Strauss: Salome - Rysanek, Vickers, Stewart, Hesse; Kempe. French Radio, 1974
Listen to a Sample:
This performance of Salome is one of my favorite recordings of all time. It features the great Leonie Rysanek singing the title role. Rysanek's voice was absolutely made to sing this. One of the aspects of her singing that I liked so much was that even though her voice was of formidably size it was always feminine and at times almost vulnerable sounding. She uses this to great effect and convincingly shows that Salome is a young girl. She is very well-matched by the Herodes of Jon Vickers. It is a shame that Vickers did not sing this opera more (more on that below.) His Herodes is both slimy and terrifying without ever descending completely into caricature. Thomas Stewart brings his attractive baritone to the role of Jochanaan. Though filled with all the requisite fire and brimstone, the beauty of his tone makes it clear why Salome would become infatuated with him. The sound is excellent.
A side note: When I was in high school I came across this recording on cassette. While at Tanglewood one summer, I was walking to the grounds for a performance of Peter Grimes, listening to this very performance the whole time. When I got to the theater, lo and behold, Jon Vickers was standing there before my very eyes. I told him of this strange coincidence and we chatted for a while. He told me how much he always loved working with Rysanek and how he lobbied to sing Salome with her at the Met. He was a very nice man.