OP0460. ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, recorded 1986, w. James Levine Cond. Vienna Phil. Ensemble; Anna Tomawa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, Kathleen Battle, Gary Lakes, Hermann Prey, Otto Schenk, etc. (Germany) 2-DG 419 225, Slipcase Edition, w.Elaborate 181pp Libretto-Brochure. Final Copy. - 028941922526
“Although never regarded as a box-office favorite, this unique inspiration of Strauss and his librettist, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, can, despite its theatrical incongruities, hold audiences spellbound, given the right performance. Responsive listeners will find this to be the case in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon. James Levine, with a cast of expert Straussians, including Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Agnes Baltsa, Kathleen Battle, Hermann Prey, Gary Lakes and Otto Schenk, capture the witty details of the intimate yet brilliantly sophisticated orchestration. Mr. Levine and the plush-sounding Vienna Philharmonic blend urbanity and passion in just the right proportions.
In the title role, Miss Tomowa-Sintow may lack a certain ethereal quality, but she encompasses the wide range of Ariadne's music with warmth and impressive firmness. As her earthy foil, Miss Battle is a totally enchanting Zerbinetta, floating tones that do not compromise quality as they ascend to the stratosphere. Miss Baltsa's Composer, while generally well sung, lacks that special radiance that would fully realize the beauties of the part, which contains some of Strauss' most inspired writing.
Strauss glorified the soprano voice, but he treated tenors without affection. Gary Lakes, the latest Wagnerian hopeful, does more than creditably with the thankless role of Bacchus. The Naiad-Dryad-Echo ensemble (Barbara Bonney, Helga Mueller-Molinari and Dawn Upshaw) provides the requisite magical blend, and the quartet of comedians cavorts efficiently. Hermann Prey is an authoritative Music Master, but Otto Schenk sounds a bit elderly, though he delivers the Majordomo's lines with the proper bemused arrogance.”
- George Jellinek, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 13 Sept., 1987