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Hermann Goetz: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung
Hermann Goetz, Joseph Keilberth, Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Hermann Goetz: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung
Genre: Classical


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This Fairly Good Recording Has Several Strikes Against It
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/29/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Hermann Goetz's opera based on Shakespeare's 'The Taming of the Shrew' had a brief popularity in the late 19th century and no less a personage than George Bernard Shaw called it the best German comic opera after 'Die Meistersinger.' And indeed it does have lovely music with one good tune after another. It is strange, though, that Goetz's version (set to Joseph Viktor Widmann's German libretto) has Katharina falling for Petruccio as soon as she meets him, whereby she becomes more a typical 19th-c. opera heroine than a proto-feminist as portrayed in Shakespeare's play. Consequently the fireworks as well as the sexual tension between the leading couple are largely muted.

This recording, made in Munich in 1955 and in acceptable mono sound, has a starry cast -- the great black-voiced bass Gottlob Frick as Baptista, lyric soprano Annelies Kupper as Katharina, Waldemar Kmentt as Lucentio, Benno Kusche as Hortensio and Paul Kuen as the Tailor. The only unknown among the principals is baritone Marcel Cordes (né Kurt Schumacher!) as Petruccio (in the libretto Petruchio has been respelt Petruccio). The singing is excellent throughout. Conductor Joseph Keilberth was a respected musician of his time and an experienced opera conductor. I was familiar with the opera from having seen two productions of it -- one in New York in the early 1980s starring the very young Lauren Flanigan, later a diva of the first water, and a production of a regional opera company. But I've never seen a score or a libretto. I looked in vain for a libretto in the booklet accompanying this two-CD set. Only a brief synopsis is provided. Further, the numbers list on the back-card of the CD case is devoid of anything but a short title; there is no indication who is singing in each scene.

And then I discovered that what is almost certainly the same production -- at least it has precisely the same cast, conductor and orchestra -- is available on the Gala label here at Amazon for less than half the price of this issue from Profil. (I think, but am not certain, that this same production was available some years ago on Hänssler which, of course, is the parent label of Profil.)

There appears to be an even older recorded version available with Karl Elmendorff conducting (also with Gottlob Frick, and with Margarete Teschemacher as Katharina), but I've never heard it. Unless it turns out that the present recording is in appreciably better sound than the Gala version -- which I doubt -- I'd suggest that anyone badly wanting to have this opera should buy the less expensive Gala version: Goetz: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung.

Scott Morrison