Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten - Bjoner, King, Nilsson, Fischer-Dieskau, Varnay; Sawallisch. München, 1976
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Die Frau ohne Schatten enjoyed a well-deserved revival in the sixties fueled by the glut of great singers available to sing the daunting main roles. The momentum of that revival has been lost somewhat due to the diminished talents of today, unfortunately. This performance from the seventies assembles some of the greatest. In the title role Ingrid Bjoner's voice is both radiant and steely. She opts out of the high D in her opening aria but one can hardly fault her for it as she is fearless in the rest of the role without every sacrificing purity of tone. She is well parted next to James King as the exact same thing can be said for his success in this role. The voice is so rich and baritonal that his ability to negotiate the top seems almost super-human. Birgit Nilsson, fresh to the role of the Frau, is in superb voice and at times seems almost to overwhelm the orchestra with the size of her formidable voice. She is also able to achieve some very tender and introspective moments. People so rarely give her credit for the caliber of her interpretations. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is perhaps one of the most elegant Baraks I have heard. With her soprano days well behind her, Astrid Varnay gives herself full permission to delve into creating a wonderfully well-rounded character as the Amme, at once grotesque and sympathetic in her devotion to the Kaiserin. Wolfgang Sawallisch shows great control over the unwieldy Strauss orchestra and conducts with great style. The sound is very good.