OP1888. DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, Live Performance, 31 Aug., 1954, München, w.Kempe Cond,. Bayerischen Staatsoper Ensemble; Leonie Rysanek, Lilian Benningsen, Josef Metternich, Marianne Schech, Hans Hopf, Kurt Böhme, etc. (E.U.) 3–Myto 00212. - 0801439902121
“The mono sound here is clear if rather resonant – rather like the voices. I am not familiar with Lilian Benningsen, but she sings a secure Nurse; her voice sometimes turns shrill but she is more animatedand an improvement, I think, over Elisabeth Höngen for Karl Böhm the following year, when three of the principal singers here performed and recorded for Böhm, but they all sound even fresher and firmer here for Kempe in 1954. Kurt Böhme in particular is much steadier here and both Hans Hopf and Leonie Rysanek sound more youthful – although he has some passing intonation problems in the last scene. Her big scene in Act 3 where she appeals to her unseen father and resists temptation is riveting, and her top notes have a thrilling, laser-like intensity to rival Nilsson’s. This is surely the best of her seven assumptions of the role of Empress, all considered in this survey.
Metternich and Schech were almost exact contemporaries and in their considerable prime here: his elegant baritone is a beautiful, smooth instrument with impeccable legato and an easy top, imparting real nobility to the humble Dyer, while she for once makes his Wife sound suitably youthful and portrays her vividly without making her sound too shrewish. So often in recordings the pair sound too middle-aged, so their characterisation here is refreshing. The supporting cast and chorus are first-rate, whether they be feuding brothers, serving maids, ‘Ungeborene’ sizzling in a pan or serenading us from the ether, or Nightwatchmen; all are impeccable. Kempe of course has the measure of the score; the ‘hymn to marital love’ surges and soars beguilingly under his direction – but then, I have never heard anything he recorded which was less than superlative and the Munich orchestra is excellent.
This was decidedly for me a ‘dark horse’ recording, which I had not encountered before embarking on this survey, but if you make allowances for the cuts and the limited sound, it is as fine as any of the live, mono accounts.”
- Ralph Moore, Music Web International
“One of the great unsung conductors of the middle twentieth century, Rudolf Kempe enjoyed a strong reputation in England but never quite achieved the international acclaim that he might have had with more aggressive management, promotion, and recording. Not well enough known to be a celebrity but too widely respected to count as a cult figure, Kempe is perhaps best remembered as a connoisseur's conductor, one valued for his strong creative temperament rather than for any personal mystique. He studied oboe as a child, performed with the Dortmund Opera, and, in 1929, barely out of his teens, he became first oboist of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. His conducting début came in 1936, at the Leipzig Opera; this performance of Lortzing's DER WILDSCHÜTZ was so successful that the Leipzig Opera hired him as a répétiteur. Kempe served in the German army during World War II, but much of his duty was out of the line of fire; in 1942 he was assigned to a music post at the Chemnitz Opera. After the war, untainted by Nazi activities, he returned to Chemnitz as director of the opera (1945-1948), and then moved on to the Weimar National Theater (1948-1949). From 1949 to 1953 he served as general music director of the Staatskapelle Dresden, East Germany's finest orchestra. He then moved to the identical position at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, 1952-1954, succeeding the young and upwardly mobile Georg Solti. During this period he was also making guest appearances outside of Germany, mainly in opera: in Vienna (1951), at Covent Garden (1953), and at the Metropolitan Opera (1954), to mention only the highlights. Although he conducted Wagner extensively, especially at Covent Garden, Kempe did not make his Bayreuth début until 1960. As an opera conductor he was greatly concerned with balance and texture, and singers particularly appreciated his efforts on their behalf. Kempe made a great impression in England, and in 1960 Sir Thomas Beecham named him associate conductor of London's Royal Philharmonic. Kempe became the orchestra's principal conductor upon Beecham's death the following year, and, after the orchestra was reorganized, served as its artistic director from 1963 to 1975. He was also the chief conductor of the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra from 1965 to 1972, and of the Munich Philharmonic from 1967 until his death in 1976. During the last year of his life he also entered into a close association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Interpretively, Kempe was something of a German Beecham. He was at his best -- lively, incisive, warm, expressive, but never even remotely self-indulgent -- in the Austro-Germanic and Czech repertory. Opera lovers prize his versions of LOHENGRIN, DIE MEISTERSINGER, and ARIADNE AUF NAXOS. His greatest recorded legacy, accomplished during the last four or five years of his life, was the multi-volume EMI set of the orchestral works and concertos of Richard Strauss, performed with the highly idiomatic Dresden Staatskapelle. These recordings were only intermittently available outside of Europe in the LP days, but in the 1990s EMI issued them on nine compact discs.”
- James Reel, Rovi
"Rysanek is, first and foremost, an operatic actress. It is this quality that has led to her remarkable success. In everything she does, one senses total involvement with the dramatic aspects of the role. Without knowing whether this is true, I suspect she immerses herself completely in the libretto before studying out any of the vocal problems. An actress in the grand manner does not bother very much whether a role is in the creation of a German or an Italian librettist; her concern is with the flesh and blood of the woman being portrayed….Though the drama comes first, Rysanek has given the matter of voice a great deal of careful thought. She has a beautiful instrument to think about, and she wants to keep it that way."
- Alan Rich, OPERA NEWS, 6 March, 1965