Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Nicht wiedersehen, Rosalinde
The death of German lyric soprano Anneliese Rothenberger at the age of 83 prompted memories of the first opera set I ever bought with my own pocket money (illustrated above, still in good nick; Rothenberger, of course, is leading lady Rosalinde). Maybe it's the only time I've truly enjoyed Die Fledermaus in any shape or form, and you couldn't get much more idiomatic than Willi Boskovsky conducting - though shame it wasn't the Vienna Phil rather than the second-fiddle Symphony - or a better cast than this one. There, too, are Fischer-Dieskau (with whom Rothenberger's biography in the booklet claims she shares equal fame abroad, ahem), Gedda, Fassbaender as a bull-dyke Orlofsky and the charming Renate Holm as Adele. The dialogue sparkles, the waltzes swoon.
Talking of which, here's Rothenberger playing Sophie to Sena Jurinac's Octavian in Paul Czinner's 1960 film of the later Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier conducted by Karajan. Few Sophies float 'Wie himmlische, nicht irdische' better (though of course the film is dubbed to a very fine soundtrack). One plus of focusing on the Rose Presentation and the excitement leading up to it is that you don't have to put up with Schwarzkopf's ueber-arch Marschallin.
Other than that, I dimly remember Rothenberger's recording with Previn of the Four Last Songs and a clip of her celebrated Lulu on a compilation EMI called The Enjoyment of Opera, but Rosenkav and Fledermaus, plus a mixed bag of operettas, perhaps remain the classic performances. Take a look at the Times obituary.
Been hearing a lot of hoary operatic classics, including a new-look Pearl Fishers at the Coli last night(photograph below of Hanan Alattar's Leila dreaming of Alfie Boe's Nadir by Catherine Ashmore) which I've just written up for The Arts Desk following a hugely pleasurable Chelsea Opera Guillaume Tell, all told more riveting throughout than the Glyndebourne Billy Budd. Vocally the Bizet was remarkable chiefly for the 'discovery' of Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey.
I also had a pleasurable wade through the latest batch of 20 Sony Opera House sets for the BBC Music Magazine. It was nice to have a hunch confirmed. The old Pagliacci has a great cast led by Domingo, Milnes and Caballe, but it was the panache of Nello Santi's conducting which took me by surprise. And there I was, backstage at the CBSO last Thursday, chatting with veteran ex-LPO, LSO and Royal Opera cellist Robert Truman who was guesting in Birmingham and had come to the talk; he confirmed that Santi was tops, equal only in his opinion to Tennstedt. This is a man who played Shostakovich 15 with the composer present at rehearsals and in the first UK performance of the Second Cello Concerto with Rostropovich. Robert also got under the feet of Fonteyn and Nureyev as well as the voices of Sutherland, Callas and Christoff. So he ought to know a thing or two.
Finally, apropos of nothing except a growing sense of horror and helplessness, up-to-the-minute bulletins on the Gaza peace flotilla outrage can be found here (this is a fridge note to myself as much as a notice to any readers). The bombing of the UNRWA warehouse which we saw dramatised only last week repeats itself, with what will surely be longer-term repercussions. And who knows where they'll end this time?