OP2013. OEDIPUS DER TYRANN (Orff), Live Performance, 11 Dec., 1959, w.Leitner Cond. Stuttgart Staatsoper Ensemble; Gerhard Stolze, Fritz Wunderlich, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender, Hans Baur, Astrid Varnay, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00238. - 0801439902381
”Following the premiere of OEDIPUS DER TYRANN on 11 December, 1959, in the course of an Orff Festival given at Stuttgart's Württemberg State Theatre, TIME's correspondent Paul Moor put the matter succinctly: ‘For a non-German-speaking audience, this opera has long boring stretches because the music is so subservient to the text. Nevertheless, Orff has created a theater work of gripping power’. Orff ensured that OEDIPUS DER TYRANN would forever be for a limited audience of connoisseurs by setting Hölderlin's free translation of Sophocles' KING OEDIPUS in its entirety and forbidding its translation, thus treating Hölderlin's verse as Holy Writ, as Othmar Schoeck had, similarly, in setting Kleist's PENTHESILEA – ‘Not a comma not in Kleist!’-- though he had no qualms about condensing Kleist's episodic drama. This reverence before a sacred text is affected by both performers and audiences on the rare occasions when OEDIPUS DER TYRANN is staged. But, for Orff, the primary consideration was loss of control over a dauntingly punctilious setting of the German verse that would have been inevitably compromised in another language. The vocal techniques, already heard in ANTIGONAE (1949) -- setting another Hölderlin translation of Sophocles -- range from monotone, or declamation upon a single tone, chant and singing, through Sprechgesang and Sprechstimme following the rhythmic geste and speech melos of Hölderlin's verse, to outbursts of anguished melismatic ululation. Similar to the forces marshaled for ANTIGONAE, the orchestra for OEDIPUS consists of nine double basses (the only strings), flutes, oboes, trombones, four harps, a celesta, mandolin, six pianos, and a very large battery of percussion, including two xylophones, two marimbas, a tambourine, castanets, glockenspiel, Javanese gong, a variety of drums, three tam-tams, and so on, though the accompaniment they afford is sparingly used, making the already austere orchestral complement of ANTIGONAE seem almost luxurious in comparison. For those with German, or who know their Sophocles, the upshot is, indeed, ‘a theater work of gripping power’, if challenging. It is of some interest that Orff's concern to project speech melos while rejecting operatic treatment was shared by Harry Partch, whose KING OEDIPUS (1951) sets W.B. Yeats' translation of Sophocles' play for four ‘intoner-actors’ accompanied by double bass, cello, clarinet, and nine of his unique instruments, mostly percussion, created for the microtonal soundworld Partch evolved for ‘impressing the intangible beauty of tone into the vital power of the spoken word’. The similarities in these works are striking, and fortuitous, marking the long-sought primacy of the word achieved at last in musical theater.”
- Adrian Corleonis, allmusic.com
“Fritz Wunderlich was discovered for the opera stage at a student production of ZAUBERFLÖTE. At the age of 25 he was engaged at the Württemberg Staatstheater in Stuttgart, one of the most renowned opera houses in Germany at the time. Erich Schäfer was its General Manager, Ferdinand Leitner its conductor, and Wieland Wagner and Günther Rennert created very interesting productions. Wunderlich never broke off relations with Stuttgart completely, not even when he was engaged by the Munich Opera in 1958. Here he was influenced by Rudolf Hartmann, Günther Rennert and Josef Keilberth. In 1959 he made his début at the Salzburg Festival (Henry Morosus in Strauss’ DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU). He soon became the leading lyrical tenor and he was particularly admired in the Mozart repertoire. He also sang Alfredo, Lenski, Palestrina, and the Steersman in DER FLIEGENDE HÖLLANDER. He loved to sing Egk, Liebermann and Orff and was an eminent operetta singer. He sang operettas on stage only at the outset of his career in Freiburg and Stuttgart. He regularly appeared in oratorios and has been unsurpassed as Evangelist. With his fatherly friend Hubert Giesen he worked on Lieder and he soon was very much in demand as a recitalist. His career was one of the most successful after World War II. He died tragically of an accident, a few days before his 36th birthday. It is pointless to speculate what direction he would have taken if he had been granted a longer career. With the natural power of his voice he would have been able to move into heroic regions.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
"The dramatic soprano Astrid Varnay was born into an operatic family: her mother was a coloratura soprano and her father a spinto tenor. The year in which she was born they founded the Opera Comique Theatre in Kristiania, Sweden, although they were both born in Hungary, and they managed it until 1921. The family then moved to Argentina and later to New York, where her father died in 1924. Her mother subsequently remarried another tenor, and the young Astrid, after studying to be a pianist, decided at the age of eighteen to become a singer. She worked intensively, first with her mother and then with the Metropolitan Opera conductor and coach Hermann Weigert, whom she later married. She made her sensational stage début at the Metropolitan in 1941, substituting at short notice for Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in DIE WALKÜRE with no rehearsal. After this triumph, six days later she replaced Helen Traubel in the same opera as Brünnhilde, and her operatic career was effectively launched. She made her Covent Garden début in 1948 and, at the suggestion of Kirsten Flagstad, her Bayreuth Festival début in 1951. She sang every year at Bayreuth for the next seventeen years and at the Met until 1956, when she left following a disagreement with Rudolf Bing. She henceforth concentrated her career on Germany where she was revered, living in Munich. She moved from the dramatic soprano repertoire into that for mezzo-soprano in 1969, and during the 1980s into character parts. She made her last appearance in Munich in 1995, almost fifty-five years after her Metropolitan début. Her brilliant career is well documented in both commercial and unofficial sound recordings."
- David Patmore