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Kurt Moses
American Record Guide, November 2012

This is Strauss’s most “magical” opera, both for its libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal and its marvelous musical score.

The cast is headed by Anne Schwanewilms…her voice is dramatic yet firm and even, up to her highest notes above the staff…Gould’s voice is quite solid and pleasing, and he too acts his role with energy and enthusiasm. Mr and Mrs Barak, the other pair of lovers, are well portrayed by Wolfgang Koch and Evelyn Herlitzius. The rest of the cast is also well-chosen… © 2012 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide online

Albert Innaurato, October 2012

STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (NTSC) OA1072D
STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7104D

This is a great musical account of the note-complete (usually heavily cut) Die Frau ohne Schatten, produced at Salzburg in July, 2011.

Strauss calls for a huge orchestra, with some unusual instruments. It helps conductor Christian Thielemann that he has the spectacular Vienna Philharmonic in the pit, apparently mesmerized. They give him a silken, caressing tone even in many of the strenuous passages. When he does build to a mighty fortissimo it is the more stunning, and the sound remains beautiful rather than clattery. His control of rhythm and detail allow for wonderful specificity and a totally unexpected charm—as in the Empress’ entrance, a mixture of bird song (winds, two celestas) and quietly lurking threat (soft brass), or in the wonderful playing of the gorgeous D major theme when Barak and his wife feel but can’t express their love. And the bite and precision Thielemann achieves are evident in his frankly amazing control of Strauss’ longest exploration of atonality—the nurse’s meltdown in Act 3.

The cast is exceptional. The villainous Nurse, a huge part in the complete score, considered “impossible to sing”, is done with panache by Michaela Schuster. As The Dyer’s Wife, Evelyn Herlitzius has the necessary wide range and temperament…Anne Schwanewilms seems light for the Empress, but her sweetness of tone and manner is very touching in Act 3. Stephen Gould sounds bulky but secure as the Emperor, and Wolfgang Koch is lovely in the lyrical music of Barak…The many smaller parts (some of which have difficult music to sing) are well cast… © 2012 Read complete review

Charles T. Downey
The Classical Review, September 2012

…the Vienna Philharmonic renders this most luscious of Straussian marvels with extraordinary sounds coaxed forth lovingly by the hands of Christian Thielemann. Strauss puts the elephantine orchestration of over 160 instruments—the Vienna Philharmonic is packed cheek to jowl into the Salzburg pit—to startling use, like the knot of avian woodwinds and solo strings that accompanies the entrance of the Empress in Act I.

Schwanewilms…sings to Keikobad, against radiant strings and tender violin solo, followed by the magical deployment of both celestas and both harps with percussion. Michaela Schuster is a malevolent presence as the nurse, both vocally…and dramatically…The contributions of the supporting cast and the choruses, both the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Salzburger Festspiele Kinderchor, are excellent. © 2012 The Classical Review Read complete review

Ionarts, September 2012

STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (NTSC) OA1072D
STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7104D

…it’s a great opera with music unlike anywhere else in Strauss. Especially thanks to Christian Thielemann’s conducting; succulent and lean in turns, modern yet intransigently sumptuous. And uncut, which turns the Nurse (Michaela Schuster) into a principal character! Evelyn Herlitzius, the Dyer’s wife, also stands out, the other singers performs between convincingly and admirably. © 2012 Ionarts Read complete review

David Shengold
Opera News, September 2012

STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (NTSC) OA1072D
STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7104D

Anne Schwanewilms’s wary, delicate impersonation of the Empress offers flute-like, instrumental vocalism, mainly beautiful. With her “Bette Davis eyes,” soprano Evelyn Herlitzius makes a compelling, vibrant Dyer’s Wife; her voice — no more a thing of great beauty than was Goltz’s — is pliant, expressive and relativelycomfortable at the demanding climaxes. Stephen Gould copes manfully with the Kaiser’s grueling tasks…Michaela Schuster, an exuberantly detailed Nurse, enters 200 percent into her character, singing with abandon if occasional raw patches at range extremes.

Thielemann’s work is, simply put, superb. He rules the Vienna Philharmonic — which, as he says, is an optimal ensemble to perform this score. The texture and playing are quite staggering, and the vital solo cello and violin passages prove extraordinary. As in the Met’s 2001 production (what a shame it was not documented, with Deborah Voigt in zenith form), Thielemann opens all of the extensive cuts Böhm made in the score, intensifying the demands made on the singers (and, frankly, on their auditors). The supporting cast has no weaknesses; particular honor goes to the Spirit Messenger of Thomas Johannes Mayer and the lovely-sounding Guardian of Christina Lands­hammer. © 2012 Opera News Read complete review

Richard Lawrence
Gramophone, August 2012

STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (NTSC) OA1072D
STRAUSS, R.: Frau ohne Schatten (Die) (Salzburg Festival, 2011) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7104D

…this is no staging but a concert performance with a difference.

It’s all a long way from the original but if you can accept Loy’s reinvention there’s much to admire…the Vienna Philharmonic play like angels: Christian Thielemann is alive to every detail of Strauss’s kaleidoscopic orchestration. As the Empress, Anne Schwanewilms is outstanding, her gleaming soprano scoring bullseye after bullseye. Michaela Schuster’s subtle facial expressions are well caught by the camera…Wolfgang Koch is a sterling Barak…

Thielemann/Loy is absolutely complete, including all the Empress’s spoken words in Act 3. © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Patrick Mack
Parterre Box, June 2012

So, completely eschewing Strauss’ South Sea island fantasyland the curtain pulls back to reveal designer Johannes Leiacker’s stunningly detailed replica of the Vienna Sofiensaal.

The absolutely gorgeous costumes are by Ursula Renzenbrink, who really captures the period well, flatters everyone involved, and makes some subtle distinctions among the singers about class and social status just by the cut and style of their winter coats. Clever!

The cast is dominated, in all the best ways, by the Nurse of Michaela Schuster. It’s a perfect voice for the role, she’s apparently tireless, her word-pointing is superb and she’s got a stunning chest register when she deigns to dip deep. She’s also got a hilarious sight gag in the finale that shouldn’t be missed.

The Dyer and his Wife are played by baritone Wolfgang Koch and soprano Evelyn Herlitzius and they make an excellent pair. Their interplay on the recording platform as a married couple is just as frustrating and touching in equal measure as it would be if they were costumed for a traditional production, maybe even more so. He’s got a big round baritone that doesn’t suffer from any audibility problems…her voice has the right tang for the role.

This was [Anne Schwanewilms’] role debut as the Empress and she is the schnitzel. Her glorious soprano boasts a clear, almost glassy quality on the top that’s sheer magic every time she opens her mouth.

Even more importantly she has an ease in her production that’s rare and doesn’t oversing. She’s particularly compelling in the spoken trial scene of Act III.

All the supporting roles are well-filled and the chorus, adults and children, do extremely well. Special mention should be made for the uncommonly good Voice of the Falcon in Rachel Frenkel.

The real star of the evening is conductor Christian Thielemann. From the first bars you know it’s going to be a masterful reading. In one of the shots of the orchestra between the final set change I was actually taken aback at the amount of physical effort everyone was displaying. The audience screams and shouts every time the curtain comes down and the pounding on the floor at his solo call is almost deafening.

Picture on the Blu-ray disc is crisp and the DTS HD 5-point Master Audio is stunningly pure…this performance takes pride of place over all the previous video releases and…some of the recordings in the catalog. © 2012 Parterre Box Read complete review

Barry Forshaw
Classical CD Choice, February 2012

This live Recording from the Aichi Prefectural Art Theatre, Nagoya, Japan, 1992 showcases a rare document of an early nineties operatic highlight: the Japanese premiere of Wolfgang Sawallisch’s last production at the Bavarian State Opera. The Company’s tour of Nagoya and Tokyo in autumn 1992 under director and principal conductor Sawallisch was a particularly important event, and produced a splendid reading of Strauss’ masterpiece. © 2012 Classical CD Choice Read complete review

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