vulnerable Farberin in this production conducted by Solti. The whole recording is available from Opera Depot.

              https://soundcloud.com/christian-ocier/schweigtdoch

        • I’m not as crazy about her Isolde with Karajan as others but I do like it. I agree about the glamorous voice. Though it may sound cliche, I think of it as an alluring mix of ice and molten lava. It’s a complex colour for sure.

          • Christian Ocier

            I discovered Dernesch’s Isolde after listening to Flagstad’s and Nilsson’s CDs from the college library (my first exposure to Tristan). My first impression of Flagstad’s Isolde was one of wonder--her voice sounded a bit matronly in the Furtwangler Tristan, but the evenness of production and her regal portrayal made me recognize its historical importance. Nilsson’s Isolde with Bohm was revelatory for the security of her instrument and the intensity of her portrayal. But I never completely warmed up to her as Isolde as I did with her Brunnhilde. Nilsson’s Isolde is indispensable for her awesome vocal gifts, but her character didn’t move me nearly as much as, let’s say, Stemme, Modl, or Dernesch have. The studio recordings of Pappano and Karajan were the first Tristan recordings I ever purchased, and both simultaneously shaped my idea of how a youthful sounding dramatic voice can be paired with intelligent characterization to create a much needed dramatic impact. I loved Stemme for the rock solid security of her technique, her ability to incorporate phrasing into her music-making, her broad vocal palette, and her appealing and vibrant instrument. I’m aware that what some listeners hear as a wobble (to me, it’s more a rapid fluttery vibrato) in her voice has not always appealed to some, but I regard her Isolde as one of the most important in history. Dernesch’s Isolde was slightly different--the character’s many tragic aspects seemed to be melded into the fabric of her voice, but she was also capable of expressing tenderness and love, rage, pain, and ecstasy when necessary. Her outbursts in Act 1 have this cleaving power, and her narrative captures so much of the text’s tension. And then you hear those gorgeous pianissimos in the Act 2 love duet, and that devastating “Ich bin’s..” in Act 3. For me, it is a marvelous portrayal, and one that probably ranked as my favorite for many years. I go back and forth between various recordings of Tristan and find so many different facets to appreciate about them. Ultimately, I go back to Vickers’ Tristan and her Isolde (or Vinay and Modl) to get a more complete portrayal within a single performance. The 1952 Bayreuth performance is more exciting, but the blanket of orchestral sound in the Berlin recording is just glorious.

            I find that description of her tonal color very interesting. If one were to compare Dernesch’s instrument with other singers in the soprano category, the one singer I can think of who matches her timbre’s depth is probably Jessye Norman. Flagstad is another singer who seems to exhibit that vocal depth, although one can argue that hers probably represents the archetype of the rich voiced soprano. Unlike Helga, however, Norman’s voice never struck me as a complex instrument--it had less rich partials and overtones.

            • I don’t hear as much of a similarity between Dernesch’s and Jessye’s voices. I think Jessye and Flagstad are quite similar, with the latter having more light and beauty to the tone in the upper half. But I agree that Dernesch had the more complex timbre than Jessye did. Jessye’s voice is all warmth and dark colour. Dernesch has this smoldering quality to the voice but also an icy sheen to it, which is why I used the ice and lava description.

              What keeps me from absolutely loving Dernesch’s Isolde is that she can’t sustain the long lines as well as Vickers. He and Karajan are clearly on the same page and produce passage after passage of expansive phrasing. Dernesch can’t quite sustain that. It might not have been as noticeable with a lesser Tristan or a conductor who didn’t phrase in paragraphs.

              What I like most about her portrayal is her dignified indignation in the first act. The outrage and passion are there but in a subdued, controlled way. That makes it all the more moving.

            • Christian Ocier

              Her inability to maintain long lines is the very problem that I had noticed in her live Isolde’s, Brunnhilde’s, and Marschallin’s. Her breath control just seemed so spotty when captured live, and in roles like Isolde that build up their role over long phrase arcs, this becomes an issue. But the colors and the complexity of character more than make up for this flaw in the studio--at least for me, it does.

              Dernesch and Jessye weren’t similar, but the vocal center of gravity was. Flagstad and Jessye had nice thick voices, but Flagstad seemed to have more interesting upper partials compared to Jessye--as if her voice had a glow. I like to think of Flagstad’s voice is a radiant, glowing orb of warm pink gold, and Jessye’s more like a chocolate covered marshmallow--plush and dark but not much glow.

            • Luvtennis

              Are you familiar with the unofficial and/or more obscure Tristan discography? If so, forgive me. But I would encourage you to seek out the following: the Beecham, Reiner, Leinsdorf recordings with Flagstad; the 1930s studio with La Nanny; and the Goodall with the volcanic Linda! I have a very complex relationship with the HvK studio. Vickers is awesome. Ludwig is…. Dernesch is…complex, just like her tone. Exciting, overparted, and intense.

            • Christian Ocier

              I’ve heard all of the ROH (Beecham, Reiner) and Met Tristan’s with Flagstad and Traubel--all fascinating accounts, but I unfortunately am not very warm towards Melchior’s Tristan. Found Leinsdorf’s Met Tristan to be one of the finest of the lot, and the supporting cast is remarkable (Kipnis and Thorborg especially). Young Flagstad is also glorious. My issue with Melchior’s Tristan echoes some of my inability to absorb myself into Nilsson’s Tristan. It’s no doubt a great voice, and one can only imagine the spectacle in the theater when he sings the unfortunately cut music valiantly note for note. But the sound itself lacks the complex palette that Vickers and Suthaus have wielded in their performances. He is a marvelous vocalist, but to me his vocal palette serves as a better foil to Siegfried more than Tristan. For me, Tristan the character requires this wide ranging palette and imagination, and Melchior doesn’t always seem to tap into that psychological well. For me, even Stephen Gould (love his Tristan--he’s really grown into the role and could one day belong among the likes of Vickers) serves the character better when he performs it onstage compared to Melchior.

              Ultimately, what repels me from a good number of the old Tristan’s is that apart from the Bayreuth broadcasts, conductors normally cut away the section of the love duet that begins with the deeply philosophical “Dem Tage!” and continues with “O eitler Tagesknecht.” For me, Tristan has two focal points in the entire opera--that philosophical section and the devastating exchange between the lovers that begins with “O Konig, das kann ich dir nicht sagen.” The love duet consists of some very important music, but the crux of the entire opera rests on those two 9 minute excerpts. And recordings taken from most non-Bayreuth conductors save Knappertsbusch tended to cut it. Even Rattle cut that section but I’ll take his gripping reading anyway.

              I also enjoy the lower torso of Furtwangler’s live Tristan from the late 40’s. If you’ve only heard his interpretation on the philharmonia recording, you’ll likely be caught by surprise when you hear his driven live reading. Erna Schluter’s is a bit all over the map as Isolde, but the rest of the cast is just intense.

              I actually quite enjoy Linda Esther Gray in the Goodall studio recording--it’s probably one of the most complex and complete characterizations on record, but she also is partnered by a rather wooden Tristan. I know that Gray has a huge cult following among listeners who have heard her Isolde, and I hold this accomplishment of hers in the highest esteem. But, Johanna Meier to me is just as good in the Ponelle Tristan when it comes to vocal acting and character insight. Goodall comes closest to that Furtwangler-esque magic in specific sections of the score, but the WNO playing is quite pedestrian in certain sections. Overall, a must hear performance, but it’s never been a go to recording.

            • Christian Ocier
    • Christian Ocier

      Es gibt ein Reich with Meier.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xM8b_Esz_8w

      • JR

        Having heard them both in the house in that role, I wouldn’t hesitate to rate Meier far above the very competent Magee.

        • PCally

          I would agree but I will say that as someone who likes Magee without finding her all that special, the video of her Ariadne from Zurich frankly features some of the finest acting I’ve ever seen from an opera singer. Like it’s actually astounding how incredibly moving she is there. And she also sounds pretty terrific, I think Ariadne works for her pretty well overall.

        • Christian Ocier

          Meier was the finer and more versatile artist. But Magee seems to have elements of that lyric-dramatic voice of Meier’s. At least at this point, she seems to be the closest thing resembling that singer.

          And regarding that Zurich Ariadne--it was pretty moving. Not sure is hers is the kind of voice that could potentially succeed as Chrysothemis, but it seems to work quite nicely for the elegant Straussian soprano parts like Arabella or the Countess.

      • Thanks very much for this. I only know Meier from the Bayreuth Tristan video. She does some impressively long-breathed singing in this.

  • Lindoro Almaviva

    I have Zerbinetta’s aria from this performance and Wise is the shit in this music. The Met lost out.

  • CCorwinNYC

    “Trove Thursday” last year posted Johanna Meier’s radiant Senta in a complete live “Dutchman” from 1977.

    http://parterre.com/2016/08/11/wagner-where-you-least-expect-it/

  • WindyCityOperaman

    Patricia Wise, Patricia Wells and Patricia Brooks . . . very easy for me to get the three sopranos confused. One Zerbinetta I loved was the late Ruth Welting who graced a LOC performance that featured Johanna Meier’s Ariadne (I think she ended up replacing Rysanek. I like Zerbinetta to have a slight oboe edge to the voice, a lot of tang and not too lyrical. Sadly the you tube video of it is MIA.

    • Christian Ocier

      Have you heard Brenda Rae’s Zerbinetta from Sebastian Weigle’s recent Frankfurt Opera recordings? She’s one of the parts more interesting recent exponents.

      • Porgy Amor

        Rae was the Zerbinetta in the 2015 broadcast of the Munich Ariadne, the Carsen production, Petrenko conducting. I was impressed with her, and that production has a funny staging of Zerbinetta’s big scene. Damrau had a triumph in it when the production was new, about seven years earlier.

        • Christian Ocier

          Rae oddly possesses a very ripe and full tone for someone who sings Zerbinetta (and, as far as I know, she is the only soprano who sings the part while having sung Helmwige in her company’s Walkure!). I love how much fun she’s having with this role!
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpmTaNM23uY

          • Dr.Malatempra

            Having seen and heard a “sneak preview”, her Lucia in Santa Fe this Summer bids fair to be pretty spectacular.

          • Camille

            Thanks for posting her Grossmächtiges Prinzessin,as I’d like to hear her take. Curious.

            She has parTICularly impressed me in both opera and recital. She is more than usually musically intelligent --especially in her presentation in recital.
            I look forward to her eventual début at the Metropolitan. Hopefully, that will occur before I am laid in earth.

            • Christian Ocier

              If you have access to Spotify, do try to listen to Weigle’s recording from his house.
              https://open.spotify.com/album/4oSBcoTs0PqyrqIWaWxJPS

            • Camille

              Danke sehr!

              What an interesting take on Zerbinetta…have never seen/heard anyone other than mighty mites sing the role. Staging for such a tall woman becomes somehow quite a different sort of beast.

              No, I havent’t a clue as to Spotify but perhaps someone else will enjoy. What I’d be interested to hear is how on pitch she comes in singing die Falke as they usually vary wildly/widely.

              I am betting on her to deliver and have a great deal of hope for her future. This is one filly who will win her race, I’m sure.

            • Christian Ocier

              She’s also one of the sexiest Zerbinetta’s around.

  • Greg Freed

    +1 on Damrau being technically perfect but, I dunno, pert as a schoolgirl well may be. Surely I can’t be alone in admiring Mesple’s Zerbinetta but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m alone in admiring it above all others. The good news is that there are so many charming readings on record. I wouldn’t happily go without Streich’s or Erna Berger’s, though they have different strengths…

  • Camille

    Of great interest to me as I am a part of the partition which lobbies in favor of soprano Komponisten, as, well, --it really kind of was the original idea. As it is only a B flat at its height, I do see why mezzos have appropriated it though. (Even more mezzoid is Ariadne’s vocal compass if you really want to get tetchy about it.)

    Plus which, I grew up with that book of Lehmann’s “Five Operas and Richard Strauss” or whatever it’s called, and enjoyed reading about her Big Break. Added to that, my first listening/learning aide was the Kempe recording, with the lovely voiced Zylis-Gara in the Hosen. So, this child just don’t know no better. Imagine my surprise when later on I encountered all those mezzoids honking their way through—the times I have heard “Die HEIIII -III-LI-GE MUUUSick hiccup!” I can’t even remember anymore. Kinda takes the shine off things.

    Nun denn, I look forward to hearing Frau Fi-Di as I am not all that well acquainted her other than that La Juive where I felt she was a bit miscast
    but fine.

    ‘Tis a treasure trove, indeed.

  • Camille

    Just now finished a hurried listen through, and, a wonderfully sung interpretation == a true treasure for which I am very grateful as I’ve suffered through so many poor Komponisten!

    Danke tausendmal!!