Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Richard  Strauss, Joseph Keilberth, Bavarian State Opera Orchestra|
Richard Strauss: Die ägyptische Helena
Listen to Samples
The Voice That SHOULD Have Launched HELENA
Mark E. Farrington | Albany, NY | 10/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First off, if you're one of those timid souls
who shies away from "certain works by certain composers" because
"received opinion" frowns upon them,
then don't even bother with this...
But if you can muster a little exploratory courage, it will go amply rewarded, in the case of this Opera D'Oro release: the legendary 1956 Munich production of DIE AEGYPTISCHE HELENA, with Joseph Keilberth's masterly conducting and Leonie Rysanek's prime-period, creamy Helena...
DIE AEGYPTISCHE HELENA deals with the marriage of Helen & Menelaus...After the Trojan War, which was motivated by Helen's beauty and infidelity, HOW were she & Menelaus reconciled? This opera is often dismissed as something which went against the grain of Strauss's temperament, imposed on him by his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal...Don't you believe it. With Strauss's operatic fixation on the issues of betrothal and marriage, his deep love for classical antiquity, his penchant for sensuous, self-possessed soprano roles, and with Helen being "the most beautiful woman in the world,"
it would have been odd if Strauss hadn't tackled this subject SOMETIME in his life.
The music of HELENA (composed from 1923 to '27) is a return to, and in some ways an advance on, the intoxicating nocturnal ambience of the Bacchus-Ariadne scene in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. And Helena is a more human, more sensual Ariadne- albeit with Aethra (the paramour of the sea-god Poseidon) helping her at every turn. And right away, one notices that THIS role (Helena) is different, even rarified: the other characters carry almost all of the "exposition" and "recitative," leaving Helena's lines to levitate and glow in the dark, whenever she opens her mouth. (Compare this with Strauss & HvH's next and final heroine, Arabella: in her very first entrance, she courteously dismisses a hotel chambermaid.) Of course, this will only "come off" if "Helena" is a Straussian soprano of the caliber of Maria Jeritza (for whom the role was composed) or her heiress apparent, Leonie Rysanek- which may explain why HELENA never really became "repetoire." The highest praise I can bestow upon Leonie Rysanek is that, in this extraordinary role, she does not disappoint. Bernd Adlenhoff's sometimes woolly tone actually enhances the befuddled, then passionate nature of Menelaus - better than the more BEL CANTO voices of Fritz Wunderlich or Wolfgang Windgassen might have done.
But the really intruiging, the really "modern" thing about this work is how Helena, the "admired much and much reproved" cause of so much trouble, risks her life by submitting to the truth, but WILL NOT apologize for her presence and sensuality...In other words, she's no Leonora...Her tormented husband, Menelaus, must take her or leave her, as is...Wisely, he takes her, and they ride off to become King & Queen of Sparta.
Blessings upon Bavarian Radio for preserving this, possibly the only major production of HELENA during the post-war Golden Age of Straussian singing and conducting: at that time, this work was NEVER going to get recorded otherwise. This performance WAS available on Orfeo, in somewhat muffled sound and at over three times the price. Careful sampling of both sets reveals that this Opera d'Oro ain't no "tweeked-up" pirate; they MUST have got hold of a better tape source. AND it's transferred beautifully enough to behold the inner gleamings and colors of the orchestra, and the divine gift of Leonie Rysanek's voice and presence (less than one year after she recorded the Empress in the 1955 Bohm FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, another once-in-a-lifetime performance).
And in spite of several recent HELENA sets, the 1956 Munich may be the closest we will ever get to the true aura of this work. That is, unless my college classmate Renee Fleming (Bonjour, Renee ! ) could be persuaded to do it. There is some hope, in that she HAS agreed to sing DAPHNE (which should give Straussians and ALL lovers of music an extra reason to LIVE). A present-day, dream-HELENA would have Renee's Helen, Andrea Bocelli's Menelaus, and Sir Andre Previn conducting, say, the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. (No doubt it's all contractually impossible, but I can dream, can't I?)
Still, for once, the multitudinous vagaries and twisted ins-and-outs of the classical recording industry have worked to the consumer's advantage. That is to say, BUY this one !"
Rysanek in Spectacular Voice
William S. Levison | Valdosta, GA United States | 04/20/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This label has done it again: issued a recording available on another label at premium price in MUCH better sound. For those who love Rysanek and Strauss, this is heaven. The conducting and other singers are excellent. This is a recording to be treasured."
R. INVERNE | Bournemouth, U.K. | 06/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Re. Mark Farrington's review:
What? Anrea Bocelli as Menelaus?? God forbid!"