OP0122. DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, recorded 1955, w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Leonie Rysanek, Hans Hopf, Christel Goltz, Paul Schöffler, Elisabeth Höngen, Kurt Böhme, etc. (E.U.) 3-I Grandi della Classica 93 5138. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 4011222933386
"This Opera has pretty much led a charmed life as far as recordings go and many are highly recommendable. However, this was the first complete one and the first thing to say is that the clean, slightly narrow and fuzzy stereo sound is superb for its era, constituting no real technical barrier to the prospective purchase. There are moments when the definition goes and distortion reigns; fortunately, the aural landscape comes into focus for passages such as that which depicts Barak's paean to marital
love in Act I, when the Vienna Philharmonic plays divinely; indeed, chief among its many glories is the playing of the VPO under Böhm, it is simply glorious under a leader whose violin is so important in Strauss’ DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN - passages such as the opening of Act III (no doubt someone can confirm his identity but presumably it's Willi Boskovsky). An excellent balance between voices and orchestra is maintained and even if there isn't great depth, instrumental and vocal lines emerge very cleanly. A minor quibble is that the engineers don't distance the voices of Barak and his wife in the last scene before they are re-united;
there is a touch of the "recording session" atmosphere - but maybe that's explained by the fact that apparently the artists were in overcoats huddled over the microphones in the freezing hall, owing to Decca's refusal to heat it!
Despite knowing that Böhm is invariably at his best in Strauss operas, I had hitherto avoided this recording as a result of my supposed aversion to Hans Hopf. However, I was wrong; here in 1955 he is very fine; powerful and able to maintain a good line and he even manages a degree of controlled subtlety as the Emperor, even though by the early sixties he had become a bawler. Leonie Rysanek is in finest voice, both delicate and powerful by turns, with very little of the 'lowing' mannerism which
occasionally afflicted her voice later and she acts so vividly in the 'Golden Water of Life' scene. Christel Goltz could be vocally awkward, even plummy and cloudy of tone, with a vibrato that often threatens to obtrude, but we catch her here as the Wife in best voice before her vocal decline; mostly accurate, intense and impassioned. Veteran Paul Schöffler is a warm, deeply humane; if slight nasal, Barak. The supporting cast consists of Vienna stalwarts of the era; slight disappointment comes from Kurt Böhme
and Elisabeth Höngen. Both are somewhat under-powered: he is imposing as the Spirit Messenger but also a bit rocky and blaring and she, despite presenting a credibly creepy, odious Nurse and mostly coping with her hideously difficult music, lacks resonance and heft at big moments such as when she declaims 'Weh über dich' and the Empress rejects her in Act III. Supporting roles are strongly cast, as you might expect from Vienna in the mid-fifties.
This has special virtues in that it finds Rysanek in most youthful voice and historical value, too, as a monument to the greatness of the Viennese opera operating under trying conditions in the mid-50s."
- Ralph Moore, Music Web International