OP2924. ELEKTRA, Live Performance, 16 Dec., 1965, w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Birgit Nilsson, Leonie Rysanek, Regina Resnik, Wolfgang Windgassen, Eberhard Wächter, Gundula Janowitz, etc. (Austria) 2-Orfeo C 886 1421. - 4011790886220
“Following the scandalous SALOME, it was with the radical, expressive violence of ELEKTRA in 1909 that Richard Strauss finally cemented his position as the leading German opera composer of his generation. The immense vocal and orchestral demands it makes remain undiminished and few singers have really been able to meet the murderous challenge of singing the title role. In the 1960's and '70s, however, Birgit Nilsson was one, possessing as she did a powerful voice also capable of much subtlety.
This live recording from the Vienna State Opera in 1965, in a production by Wieland Wagner, was conducted by the great Karl Böhm, and was a musical triumph. Not only did Böhm and Nilsson give full rein to the eruptive violence of Strauss' setting but they also attended to the psychological details that the composer teased out of Hoffmansthal's text. They were aided in this by the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera and a cast that was homogeneous right down to the smallest roles. Leonie Rysanek sang the wistful Chrysothemis, in a role she made her own, and with her luminous soprano she was an ideal counterpart to Nilsson's tortured heroine. As their adversary, their inscrutable mother Klytämnestra, the dusky-timbred Regina Resnik gave a superb performance. For the adulterous lover Aegisth, the State Opera engaged the legendary heldentenor Wolfgang Windgassen. Eberhard Wächter sang the part of Orest, and with his unmistakeable baritone he offered every possible nuance of this important character, driven by fate.”
- Zillah Dorset Akron
“Regina Resnik won the Metropolitan Opera auditions and débuted with great success at the Met on 6 December, 1944, as a last-minute replacement for Zinka Milanov. The rôle was Leonora in Verdi’s IL TROVATORE and over the years performed many of opera’s most important roles on its most prominent stages, including those of the New York City Opera, the San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden and other European houses. Her best-known roles include Ellen Orford in Britten’s PETER GRIMES, Donna Anna and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI and the title role in Bizet’s CARMEN. Later in her career she performed in musical theater and became a sought-after instructor and opera director. She was known for her strong dramatic skills and impeccable musicianship onstage and for her bold personality offstage. She displayed fearlessness from the beginning. Following the triumph of her first season, Resnik became a leading soprano at the Met, during which time she sang Rosalinde in this English-language production of DIE FLEDERMAUS, a delightful tour-de-force!
In 1942, she made her début at the New Opera Company of New York after being given 24 hours’ notice that she was needed to substitute. Two years later, she made a similar last-minute substitution in her début at the Metropolitan Opera as Leonora, in IL TROVATORE. Each time she impressed. ‘All things considered, Miss Resnik’s début was an auspicious one’, a review of her Metropolitan début in THE NEW YORK TIMES said. ‘She has a strong, clear soprano, which, though occasionally marred by a tremolo, is both agile enough for the florid passages allotted to Leonora and forceful enough for the dramatic ones’.
Ms. Resnik became a much-admired soprano and toured widely through the mid-1950s, when she and others began to notice that her voice was darkening. A friend, the baritone Giuseppe Danise, helped persuade her to change, telling her he believed she had always been a mezzo. ‘It was the biggest gamble of my life, when I decided over two tumultuous years that perhaps I was not a soprano after all’, she told The Times in 1967. ‘There were many opinions: I was a soprano with low notes, or mezzo with high notes’. The gamble paid off, she said, and it ultimately provided her with better roles, including some of her most notable, as Carmen, Klytämnestra in ELEKTRA, Mistress Quickly in FALSTAFF and the Countess in PIQUE DAME. ‘I have really run the gamut’, she added, emphatic that she had not lost her upper register. ‘And my range is exactly the same today. Not one note higher or lower. But I was happier in the depth of my voice than in its height’.
Ms. Resnik graduated from James Monroe High School in the Bronx and studied music education at Hunter College, graduating in 1942.
‘She was a totally American original’, said F. Paul Driscoll, the editor in chief of OPERA NEWS. ‘She was always very proud of being educated in the United States and beginning her career in the United States’. Mr. Driscoll emphasized Ms. Resnik’s resilience, particularly under Rudolf Bing, the sometimes autocratic general manager of the Met, for much of her career. ‘She embraced the opportunities she was given, and whether or not Mr. Bing thought they were star parts, she made them star parts’, Mr. Driscoll said. ‘Directors loved her, conductors loved her, and the audience loved her’.”
- William Yardley, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 9 Aug., 2013