The epic grandeur of Der Rosenkavalier stems not just from its immense length (over three hours) but from the all-too-human complexity of its characters–each of whom is smitten with someone else–and the endless stream of graceful melodies the composer conjures. After the tonality-stretching dissonance of Salome and especially Elektra, Strauss moved onto a different musical path here: the music's sheer gorgeousness has given this most heartbreaking of 20th-century operas its pride of place in the repertory.
Filmed live in Baden-Baden by the veteran director Brian Large, Renée Fleming makes her debut in the role of Ariadne together with fellow key Strauss interpreters Sophie Koch and Christian Thielemann, following on from their Rosenkavalier triumph. Thielemann conducts the Staatskapelle Dresden, the orchestra to whom Strauss dedicated his Alpine Symphony and which premiered Feuersnot, Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier and Daphne. Fleming's voice might have been made for Ariadne and she achieved a great personal triumph in this production: “The chief glory of the evening was hearing Renée Fleming, the Straussian soprano par excellence, making her role debut as Ariadne… As the possessor of what is, possibly, the most beautiful soprano voice in the world, she put her vocal treasures in the service of an empathic, nuanced interpretation of the role. From the creamy top, through a rich, warm middle, to the bewitching, darker colours of her lower register, Fleming poured her magnificent sound into Strauss’s enchanting melodic arcs, animating the sadness, vulnerability, and desire of the bereft princess…” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The creation of Daphne was not a simple affair, especially for what concerned the poetic text (due to the modest talent of the librettist Joseph Gregor), but on 15th October 1938 the opera was finally premièred at Dresden’s Staatstheater. On the podium was the young conductor Karl Böhm. Daphne is a masterpiece of early 20th-century vocal music. Structured in a single act, this opera is a solid work with a rich musical vein. Strauss’s orchestration appears, as always, remarkably refined. The vocal writing is demanding for all the main characters, but especially so for the protagonist, here interpreted by a magnificent June Anderson. Filmed in high definition at Venice’s La Fenice, the present production is directed by Paul Curran.
The leading Strauss soprano of our time, Renée Fleming stars in one of her most acclaimed stage roles, the countess in Richard Strauss's Capriccio. This sumptuous production was specially mounted for Ms. Fleming by the Met, and Decca is proud to present it on DVD.
Capriccio is somewhat unique in the opera repertoire. this "conversation piece for music in one act" was written in 1942 during Strauss' later years and concerns an intellectual discussion at a soiree about whether words or music are the most important in opera, thus an opera itself. Strauss himself feared that the public at large would not know how to take this "treat for cultural connoisseurs" - but he was wrong. His theatrical "thatrical fugue" was to become one of the most frequently performed of his late works. This production provides a wonderful showcase for the inimitable Kiri Te Kanawa, a Strauss specialist, who sparkles her way through the role of the humoured and charming contess torn between two suitors.
Others have praised this Covent Garden Salome for its dramatic impact, and with good cause. The direcotr, Luc Bondy, has translated the opera into tortured terms that the painter Egon Schiele would recognize; the sexuality is masochistic, frenzied, and self-destructive. John the Baptist is no solemn stick of wood – Bryn Terfel makes him as agonized and writhing as Salome herself. But the brunt of the Expressionist labor falls on the cat-like Malfitano, whose descent into madness is neither campy nor stagey. She's a great actress, and she adapts to the stylized movements straight out of Nosferatu with total conviction. (Only the opening scene is weak, since her girlish figure can't completely disguise that she is considerably too old to be the Judean princess.)… By Santa Fe Listener
Saving the best for last in the Richard Strauss anniversary 2014. The world’s most luxurious soprano, Anna Netrebko, sings Richard Strauss’ sumptuous Four Last Songs, accompanied by the Staatskapelle Berlin and Daniel Barenboim. An irresistible, all-star combination.