“A glittering account of the most perfect of all operettas, with an incredibly starry cast, all in peak condition. Karl Böhm's conducting is relaxed but sparkling.” (BBC Music Magazine)
This DVD of Ariadne is a 1978 film based on Filippo Sanjust’s Vienna State Opera production. The bustling Prologue is set in the backstage area of the mogul’s palace and the 18th century costumes fit neatly. In the opera proper, the stage is transformed into a very stagey desert island with an improbable set of stairs leading to the heroine’s cave, the action spilling over into the theatre’s side boxes at times. While there’s nothing particularly imaginative about the production, it never distracts from the main event–the music. Strauss was profligate in his melodic gifts, his ability to make a reduced orchestra sound big, and his wonderful obsession with the female voice, which yields many glorious moments in the opera. Lavish casting helps.
Karl August Leopold Böhm (1894 – 1981) was an Austrian conductor. (…) Böhm was praised for his rhythmically robust interpretations of the operas and symphonies of Mozart, and in the 1960s he was entrusted with recording all the Mozart symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic. His brisk, straightforward way with Wagner won adherents, as did his readings of the symphonies of Brahms, Bruckner and Schubert. His 1971 complete recording of the Beethoven symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic was also highly regarded. On a less common front, he championed and recorded Alban Berg's avant-garde operas Wozzeck and Lulu before they gained a foothold in the standard repertory. Böhm mentioned in the notes to his recordings of these works that he and Berg discussed the orchestrations, leading to changes in the score (as he had similarly done, previously, with Richard Strauss). He received numerous honors, among them first Austrian Generalmusikdirektor in 1964.
As Strauss' largest and most ambitious work, "Die Frau ohne Schatten" demands attention, even though it is one of his most problematic operas. It contains some of the composer's most stirring and sumptuous music, and its story is full of drama and roiling human passions – in fact, perhaps it is its surfeit of ideas and emotion and symbolism and intensity that makes it difficult to approach. Hugo von Hofmannsthal's heavily allegorical libretto was cobbled together from a variety of mythologies, yet he manages to humanize the characters so that they are not merely archetypes. Strauss' music is nearly relentlessly tumultuous, what some might call overwrought, yet he too makes us empathize with the characters. The key to making the gigantic, unwieldy opera into a cogent and balanced musical drama falls largely to the conductor, and Karl Böhm, leading the Vienna Philharmonic, is able give it the shape it needs to succeed in making believers of the audience. He is assisted by a first-rate cast, which more than rises to the composer's extravagant vocal and dramatic demands – the opera requires large voices able to convey larger-than-life personalities
The Originals Series offers listeners the opportunity to explore key albums from the Yellow Labels LP era and experience the power and passion of performances by a host of visionary artists. Now DG welcomes ten new titles to the range, including some of Karl Böhms recordings of Mozart wind concertos which have always been considered among the best. Here, the Wiener Philharmoniker principal Gunter Hogner demonstrates his skill and agility on the Viennese horn in Mozarts four horn concertos. Günter Högner plays with much character, and no-one will be disappointed with the DG issue, which is beautifully recorded and has splendid accompaniments from the WP under Böhm.
"Musikalisch dichte, klanglich prächtig ausbalancierte und das Primat der Sänger wahrende Aufnahme, deren Schönheit aus der Gesamtwirkung resultiert…Im Gesamteindruck setzt diese Aufnahme große Wagner-Tradition mit großer Bestimmtheit und Überzeugungskraft fort." ~Hermes Opernlexikon