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.
When the curtain fell at the Paris Opera premiere of Capriccio, the audiences rose to long and frenetic ovations. They unanimously applauded each singer in a cast of stars, but Renée Fleming was undoubtedly the leading light of this remarkable production. Every one of the performers in this production is outstanding and can be regarded as the best possible singer for the role - Opera fans from all over the world came to Paris to see this production. This Capriccio also served as a role debut for American star soprano Renée Fleming who took on the role of the Gräfin. The critics celebrated her performance as “ideal” in all aspects: musically, dramatically and above all vocally and she was cheered frenetically by the audience at the Palais Garnier of the Opéra National de Paris.
Recorded at the Vienna State Opera house in 1989, this staging of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Elektra is one of the glories of live opera on film, deserving of eternal availability. The DVD picture has great clarity, despite the darkness of Hans Schavernoch’s set design. Other than the cliché of a huge statue head, toppled on its side, the set manages to be suitably representative of a decaying palace as well as an imposing, theatrical space, dominated by the mammoth body of the statue from which the head apparently dropped, draped with the ropes that seem to have enabled the decapitation. Sooner or later most of the characters cling to and twist around those ropes, an apt stage metaphor for the remorseless repercussions from the murder of Agammenon by his unfaithful wife Klytämnestra and her paramour, Aegisthus. Reinhard Heinrich’s costumes capture a distant era while sustaining a creepily modern look — part Goth, part homeless, part Spa-wear.
“…Fleming looks fabulous, knows and can deliver good German, and can sing this role at least as well as anyone on the planet at the moment. But it's a shame that all concerned did not wait for a genuinely new production to preserve. This run-through of an old staging… is fluent and energetic… but it is not an evening pregnant with dramatic insight. In the pit Welser-Möst is an efficient, unemotional guide to the score…” (Gramophone Magazine)
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.
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.
“This is straight and unfussy in its staging, and the video production by Brian Large could not be more expert and unobtrusive (save for one or two close-ups of Jessye Norman's larynx). Tatiana Troyanos's Composer is quite superb, and neither Battle nor Norman can be faulted vocally” (Penguin Guide)