OP1740. ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Live Performance, 11 June, 1944 (Strauss’ 80th birthday performance), w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Maria Reining, Max Lorenz, Irmgard Seefried, Alda Noni, Paul Schöffler, Erich Kunz, etc. (E.U.) 2–Myto 00163. - 8014399501637
"Perhaps it was the occasion that gave us such a wonderful performance, but more probably it was the cast and the conductor. Pride of place goes to Maria Reining in the title role, an Ariadne of one's dreams. Her vocal security seems absolute, and she pours out volumes of pure, beautiful sound. Her detailed characterization shows her familiarity with the role; every phrase comes alive."
- Kurt Moses, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, Sept./Oct., 1995
"[Böhm had a] natural, essential music-making….the magical ease and naturalness of transition from one tempo to another, the human warmth, the humor, restrained pathos, the aristocratic and refined taste in final ritardandos and the incredible energy of the man."
- Walter Legge, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 5 Feb., 1995
“Following an apprenticeship in his native Austria, Karl Böhm was appointed, at the recommendation of Karl Muck, to be assistant to Walter at the Munich State Opera in 1921. He went on to become music director in Darmstadt in 1927, in Hamburg in 1931 and, with Hitler's approval, in Dresden, as successor to Fritz Busch in 1934. During his decade-long tenure he maintained Dresden's reputation for imaginative repertory, with performances of new works that included the premieres of DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU, 1935, and DAPHNE, 1938, an opera dedicated by Strauss to the conductor. From 1943 to the end of the war, he was director of the Vienna State Opera.
Privately no less than publicly, Böhm was a strong supporter of Hitler and National Socialism from 1933 on and gave the Nazi salute at the beginning of a concert. He subsequently not only was unrepentant but defiant, even, claiming that while other conductors took the easy course and fled, he stayed behind to suffer and be bombed with other Germans. After a two-year ban by occupation authorities, Böhm became conductor of the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic.”
- Frederic Spotts, Great Conductors of the Third Reich
“Maria Reining was the jugendliche-dramatische soprano who took over the majority of Lotte Lehmann's rôles at the Vienna State Opera when Lehmann left in 1937, and continued singing them into the early 1950s. She proved hugely popular with the public because of her naturally beautiful soprano and lovely looks, the voice as we hear it obviously part of the outgoing, unaffected personality. On disc she recorded for Telefunken just before the war, for Electrola during it, and for Decca after, most notably her Marschallin in the legendary DER ROSENKAVALIER conducted by Erich Kleiber. Perhaps her most notable legacies on disc are her account of the title-rôle in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, recorded at the Vienna State Opera to celebrate Strauss' eightieth birthday, and her Arabella in the 'unofficial' off-the-air Salzburg Festival performances of Strauss' opera in 1947 (with Hotter as Mandryka).”
- Alan Blyth, GRAMOPHONE, Sept., 1992
“In the 1940s and early 1950s, Irmgard Seefried was a paragon among German lyric sopranos, her voice fresh and crystalline, her stage presence vital and attractive. Although she was an intelligent and well-prepared artist, the impression she made was one of considerable spontaneity. Her Susanna in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and Pamina in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE were very different creations, the first piquant and cunning, the latter direct and innocent, though never the pallid personality others have imposed upon her. Her Composer in Strauss' ARIADNE AUF NAXOS was a defining interpretation, ardently sung and passionately acted. It was captured in live performance in 1944 and, again, in the studio a decade later when her voice was at its zenith.
She studied at Augsburg University, first with Albert Meyer and, later, with Paola Novikova (with whom she continued to work long after her career was established). Her stage début took place at Aachen in 1940 when she sang the Priestess in a production of AÏDA. After Nuri in d'Albert's TIEFLAND, she was shocked to find that the theater's music director, Herbert von Karajan, had scheduled her for Donna Anna in DON GIOVANNI. As she acknowledged later, she ‘got away’ with the role due to the theater's small size and a very lyric approach to the highly dramatic role.
After three years in Aachen, Seefried moved to Vienna where she joined that theater's ensemble of extraordinary Mozart singers. Her wartime performances were accomplished under circumstances of utter privation: little heat, little food, repeated trips to shelters during both rehearsals and performances. Seefried's Eva under Karl Böhm established her as an artist with an unlimited future and she quickly became a favorite with the Vienna public. She was honored by being chosen to appear as the Composer in ARIADNE to celebrate Richard Strauss' 80th birthday and in 1946 made her first appearance at Salzburg where her Pamina became legendary. London heard her in 1947 when she performed Susanna and Fiordiligi with the visiting Vienna Opera. Susanna served for her début role at La Scala in 1949.
Although her Susanna was well-received at the Metropolitan Opera in November 1953, Seefried did not return to that theater, but did make memorable appearances with Chicago's Lyric Opera beginning in 1961. Chicago heard her Zerlina and Marzelline in her début year and her still-wonderful Composer in 1964.
In addition to opera, Seefried was a first-rank interpreter of Lieder and a concert singer much in demand. In her prime years, her singing of the soprano solo portions of Bach's ST. MATTHEW PASSION, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and, above all, Haydn's CREATION was unsurpassed. She performed all three of these works with Wilhelm Furtwängler, an influential guide and mentor. Seefried's recitals at Salzburg and elsewhere came to be treasured events. Many of her earlier Lieder recordings support the reputation she enjoyed among connoisseurs of beautiful and communicative singing.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Richard Strauss personally selected Alda Noni to sing Zerbinetta in a famous performance of his opera ARIADNE AUF NAXOS in Vienna to mark his 80th birthday in June 1944.
She was described by commentators as a soprano leggiero, a singer with a light, agile voice, possessing brilliant-sounding vowel projection, but nevertheless with a warmth to her vocal timbre that is not always to be found in other coloratura sopranos. She was also widely praised for her comic roles, playing parts such as Clorinda in Rossini’s LA CENERENTOLA with what Harold Rosenthal once described as a ‘delicious sense of humour’.
Making her début as Rosina in Rossini’s THE BARBER OF SEVILLE in Ljubljana in 1937, and after a number of appearances in Yugoslavia, she joined the Vienna State Opera in 1942; her German accent was widely admired. The ARIADNE occasion came at a time when Strauss’s relations with Hitler were under severe strain, to the point where the Führer had decreed that there should be no celebration of the composer’s birthday. Wiser counsel prevailed, however, and the conductor Karl Böhm mounted a small Strauss festival that included a new production of ARIADNE that also featured the 25-year-old Irmgard Seefried. The occasion was broadcast by Austrian radio and released on disc some 20 years later by Deutsche Grammophon, leading critics to compliment Alda Noni’s ‘piquant, sparkling, wonderfully accurate Zerbinetta’; for many decades hers was regarded as the foremost interpretation of the role.
In 1946, after leaving Vienna, Alda Noni appeared as Norina with the New London Opera Company in Donizetti’s DON PASQUALE in Jay Pomeroy’s season at the Cambridge Theatre, with the baritone Mariano Stabile, a favourite with British audiences. Her performance was particularly amusing, noted Desmond Shaw-Taylor, because of ‘the suddenness of her transitions from drooping convent lily to mischievous wildcat’. By 1949 she was a member of La Scala, appearing with the company at Covent Garden the following year. She returned to Glyndebourne in 1951 to sing Despina in Mozart’s COSÌ FAN TUTTE and Blonde in DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL, giving the character ‘a spitfire sharpness’. She also made a widely-admired appearance in Glyndebourne’s first LA CENERENTOLA in 1952, which the company toured to Berlin in 1954."
- THE TELEGRAPH, 24 May, 2011
“Dramatic tenor Max Lorenz usually made the most of a hard-edged and often intractable voice in singing the heroic roles of Wagner and the high-lying lyric/dramatic ones of Strauss. A riveting stage figure (trim and athletic in appearance), he was, in his prime, perhaps the most credible visual exponent of Siegmund and the two Siegfrieds. His musicianship, likewise, was more reliable than that of most other singers of the big German roles. Yet his voice was so unmalleable and his technique so unorthodox, that his performances required of the listener a considerable period of adjustment. Once the accommodation was made to a vocal mechanism that sounded as though its soft palate had been constructed of concrete, significant rewards awaited.
Following study in Berlin, Lorenz was awarded a prize in a competition sponsored by a city newspaper. He was subsequently engaged by Fritz Busch for Dresden and made his début there in 1927, singing the secondary role of Walter in TANNHÄUSER. His performance as Menelaus in Strauss' ÄGYPTISCHE HELENA, premiered in Dresden in 1928, prompted the composer to recommend Lorenz to Berlin where they were seeking a tenor for the same role. Lorenz left Dresden, joining the Berlin Staatsoper in 1933.
Meanwhile, he had made his début at the Metropolitan Opera in 1931. His Walter in DIE MEISTERSINGER was received as the work of a ‘serious artist and an intelligent musician’, though one afflicted with a ‘hard and unyielding tone quality’ that changed little during the ensuing two decades of Metropolitan appearances. Perhaps the continued presence of Lauritz Melchior made it impossible for New York audiences to adjust to the much less beautiful sound produced by Lorenz.
London heard Lorenz for the first time on-stage in 1934 when his Walter made a good impression. He returned to Covent Garden in 1937 for the title role in SIEGFRIED and was found too lightweight for the arduous role, but an ‘eminently cultivated and musicianly singer’ nonetheless. Bayreuth proved a more hospitable venue for Lorenz's unique art. For a decade beginning in 1933, the tenor sang Siegfried and Tristan to considerable acclaim and gained a reputation as a singing actor of exceptional ability. Recordings from the theater preserve his Siegfried, sung with rare intensity and rhythmic spring. From 1937, he was a regular at the Vienna Staatsoper, as well as a frequent visitor to other European houses. In the post-WWII era, he sang in Italy, performing both Wagner and Verdi, and appeared in both Mexico City and Buenos Aires. Salzburg heard him frequently, as did other festivals such as those at Amsterdam, Florence, and Zürich. In addition to his dramatic leading roles, Lorenz took on contemporary parts in the premières of Gottfried Von Einem's DER PROZESS in 1953, Rolf Liebermann's PENELOPE in 1954, and as late as 1961, of Rudolf Wagner-Régeny's DAS BERGWERK ZU FALUN.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com
“Alda Noni was hand-picked to sing Zerbinetta in a performance of ARIADNE given on Strauss' eightieth birthday (11 June, 1944), with the composer present. Although recorded, it was not commercially released until 1964. Noni had a pleasing, full soubrette voice with a bright, fast vibrato and an easy range to high D. Noni presents an approach to Zerbinetta that began to evolve at this time, but was, thankfully, short lived. This was an almost veristic concept of the role, with chest voice and misplaced dramatic emphasis that turned the character into a harpy. This Zerbinetta is full of willful, obnoxious personality - not playful elegance….There is, however, something fascinating about her wild, reckless abandon with the piece. Although not one of the better performances, it has its own kind of misled, perverse attraction.
- Nicholas E. Limansky
“Thoroughly Viennese, bass-baritone Erich Kunz excelled in serious roles (although he sang rather few), comic parts and in operetta characterizations. An indispensable participant in recording producer Walter Legge's Champagne Operetta series in the early 1950s, Kunz, together with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, defined Viennese operetta style - its lightness, grace, and charm. With a rich, masculine voice, he was a definitive Figaro, Leporello, and Papageno in the tradition of Mozart performance that sprang from the Vienna Opera immediately after WWII. An incomparable Beckmesser, his interpretation was preserved on two live recordings, and he left a number of delightful recordings of Viennese café and university songs.
Kunz studied in his native Vienna, primarily with Theodore Lierhammer at the Vienna Academy. His début took place at Tropau in 1933 as Osmin (a part for deep bass) in Mozart's DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL. Following that, he sang with a number of smaller German theaters before being engaged by the Breslau Opera for three years. Kunz made his first acquaintance with England when he was offered an opportunity to understudy at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1936. He was soon thereafter assigned several smaller roles.
In 1941, Kunz became a part of the company at the Vienna Staatsoper where he remained throughout his career; he was given the title of Kammersänger in 1948. During the war years, he sang throughout Austria and Germany, primarily in Mozart and Wagner . He made his début at the Salzburg Festival in 1942 as Guglielmo in COSÌ FAN TUTTE and in 1943 became the youngest artist ever to have appeared in a major role at the Bayreuth Festival when he sang Beckmesser in DIE MEISTERSINGER.
Once the hostilities ended, Kunz's career assumed a still more international flavor. Opera performances took him to Florence, Rome, Naples, Paris, Brussels, Budapest, and Buenos Aires. His role at the Salzburg Festival grew and he was a part of the Vienna Staatsoper troupe touring England and France in 1947. The following year brought his debut at the Edinburgh Festival.
A Metropolitan Opera début waited until 1952, but Kunz's appearance as Leporello on 26 November brought a warm response from the audience and positive reviews from the critics. Both local and national writers commented upon his handsome voice and subtle comic skills. Many could recall only a few comparable artists in a role frequently immersed in slapstick routine. The Metropolitan Opera enjoyed his presence for just two years. In addition to Leporello, Kunz appeared as Mozart's Figaro, Beckmesser, and Faninal in ROSENKAVALIER. Chicago heard his treasurable Harlequin in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS and Leporello, both in 1964 and, two seasons later, his wily, yet innocent Papageno in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE.
While musical tastes had moved from the elegant Mozart style of post-war Vienna to an earthier, more robust Italianate approach by the 1960s, Kunz's inimitable stage persona lost nothing of its potency. Nor did his voice; he continued to sing well even in his sixties and continued to undertake small roles (unforgettable cameos, all) to the end of a long career. In addition to opera house appearances, Kunz graced the stage of the Vienna Volksoper from time to time, giving lessons to both audiences and fellow artists in operetta style and singing.”
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com