Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten - Leber, Liebl, Synek, Grabe, Mödl, Dernesch; Wallberg. Wiesbaden, 1964
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To think that a regional city like Wiesbaden, which even today only has about a quarter million inhabitants, would be able to mount a production of Die Frau ohne Schatten of this caliber is truly a testament to the importance of the arts in Germany. Although some of the names in the cast may be unknown to you, do not let that fool you; this performance would likely cause a sensation in any of the world's top opera houses. I was initially drawn to it because it features the superlative and woefully under-recorded soprano, Liane Synek. Synek's voice was perfect for Strauss as she could muster all of the power needed to soar over the immense orchestration without sacrificing the silken texture of her pristine soprano. The role of the Emperess is sung by Annemarie Leber who is the true revelation of this recording. She effortlessly manages the high d in her opening scene and proceeds to deliver a performance reminiscent of Leonie Rysanek in power and dramatic conviction. Despite the many demands of the Emperor, Karl Liebl also manages to find occasions to display the entrancingly lyrical quality of his voice particularly in his act II monologue "Falke, falke, du wiedergefundener". The biggest star present is Martha Mödl as the Amme. Although by 1964 her greatest vocal years were about a decade in the past, she nonetheless delivers all of the commitment and artistry that she brought to roles like Kundry and Isolde. Compared with other performances she made around this time where the voice could just stop, it seems pretty clear that on this occasion she was having a pretty good night. It is worth pointing out that this performance also features a young Helga Dernesch as the Hüter der Schwelle. The sound is generally good and the singers come through clearly although it seems as if the mics were placed backstage which means that a lot of the Verwandlungen were at times drowned out by the stagehands moving scenery.