OP2785. DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER, Live Performance, 2 Feb., 1966, w.Sawallisch Cond. La Scala Ensemble; Franz Crass, Leonie Rysanek, Karl Ridderbusch, Claude Heater, etc. (Slovenia) 2-Living Stage 4035125. Long out-of-print, Final Sealed Copy! - 3830025743111
“The Great Leonie Rysanek, who was surely the most famous Senta of her time, and may have been the most famous Senta of the entire 20th century! It’s hard to think of any other soprano whose name is so closely associated with the role. No need to go into all her other accomplishments, except to remind people that she debuted in 1949, starred in theopening production of The New Bayreuth in 1951 (at 25) and remained a top-flight star for the next 45 years. As a somewhat doubtful replacement for Maria Callas as Lady Macbeth in 1959 at the Met, she came, saw, conquered, and remained there for 31 of the next 37 years, singing 299 performances of 24 roles. If anything solidified Dutchman’s success at the Met, it was Rysanek’s and George London’s assumptions of the lead roles. Of the 21 Dutchmans London did there between 1960 and 1965, Rysanek was his Senta in 17 of them, and of course they sang it elsewhere in addition to making their near-iconic commercial recording of the opera; all of this probably made them the nearest thing to a Wagner team that the Met could offer. When due to health reasons London had to retire at the end of 1965, Rysanek sang only 10 more Sentas at the House (with good, but lesser partners), although she continued to sing it elsewhere. But in that one decade, the opera was performed 53 times (a full third of all the Met performances in its 137-year history) and Rysanek sang 32 of those outings, with 8 other sopranos doing the remaining 21, including 4 by no less a personage than Régine Crespin. Yes, others sang it, but she owned it. (In those 137 years of Met history, they’ve had 33 Sentas; only two - Maria Jeritza and Janis Martin. And of course, she sang it all over the map, as she did most of her repertoire, so that tonight we find her doing it at La Scala in 1966, and sharing Ingrid Bjoner’s Dutchman, Franz Crass. Rysanek’s longevity was quite phenomenal. She had the Frau Empress in her repertoire for 32 years and Sieglinde for 37 years. They made giants in the old days!”
- Joe Pearce
“Here’s a near-novelty: the three-separate-act version of DUTCHMAN, recorded on stage at La Scala in 1966. There is no information provided in the two-page leaflet that accompanies the CD about how the recording came to be - just the cast and track listings. Nevertheless, the sound is clear and clean, suggesting a radio broadcast. Wolfgang Sawallisch keeps things moving, with very few of the lengthy pauses for effect that most conductors tend to exaggerate.
Franz Crass is in superb voice in the title role. His is not the most colorful or expressive bass-baritone, but he’s a terrific Dutchman here. The monologue is strangely extroverted - anger and torment mingled, less introspective than many, with the sway of the ocean under it at all times. The interview with Daland is likewise good - animated and excited. When he meets Senta, he sounds positively optimistic, believing that his troubles are over, and you nearly wonder if this is to be a cheerful reading of the role! But all of this works up to the opera’s final scene when he thinks things have doubled back on him again, and he unleashes some nasty, snarling, tortured sound.
Leonie Rysanek, caught near her prime in a role with which she was very much identified, has severe pitch problems in her ballad (taken slowly and with less contrast than usual between manic and depressive moments), but she comes into her own shortly thereafter, singing with her customary involvement and ability to thrill. Claude Heater is a burly Erik, with a sometimes quite ugly sound. The Scala orchestra is very good without impressing with either sheer virtuosity or involvement, and as suggested, Sawallisch leads an absorbing performance. A pleasant surprise and a valuable addition to the catalog.”
Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
“Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the last of the old-school German conductors, who led the Philadelphia Orchestra for nearly a decade and the Bavarian State Opera in Munich for two decades before that, embodied the German type of the ‘Kapellmeister’ in the best sense: a man steeped in music, who knew every note of every score he conducted (often from memory), who was a supportive accompanist as well as an informed interpreter and who understood how to train, develop and lead an orchestra. Never flashy, even somewhat understated, he was, at his best, insightful and illuminating.
While Mr. Sawallisch was renowned throughout Europe, he might have remained little known to American audiences had the Philadelphia Orchestra not tapped him to take over as music director in 1993. When he arrived at age 70, he underwent a veritable renaissance, evidently enjoying a new freedom, both artistic and political — far from the political squabbling that had increasingly overshadowed his last years in Munich. ‘The last 10 years, with the Philadelphia Orchestra’, he said in 2006, ‘were really the top years of my symphonic life’. His time in Philadelphia was therefore a particularly happy ending to his career. Against some expectations, the reserved, intensely private German thrived in America, and the orchestra responded warmly to him.”
- Anne Midgette, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 24 Feb., 2013
“Although sometimes billed as a bass baritone, Franz Crass was a high bass with an instrument of unusual warmth and suppleness. In an age in which most German basses offered weighty, droning sounds, Crass' very beautiful instrument ideally fit such roles as Sarastro (he sang the Sprecher in DIE ZAUBERFLÖTE as well), Rocco in FIDELIO, and the Hermit in DER FREISCHÜTZ. Not until the arrival of Kurt Moll was there a European bass quite so mellifluous. After his first few recordings, especially those with Otto Klemperer, Crass was invited to take on many engagements, both in the studio and on-stage. In 1954, he was offered a contract by the Städischen Bühnen Krefeld/München-Gladbach and remained there for two years before joining Hanover's Landestheater. In 1959, he began a long association with the Bayreuth Festival, performing in LOHENGRIN and returning in DER FLIEGENDE HOLLÄNDER the following year. In later years, he appeared there in several operas recorded for commercial release. From 1962 to 1964, Crass performed with the Cologne Opera, moving thereafter to the Hamburg State Opera. As his career expanded, he was a frequent guest in Munich, Vienna, at La Scala, and at Covent Garden. During his prime, Crass recorded many of his finest roles. At least two live performances of his Dutchman were preserved, matched in vocal splendor only by Hans Hotter's WWII-era document. Crass was the superb Sarastro in Karl Böhm's ZAUBERFLÖTE that also featured the elegant Tamino of Fritz Wunderlich. Various recordings of Bach demonstrate how much better the composer's bass arias sound when sung by a full and genuinely beautiful voice.
- Erik Eriksson, allmusic.com