R Strauss Arabella
Lisa Della Casa sop Arabella Elfride Trötschel sop Zdenka Hermann Uhde bar Mandryka Max Proebstl bass Waldner Ira Malaniuk mez Adelaide Käthe Nentwig sop Fiakermilli Lorenz Fehenberger ten Matteo Franz Klarwein ten Elemer Karl Hoppe bar Dominik Albrecht Peter bass Lamoral Chorus and Orchestra of the Bavarian State Opera / Rudolf Kempe
Testament mono SBT2 1367 (147’ · ADD) Broadcast by the BBC from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, 1953. Buy from Amazon
You’d be hard pressed to find a more elating and satisfying interpretation of this work than this live recording, which derives from a BBC Third Programme broadcast, privately taped. Kempe more or less made his name in London with the visit of the Munich company to the Royal Opera House; it alerted everyone to his great merits as a conductor and particularly as an interpreter of Richard Strauss.
Della Casa, in one of the earliest of her many assumptions of the title-part, is in ravishing voice and wholly spontaneous in her immaculately phrased and sung performance. She catches every aspect of the heroine’s character, at once firm, warm and positive, and she treats the text with loving care. Here, as throughout, Uhde proves himself a most convincing Mandryka. Not only does he seem quite unfazed by the role’s high-lying tessitura but he sings it with an exemplary line and tonal breadth. As far as characterisation is concerned, he is to the life the wilful country landowner, unused to city ways, and he makes us believe successively in the man’s sincerity, jealousy and profound love, while never overdoing the histrionics.
At that time, there was a strong, experienced ensemble in Munich from which Max Proebstl’s endearingly Viennese Waldner, Ira Malaniuk’s fussy Adelaide and Lorenz Fehenberger’s impassioned Matteo stand out. Mike Ashman puts the performance in its historical perspective in his booklet-note but you have to go to the web to get a libretto. The remastering of the sound by Paul Baily allows us to hear this historic performance in more-than-tolerable sound. At two discs for the price of one, this is an issue worth any Straussian’s attention.
Della Casa, Malaniuk, Dermota, Siepi; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Philh Orch / Bruno Walter
Orfeo C430 961B (76’ · ADD) Buy from Amazon
A taut and powerful account from Walter’s final Salzburg Festival concert (1956) with soprano Lisa della Casa in glorious voice and the VPO playing with fierce commitment.
R Strauss Four Last Songs. Cappriccio – excerpts
Della Casa; VPO / Böhm
Regis mono RRC1192 (65’ · ADD) Buy from Amazon
Della Casa’s early-1950s version is still full of exquisite singing – coupled with some fascinating Capriccio excerpts from 1953. This was the work’s first commercial recording and, as so often is the case, has a special magic all of its own.