OP2322. DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU (Strauss-Zweig), Live Performance, 22 Sept., 1961, Buenos Aires, w.Wallberg Cond. Teatro Colón Ensemble; Kurt Böhme, Ruzena Horákova, Fritz Wunderlich, Ingeborg Hallstein, etc. (E.U.) 2-Myto 00295. - 0801439902954
“Since ELEKTRA and DER ROSENKAVALIER, with the only exception of INTERMEZZO, all previous operas by Strauss were based on libretti by Hugo von Hofmannsthal who died in 1929. Stefan Zweig, who was then a celebrated author, had never met Strauss who was his senior of 17 years. In his autobiography THE WORLD OF YESTERDAY, Zweig describes how Strauss got in touch with him after Hofmannsthal's death to ask him to write a libretto for a new opera. Zweig chose a theme from Ben Jonson. A work of great charm when well cast and performed, SCHWEIGSAME FRAU has nevertheless proved one of Strauss' less successful operas. Strauss' association with a Jewish librettist in 1935 Germany provoked a hostile response from Hitler and Goebbels, and even after the war, it has enjoyed relatively few revivals. The work had its United States premiere at the New York City Opera on 7 October 1958.
Strauss was then admired by the Nazis who had recently taken over Germany; Strauss himself was collaborating with the Nazis, though his daughter-in-law Alice and hence his grandchildren were Jewish and therefore at risk. The Nazis were not happy that the new opera of their favourite composer had a libretto by Zweig who was also Jewish. Zweig recounts in his autobiography that Strauss refused to withdraw the opera and even insisted that Zweig's authorship of the libretto be credited; the first performance in Dresden was said to have been authorized by Hitler himself. Zweig thought it prudent not to be present. The run was interrupted after the second or third performance, as the Gestapo had intercepted a private letter from Strauss to Zweig in which the elderly composer was asking Zweig to write the libretto for a further opera. This led, according to Zweig, to Strauss' resignation as president of the Reichsmusikkammer, the Nazi state institute for music.”
“Fritz Wunderlich was discovered for the opera stage at a student production of ZAUBERFLÖTE. At the age of 25 he was engaged at the Württemberg Staatstheater in Stuttgart, one of the most renowned opera houses in Germany at the time. Erich Schäfer was its General Manager, Ferdinand Leitner its conductor, and Wieland Wagner and Günther Rennert created very interesting productions. Wunderlich never broke off relations with Stuttgart completely, not even when he was engaged by the Munich Opera in 1958. Here he was influenced by Rudolf Hartmann, Günther Rennert and Josef Keilberth. In 1959 he made his début at the Salzburg Festival (Henry Morosus in Strauss’ DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU). He soon became the leading lyrical tenor and he was particularly admired in the Mozart repertoire. He also sang Alfredo, Lenski, Palestrina, and the Steersman in DER FLIEGENDE HÖLLANDER. He loved to sing Egk, Liebermann and Orff and was an eminent operetta singer. He sang operettas on stage only at the outset of his career in Freiburg and Stuttgart. He regularly appeared in oratorios and has been unsurpassed as Evangelist. With his fatherly friend Hubert Giesen he worked on Lieder and he soon was very much in demand as a recitalist. His career was one of the most successful after World War II. He died tragically of an accident, a few days before his 36th birthday. It is pointless to speculate what direction he would have taken if he had been granted a longer career. With the natural power of his voice he would have been able to move into heroic regions.”
- Andrea Shum-Binder, subito-cantabile
“Fritz Wunderlich spent five years in Stuttgart before he became a world figure.....The voice is young and fresh. There has hardly ever been a more beautiful tenor voice, and his career lasted only ten years because he died young.”
- Donald R. Vroon, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2004