OP0517. ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, recorded 1968, Lukaskirche, Dresden, w. Kempe Cond. Staatskapelle Dresden; Gundula Janowitz, Teresa Zylis-Gara, Sylvia Geszty, James King, Theo Adam, Hermann Prey, etc. 2-Musical Heritage Society 527466W. Very long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 717794476620
“Kempe understands both the lyrical and humorous aspects of the opera and hones them into a coherent whole. This admirable and enjoyable set of what some consider Strauss' most satisfying opera all-round has been out of circulation for far too long. Beyond any other conductor who has tackled the work on disc except Böhm (neither of whose versions is at present available), Kempe understands both the lyrical and humorous aspects of the opera and hones them into a coherent whole. You can hear his attention to detail in his handling of the delicate accompaniment to the Dancing Master's little homily in the Prologue and in the recitative-like introduction to Zerbinetta's aria. His strict control of minutiae is underpinned by his unerring sense of rhythm and tempo, and in the final scene an ability to tighten the tension. Only Böhm can here surpass Kempe by virtue of an even greater sense of dramatic movement and an overview of the score….Kempe is inestimably helped by the echt Strauss orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle.
Nobody has actually sung Ariadne with such complete control of tone and technique as that shown by Janowitz. Her aristocratic phrasing, with an ideal movement between notes and a judicious use of portamento, is exemplary. Hers is the ideal kind of voice for the part, warm, lyrical and slightly vibrant…. Zylis-Gara's Composer is a kind of mirror-image of Janowitz's Ariadne. Apparently a shade cool the inner fires surely burn intensely underneath the surface. Happily a soprano in the part rather than the mezzo preferred today - but not by Strauss - she marries creamy tone with a near-perfect technique, and is wonderfully radiant in the Composer's glorious outburst near the end of the Prologue….Zylis-Gara is especially affecting in her romantic colloquy with Zerbinetta, here sung by Geszty with tremendous brio, character and fluency.
The recording, made in Dresden's Lukaskirche, tends to be a shade too reverberant, but the balance is natural and excellent between voices and instruments with both well forward. This would now be my unhesitating recommendation of a stereo version.”
- Alan Blyth, GRAMOPHONE, Nov., 1992]
“The reissue of this 1968 EMI recording is a cause for loud cheering: for this is one of the best of all Strauss opera recordings, and one of the elect among opera recordings of any kind. The work - an elaborate, richly wrought backstage comedy-drama with a disquisition on the nature of art at its centre - can seem one of the delights of the medium, or else a slightly arch, ponderous operatic conceit. The deciding factor is always the conductor, and here Rudolf Kempe, one of the century’s supreme Straussians, renders the piece whole, natural in balance (a tricky business given Strauss’ opulent scoring for chamber forces), fluently dramatic through all of its sections, and radiant of sound and substance in every bar. He has the inestimable bonus of the Dresden players, who are natives to this music, but the unfussed style of the performance - apparently so effortless, actually so hard to achieve - is the conductor’s hallmark. He also has the benefit of one of the best-balanced ARIADNE casts on record. One might argue that individual contributions have been equalled or even surpassed elsewhere; it is the apt matching and idiomatic rightness of the ensemble that one admires here.”
- Max Loppert, 1968, Lukaskirche, Dresden
"Teresa Zylis-Gara, a Polish soprano who displayed a plush voice, impressive versatility and beguiling stage presence during a three-decade international career that included a stretch at the Metropolitan Opera during her prime in the 1970s, was essentially a lyric soprano who excelled in Mozart and other roles suited to a lighter voice. But as she developed more richness and body in her sound, she moved into the lirico-spinto repertory, which calls for dramatic heft along with lyricism, including the title role of Puccini’s TOSCA, Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN and Elisabeth in Wagner’s TANNHÄUSER. Her repertory ranged from the Baroque, including works by Claudio Monteverdi, to 20th-century fare by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. She also championed the songs of her countryman Chopin, works that had been surprisingly overlooked….reviewing a Met production of Verdi’s OTELLO presented on tour in Boston, the critic Ellen Pfeifer wrote in THE BOSTON GLOBE that Ms. Zylis-Gara’s Desdemona was ‘a spirited and mature young woman instead of the usual adolescent clinging violet’. Her singing, Ms. Pfeifer added, ‘was beautiful, ample in size, with the requisite transparency and flexibility’. Ms. Zylis-Gara in the title role of Puccini’s MANON LESCAUT at the Met in 1981. The tenor Giuliano Ciannella sang Des Grieux, Manon’s lover.
She won first prize in the 1954 Polish Young Vocalists Contest in Warsaw, which led to engagements with Polish National Radio and, in 1956, her professional debut with the Krakow Opera in the title role of HALKA, by the 19th-century Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, a staple of the Polish opera repertory. Further prizes during the next few years in Toulouse, France, and in Munich led to engagements with opera houses in Oberhausen, Dortmund and Düsseldorf in West Germany.
Ms. Zylis-Gara had a significant breakthrough in 1965 when she sang an acclaimed Octavian in a production of Strauss’s DER ROSENKAVALIER at the Glyndebourne Festival, which led to her debut with the Paris National Opéra the next year. In 1968, a banner year, Donna Elvira in Mozart’s DON GIOVANNI became her calling card - or, as she put it in a 1969 interview with THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, her ‘destiny role’. She sang Elvira for her debuts at the Salzburg Festival (with Herbert von Karajan conducting), the San Francisco Opera and, in December, the Met. Of the San Francisco performance, the Los Angeles Times critic Martin Bernheimer wrote that Ms. Zylis-Gara ‘sang a Donna Elvira that easily withstood comparison with the finest recent exponents of that difficult role, Sena Jurinac and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf’. At the Met, the cast included the formidable Cesare Siepi as Giovanni and Martina Arroyo as Donna Anna. In a 2015 article in OPERA NEWS in which various opera professionals were asked to pick their favorite ‘diva debuts’ at the Met, Ms. Arroyo chose Ms. Zylis-Gara’s Donna Elvira. ‘She sang so well, a pure voice just right in style - one of the very best Elviras’, Ms. Arroyo said. The Met’s general manager, Rudolf Bing, promptly engaged Ms. Zylis-Gara for future bookings. She went on to sing 232 performances with the company over 16 seasons, taking on 20 roles, including the Marschallin in ROSENKAVALIER, Wagner’s Elisabeth and Elsa (in LOHENGRIN), Puccini’s Mimi, Butterfly and Desdemona, and Tchaikovsky’s Tatiana.
Through the 1980s, Ms. Zylis-Gara continued to sing in the world’s major houses. In later years, she divided her time between a home in Monaco and visits to her native land, sat often on competition juries, and eagerly taught emerging singers. Asked in a 2009 OPERA NEWS interview whether she would ever say farewell to opera, she asserted that this ‘would never take place! The stage lights won’t dim for even a second’, she said, ‘since I transmit to my gifted pupils all my artistic soul, my knowledge and my experience’.”
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 11 Sept., 2021