Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos - Amara, Lewis, Streich, Blackenburg, Lorengar; Pritchard. Glyndebourne, 1958
Listen to a Sample:
When I first saw the cast for this performance I thought "well, here is another one to be filed in the oddity section." Listening to the whole thing I was shocked at how much it revealed to me about the genius of this opera that I never knew. Probably the most supreme feature of this recording is the venue. The old barn at Glyndebourne was one of the most intimate theaters in the world and that sense of intimacy is palpable on this recording. After all Strauss wrote this for an orchestra of about 35 players giving every instrument including the all the strings a chance at solos. The effect is closer to chamber music than opera. The intimate setting gave the singers freedom to sing their parts with Mozartian lyricism particularly, Richard Lewis as Bacchus- a true stroke of casting genius. He was still singing roles like Tamino at this period and he brings a youthfulness to the part that is almost always missing. I imagine that this must have been Strauss and Hofmannsthal's true concept for the part (in the libretto Bacchus is constantly referred to as "der junger Gott" - the young god) Lucine Amara is also quite remarkable. The part sits in the part of her voice that is where she always excelled. Add to this her sense of line and ability to spin incredibly luxurious pianissimi. This singer is due for a renewed appreciation. Rita Streich is quite charming as Zerbinetta and her vocal acrobatics are flawless although she seems to tire slightly at the end of her aria. And a young Pilar Lorengar sings the small part of Echo. Last but certainly not least is the strong leadership of conductor Sir John Pritchard. In 1958 this opera was still rather unknown to the operatic public. However this performance is so layered with details that one would thing that Pritchard had lived with it for many years. And as opposed to coming across as mannered, these details seem to flow organically from the score. I am not sure why the prologue isn't present on this recording. The Glyndebourne archives give no indication whether it was present in the actual performances. One indication that it was performed without it is the fact that Zerbinetta's second aria from the original 1912 Version, "Prinzessin! Welchen Botenlohn" is included (although severely cut.) Otherwise the performance adheres to the revised version. It was transferred from LP so there is some mild scratchiness, however the sound is still otherwise very clear.