"This is a recording of a fantastic opera which fails to deliver what the work deserves. Fans of van Dam or Moll will be happy to hear their favorite singer, but fans of Wagner may wish to look elsewhere.Karajan is infamous for casting voices inappropriately, usually casting small voices for large roles. Besides Jose van Dam's title role and Kurt Moll's Daland, both of which are excellently done, the roles are poorly cast.Vejzovic's Senta is inaccurate at times, as is Hofmann's Eric. They cannot even sing all their notes correctly. Karajan most probably miscast these voices himself. Both sounded vastly overmatched by Wagner's powerful score. This is a difficult opera in the first place, of course, but our soprano and tenor do not help it succeed.Van Dam sings the title role nicely, perhaps dramatically different than one might expect, but agreeably. To buy this set is to support his performance. Kurt Moll is an operatic god, but unfortunately sings a small role. A Kurt Moll fan will be happy nonetheless to hear his voice here.The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra members play very well, and very cleanly. Karajan's control is excellent, and his interpretation interesting and dramatic at times, but unfortunately, one gets the sense he sometimes slows the pace, introducing unduly long fermati between phrases in difficult arias, to let his poorly-chosen Senta and Erik meet Wagner's challenge. I regret to say they don't.A listener might wish to try the relatively recent release by Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, with Morris, Voigt, and Heppner, all of whom do a wonderful job, for an enjoyable recording."
One of the Best
Scott Jelsey | Houston, TX United States | 02/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a nutshell - this is one of the best Dutchman recordings. Van Dam is in stupendous voice here and fully captures the tortured nature of the character. The best sung Dutchman on disc. Moll is without peer and makes the most of the smallish role of Daland. Vejzovic is a vibrant, dramatically thrilling Senta, with the hint of occasional strain on high only adding to the obsessional interpretation she gives. Hofmann is in fine form as Erik, producing an effortless stream of golden-voiced heldentenor sound. The digital recording is demonstration quality and Karajan really delivers an electrifying reading, producing gorgeous waves of sound from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus. A must have recording for Wagnerians."
Electrifying Karajan....subdued voices
W. Pender | Cathedral City, CA United States | 10/13/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I can't help myself... Karajan just does it for me. He's not for everyone, but I've heard too many wonderful works of his to every doubt he's a conducting genious. This "Hollander" is no exception. An underrated work, to be sure. Karajan outdoes himself with a lavish performance and the Berliner Philharmonic was never better. The only reason I didn't give this recording a '5' is that the voices are far subdued in some passages, almost to the point of being inaudible. The voices are quite satisfactory, though probably not a 'premier' cast. I'm quite pleased with this edition and I highly recommend it for any Karajan fan."
Bertrand Stclair | new york, new york United States | 09/07/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Much has been said in other reviews about the shortcomings of Hofmann and Vejzovic, so I won't beat on them needlessly, except to say that I can't for the life of me figure out why they sang with such uncertain voices: they were in their very early forties then, not quite an age to shelve a Wagnerian, and had sung more difficult roles with great success just few years prior. But I'd like to bring up a point I don't see mentioned elsewhere: this is Karajan's show all the way. It's almost as if he didn't care about Wagner's intent: he is dead set on giving his strings that extraordinary, celebrated shimmer in the pianissimi, whether it is appropriate or not, and he succeeds, even though the opera unravels in the process. Mind you, I am a huge fan of the conductor, but here he misses the mark entirely. With longish tempi, hushed voices (Senta is occasionally barely audible), and delicate phrasing, Karajan transforms this savage, thrillingly "scary" work into an elegant, sophisticated Viennese exercise in subtlety, sort of a la Richard Strauss circa "Intermezzo." No one is allowed to cross the borders of good taste; why, even the Dutchman himself enters sotto voce and is never allowed much more than that. His "conversation" with Senta - essentially a contract between a cursed soul and his sacrificial lamb - becomes a subdued, calm affair. True, eventually all hell breaks loose, but this is due to special effects, not singing or even the orchestra's superb playing. It really comes down to that: if you want an orchestral sound that's short of sublime, you probably won't do better. But if singing and interpretation are of import, this is not a Karajan show that Wagner would be happy with."