Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard  Strauss, Karl Böhm, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra|
Die Schweigsame Frau
Cosmic etherial comic opera
C. Cantello | Whiting, VT United States | 03/17/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here, in the best recording ever issued of the work, is Strauss's bubbly profound masterpiece that's suffused with compassion for the foibles of love and old age. It is almost as great as the two greatest operas ever written, Intermezzo, and Capriccio, both of which happen to be Strauss in a similar vein but without the geriatric emphasis. Along with the monumentally cosmic Elektra, they represent the pinnacle of the operatic art, which the modest Strauss (who looked up to both Mozart and Wagner) nonetheless felt especially proud to have penned. Although the Bohm is the best performance by virtue of its maintaining best the momentum and communicating most fully the work's profundity, the performance conducted by Janowski captures a bit better the comic-opera qualities, and the performance conducted by Sawallisch is a fine compromise between both approaches. All three versions are excellent, but the Bohm wears the best upon repeated hearings and therefore gets my nod."
An excellent recording
M. Mclain | VA | 10/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If a letter had not been confiscated in transit, this Opera would have enjoyed more than two performances and likely would have been remembered as a great comic masterpiece. Unfortunately it was prematurely struck down, and although brilliantly revived here for the Salzburger Festspiel, it still has suffered neglect in the contemporary opera houses.
The libretto perhaps does leave some to be desired, although it is quite funny and works as a very entertaining story. It is really the music, though, that makes this opera great. The orchestration is brilliant and colorful, and Strauss did a masterful job at creating the characters through his witty music. It is also one of the masterpieces of Strauss's conversational operas (along with Capriccio). There are several brilliant scenes that rank among the greatest in any Strauss Opera (for example, the scene in the first act with Morosus complaining to the Barber about the bells).
If one is convinced of the quality of the opera itself, it follows naturally that one would want this recording. The first reason, of course, is that it is essentially the only one availible.
More importantly, the performance is a live one from the Salzburger Festspiele in the year 1959. The sound is mono, but the orchestra and singers are quite sonorous and the microphones never distort or clip the sound (in fact, it really sounds best at its loudest moments). There is very little in the way of audience noise, some from the stage action (although that is supposed to be there, so it's really quite effective) and the only harmful sounds are some creaking of floors etc. There are occasional moments when singers are obviously further away from the center of the stage, but again that is to be expected from a live recording, and the singing and speaking is always clear.
The singers are tremendous--one could scarcely ask for a better cast. Hermann Prey gives a masterfully clever performance as the Barber (oddly enough, he also did that for Karl Bohm as the more famous Barber, Figaro). Hans Hotter gives a great performance as the irritable but tender hearted Morosus, and the inimitable Wunderlich plays the part of Henry. Hilde Guden is Aminta, the Schweigsame Frau, and it seems to me to be a strange performance... I'm not sure quite what to make of her (at times she almost sounds like the deliberate clodhopper incarnation of Octavian from Rosenkavalier). The Wiener Phil is of course perfect (when aren't they) and Bohm gives the finest reading the opera will probably ever get. Every line is clear, every sonority full and every color vivid. Like the live Rosenkavalier (also from the Salzburger), every note and line is perfectly articulated.
Deustche Grammophon has done a great job preparing this recording. It is a miracle of sound coming from a radio broadcast in the 50's, and I'm not sure if the Radio Austria has brilliant technicians or DG engineers are magicians, but what we have is a high quality document of an incredible moment in time. It is very highly recommended."
Good Strauss (but second-rate "Don Pasquale")
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/25/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
Live performance broadcast by Oesterreichischen Rundfunks (Austrian Radio) from the Festspeilhaus, Salzburg Festival, August 6, 1959, an officially designated "Festspiel Dokumente."
Fairly decent, AM broadcast-quality mono, better than most Salzburg Festival recordings from the 1950s--which isn't saying much. There is a considerable amount of stage noise, much of it specifically intended by the librettist and composer. The audience is well-disciplined, interrupting the natural flow of the opera only once with a little flurry of applause for the first entrance of Gueden and keeping its inevitable coughs well muffled. From time to time, a performer turns away or finds a dead spot on stage an his or her voice fades slightly. As for the orchestra, the narrowed sonic range of this recording is not as much of a problem for this relatively lightly-scored opera as it would be for more lushly-written Strauss works.
Sir Morosus, a wealthy gentleman with an aversion to noise - Han Hotter (bass-baritone)
Henry Morosus, a long-lost nephew in a noisy profession - Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
The Barber, an absolutely untrustworthy confidant - Hermann Prey (baritone)
The Housekeeper, a woman who bangs around Sir Morosus' home but a truer friend than he shall ever realize - Georgine von Milinkovic (mezzo-soprano)
Vanuzzi, an operatic impresario - Karl Doench (bass-baritone)
Aminta, an opera singer - Hilde Gueden (soprano)
Isotta, an opera singer - Pierette Alairie (soprano)
Carlotta, an opera singer - Hetty Pluemacher (soprano)
Morbio, an opera singer - Josef Knapp (baritone)
Farfallo, an opera singer - Alois Pernerstorfer (tenor)
Karl Boehm with the Wiener Philharmoniker und Chor der Wiener Staatsoper.
Libretto in German and English. Track list showing timings and identifying singers. Portraits of Richard Strauss, Karl Boehm, and production shots from the 1959 Festival.
This is a heavily cut performing text. Purists who regard every written note as pure gold and every preliminary thought as expressed genius, turn away right now. This is not for you. However, it might be noted that Karl Boehm was Richard Strauss' go-to man whenever he wanted someone to conduct the premiere of one of his operas. He conducted the two performances of the piece allowed under the Nazi regime and he was a lifelong friend of the composer. I regard him, of all people in the world, as the one most likely to know Strauss' intentions with regard to "Die Schweigsame Frau." This was a festival performance; there was no commercial need to shorten it. I think, therefore, that this is the version of the opera that Strauss himself would have decreed to be the authentic final text.
Old Morosus, rich from capturing ships in the recurring wars with Spain, has profitably retired. He hates noise. With his barber, Mr. Cutbeard, he discusses finding a wife--provided that she can maintain blessed silence. With the arrival of his long-lost nephew Henry Morosus, the old man puts such thoughts aside--until Henry reveals that he has become an opera singer and that he has brought his whole opera company to stay in his uncle's house until the London season begins. Morosus threatens to disinherit Henry on the spot. He orders the whole opera company out of his house. The noisy invaders repelled, Morosus orders the barber to find a suitable bride. The barber goes straight to Henry. They hatch a plot. Vanuzzi and the men will pretends to be priests and notaries. The women will be marriage candidates. Old Morosus is enchanted with the demure and silent Aminta. A false marriage ceremony is performed on the spot. Immediately after that, Aminta displays both a voice and a shrewish disposition. Quickly the new Mistress makes the old man's life a noisy hell. He wants nothing so much as a divorce and he seeks Henry's help to procure one. In the end, Aminta admits that she was never married to old Morosus because she was already married to Henry. The old man is so relieved to be free of the shrew that he takes it all in good humor and everything ends happily.
The story of "Die Schweigsame Frau" is ostensibly based on "Ipicoene, or The Silent Woman" by Ben Jonson. There are certainly similarities. Jonson's Morose hates noise. He has a scapegrace nephew, Dauphine Morose whom he threatens to disinherit. At the conniving of his barber, he marries Ipicoene who instantly turns into a noisy shrew. Morose seeks for ways to obtain a divorce. In the end, Ipicoene turns out to be in disguise and it is revealed that there never was a marriage, much to the relief of old Morose. But consider this, Don Pasquale considers taking a young bride. He threatens to disinherit his scapegrace nephew. With the conniving of Dr. Malatesta, he marries Norina who instantly turns into a noisy shrew. Don Pasquale seeks for ways to end the marriage. In the end, Norina turns out to be in disguise and it is revealed that there never was a marriage, much to the relief of old Don Pasquale.
Now, it is remotely possible that librettist Stefan Zweig did not know any better, but Strauss must have been perfectly aware that he was re-writing Donizetti--just as he must have known that he was re-visiting "The Marriage of Figaro" with "Der Rosenkavalier." Aminta's form of disguise is essentially the same as Norina's but entirely different from Ipicoene's (whose disguise was uniquely suited to the Elizabethan theater.)
"Die Schweigsame Frau" is a very decent Strauss opera. It's talky but basically sound. I like it. But it is not as good as "Don Pasquale." It is not even half as good as "Don Pasquale." Line the two up together and you find the work of an earnest plodder beside that of a casual genius. Strauss once described himself as "a first-class second-class composer." He was perfectly correct.
As for the performance, look at the cast, Hotter, Wunderlich, Prey, Gueden, and the conductor, and the orchestra--gold, pure gold. Of course it's worth five stars.
But it's not as good as "Don Pasquale"!"