A week from tonight the Met premieres an eagerly anticipated new Der Rosenkavalier, its first in nearly 50 years—probably to the dismay of many grown used to the venerable Nathaniel MerrillRobert O’Hearn production. As a preview “Trove Thursday” offers a live broadcast of Richard Strauss’s most popular opera with a delicious cast headed by Régine Crespin, Elisabeth Söderström, Anneliese Rothenberger and Oscar Czerwenka, Leopold Ludwig conducting. 

Always having been allergic to the “charms” of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, when I first wanted to hear Rosenkavalier I studiously avoided the ubiquitous first Herbert von Karajan recording and instead bought (with my lawn-mowing money) the bewitching Erich Kleiber version on four cheap Richmond LPs as I had already fallen for its Octavian, Sena Jurinac.

However, I was disappointed by the Marschallin of Maria Reining whom I eventually came to admire, particularly her glorious Ariadne. So I then sought out an appealing highlights disc featuring both Crespin and Söderström along with Hilde Gueden. Crespin’s lovely, unmannered Marie-Thérèse was much to my taste and I savored it both on that version as well as on the lush complete recording conducted by Georg Solti.

When I started to collect broadcasts, I discovered this 1959 Glyndebourne performance, the earliest of several live Crespin Rosenkavaliers I have found and nearly a decade before the Solti. At 32 she was then the same age as the Marschallin. However, the 1961 from Buenos Aires includes a Fritz Wunderlich cameo as the Singer!

I prefer—but seldom get—a soprano as Octavian (and also as the Komponist), so the treasurable Söderström, who was also 32 at this time, is a special joy. She was famously one of the few singers to sing all three leading roles in this opera. In fact, just a few months after this performance she returned to Sophie in her debut season at the Met opposite Lisa Della Casa and Christa Ludwig with Czerwenka in his debut. Twenty-eight years later she finally performed the Marschallin on the Met stage although I’m told that the most memorable Met/Söderström Marschallins were those on the 1983 tour with Frederica von Stade and Kathleen Battle.

Also an accomplished Zdenka, Rothenberger was featured in a number of Met performances as Sophie, including the debuts of both Crespin (opposite Hertha Töpper in her only Met role) and Schwarzkopf. Many will no doubt have seen her in the famous Paul Czinner film of Rosenkavalier from Salzburg.

Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier

Glyndebourne Festival
June 7, 1959 Broadcast

Feldmarschallin: Régine Crespin
Octavian: Elisabeth Söderström
Sophie: Anneliese Rothenberger
Annina: Nancy Evans
Leitmetzerin: Elizabeth Crook
Baron Ochs: Oscar Czerwenka
Faninal: Willy Ferenz
Valzacchi: John Kentish
Singer: William McAlpine

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Leopold Ludwig

As always, this week’s “Trove Thursday” can be downloaded via the audio-player included on this page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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