“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)
Götz Friedrich’s 1981 Elektra film sets Richard Strauss’ opera in a dark and dingy abandoned 20th-century factory populated by grungy denizens in psuedo-Greek garb. Elektra herself appears like some deranged homeless woman reeking with sweat and slime (in the rain). And the depravity doesn’t stop there. Friedrich plays up the work’s sado-masochistic elements, with bloody whippings and an orgy sequence involving nude lesbians bathing themselves in the blood of a sacrificial ram. Now you might think that all of this detracts from the score, but on the contrary, the production matches image to music so brilliantly that anyone seeing this opera for the first time would think they were created for each other (which allows you to ignore the occasional useless, almost silly gesture, such as the frequent and prolonged shots of Agamemnon’s bloodied visage during Elektra’s opening monologue).
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.
This is a raw, hair-raising performance of an opera that doesn't have to try very hard to be either raw or hair-raising.
Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com.
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
Teresa Stratas has been called the world's greatest living singing actress, and she is seen and heard at the peak of her powers in the title role of director Götz Friedrich's spine-chilling version of Salome. on of the most highly acclaimed opera films ever made - with Strauss's score in the expert hands of his protégé Karl Böhm, conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.
These remarkable films reflect the naturalness and clarity of Böhm's conducting, as he and the Vienna Philharmonic bring unique warmth, wit and wisdom to every bar. "Böhm always goes unerringly to the heart of the matter. His natural, unforced approach are the hallmarks of a Mozart style which was unaffected by fashion or by compromise, and earned the epithet 'timeless' even in the conductor's lifetime." - Peter Cossé
Böhm's Mozart as experienced in these precious films is marked by youthful vigour and directness, as well as a lack of pathos and sentimentality. Every reading glows with profound love and understanding. "Thanks to Bruno Walter's exemplary performances, I grabbed on to Mozart and fell in love with him so much that I had only one wish: to conduct Mozart, Mozart, Mozart." - Karl Böhm