Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949) Amor - Opera Scenes and Lieder Grossmächtige Prinzessin (Ariadne auf Naxos) [11.15] (1)
Kindskopf! Merkt auf, wir spielen mit in dem Stück (Ariadne
auf Naxos) [7.07] (1, 4) An Ihre Plätze (Ariadne auf Naxos) [4.14] (1, 2, 4, 5) Brentano Lieder Op.68, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 [13.47] (1) Aber der Richtige (Arabella) [8.56] (1, 2) Mir ist die Ehre widerfahren (Der Rosenkavalier) [7.04] (1,
3) Marie Theres’, wie gut Sie ist (Der Rosenkavalier) [5.25]
(1, 2, 3) Ist ein Traum (Der Rosenkavalier) [7.40] (1, 3)
Zerbinetta, Zdenka, Sophie - Natalie Dessay (soprano) (1)
Primadonna, Arabella, Marschallin – Felicity Lott (soprano) (2);
Octavian – Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo) (3); Komponist – Sophie
Koch (mezzo) (4); Musiklehrer, Faninal - Thomas Allen (baritone)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Antonio Pappano
rec. Studio No. 1 Abbey Road Studios, London; Lyndhurst Hall, Air
Studios, London, 4, 7, 15, 18, 29 April, 2 May 2004
VIRGIN CLASSICS 6419332 [65.35]
This disc is something of a curiosity. Originally issued in
2005 and now re-issued, its cover gives Natalie Dessay headline
billing in Opera Scenes and Lieder by Richard Strauss.
The odd thing is that many of the opera scenes here feature
an array of singers and hardly give Dessay top billing. In fact,
it has the look of something rather hastily assembled. But for
all that, there is some fine Strauss singing here and it bears
The disc opens with Grossmächtige Prinzessin, Zerbinetta’s
showpiece aria from Ariadne auf Naxos. Zerbinetta is
one of Dessay’s signature roles; the booklet includes pictures
of her in the role from three very different productions. There
is no doubt about her technical proficiency and security in
what is a fiendishly tricky aria, but for much of the time her
tone seems a little edgy and she lacks the smile and sweetness
that would be ideal here. That she brings smile and sweetness
into other pieces on the disc would seem to suggest that the
recording caught her on an off day.
This is followed by the lovely duet for Zerbinetta and the Composer
from the opera’s prologue, with the final aria for the composer.
Here Sophie Koch contributes a finely sung and wonderfully passionate
Composer. Frankly, her closing aria is the most fully rounded
item from these Ariadne auf Naxos excerpts.
Next come four of Strauss’s Brentano Lieder. These were
written for Elisabeth Schumann and orchestrated many years later.
Dessay is on better, sweeter form here and the songs are lovely.
But why didn’t we get all six, after all there was room; granted
the songs are not really a cycle and there are few recordings
of all six.
After the Brentano Lieder we revert to opera. Whereas
Zerbinetta is a role for which Dessay is well known, she is
not so much associated with Sophie or Zdenka. Though her web-site
lists Sophie as one of her roles, it does not mention Zdenka,
In fact it includes Fiakermilli from Arabella and I was
slightly surprised that the disc did not include Fiakermilli’s
aria from that opera. Instead we get the Act 1 duet between
Arabella and Zdenka, Aber der Richtige. With this duet
we come to the main reason for buying this disc: Felicity Lott.
Lott appears briefly as the Primadonna in the Ariadne auf
Naxos excerpts, but here we get the full flavour of her
Arabella. Lott’s performance is beautifully considered, every
word placed and gloriously sung. Perhaps her tone is not quite
as refulgent as it once was, but she still floats her line finely
and effortlessly and, it has to be said, makes the spine tingle.
Finally we get two excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier: the
Act 2 duet between Octavian and Sophie and the Trio and final
Duet from Act 3. In the Act 2 duet Dessay’s Sophie is partnered
by Angelika Kirchschlager’s Octavian. Dessay is a fine, but
not great Sophie, with Kirchschlager a very strong Octavian.
The blend between the voices is near ideal and the result is
entrancing. This mood is continued into the closing scene from
Act 3 when they are joined by the Marschallin of Felicity Lott.
Like her Arabella, Lott’s Marschallin repays listening and the
final two tracks on the disc go onto my desert island compilation
Thomas Allen provides well judged support as the Music Master
and as Faninal.
Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House make
fine accompanists, moving easily from the chamber-like Ariadne
to the full-toned score of Der Rosenkavalier.
The booklet comes with an essay by David Nice, photos of Dessay
as Zerbinetta plus studio photos of the other singers. Texts
are provided but for some reason, my copy only had German and
French texts with no English translations.
This is a disc that Strauss lovers will probably want. Not so
much because it showcases Natalie Dessay as because she is surrounded
by an ensemble of singers who lift the operatic scenes into
something special, and because the disc does showcase the incomparable
Strauss singing of Felicity Lott. Robert Hugill
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