OP3350. DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN – Abridged (Complete, as performed), Live Performance, 11 June, 1953,
w.Böhm Cond. Vienna Staatsoper Ensemble; Eleanor Steber, Elisabeth Höngen, Christel Goltz, Set Svanholm, Karl Kamann, Otto Wiener, Ilona Steingruber, etc. (Canada) 2-St Laurent Studio YSL T-1022
“In 1953, from a Vienna broadcast of DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, [Steber] is heard as the Kaiserin, a role she never sang onstage. Her gleaming top tones deal with the treacherous tessitura with easy abandon.”
- Walter Price, THE L.A. TIMES, 11 JULY, 1993
“That night, in high spirits, I joyfully sang for Vienna….There was a confusion of general rejoicing backstage afterwards. Dr. Böhm seemed pleased with my performance and George London, always a tremendous favorite in Vienna, was ecstatic. I was elated for many reasons, not the least because I adored the way the part sat so beautifully for my voice.”
- Eleanor Steber, ELEANOR STEBER, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY, p.133
“Although severely cut, this 1953 concert performance gives us the opportunity to hear American soprano Eleanor Steber as the Empress - although not much of the role. From the first act we have but one line, ‘Ich will den Schatten küssen, den sie wirft!’ in a scene featuring the Dyer's Wife and the Nurse. From Act II we have the Empress' big scene beginning ‘Sieh - Amme - sieh’. From Act III we hear the scene beginning ‘Vater, bist dus?’ Set Svanholm doesn't fare much better; we do have his Act II ‘Falke, Falke, du wiedergefundener’ but his big scene from the first act is absent. Act III is the most complete including the entire opening scene between Barak and his wife. We then cut to the Empress' ‘Vater, bist dus?’ and continue to the end of the opera.
Steber is a magnificent Empress, fearless on the infamous high notes of the demanding role that Rysanek dominated for over two decades, a bit lacking in power on the lower end. It also is a pleasure to hear Set Svanholm as the Emperor. Goltz, one of the reigning Strauss singers of the time, is an ideal Dyer's Wife, in finer voice here than she was in the commercial recording two years later. Höngen is a strong nurse, a role she also sang in the early Decca recording. Otto Wiener's Spirit-Messenger is fine; Karl Kamann's Barak is edgy, and the chorus of unborn children are a squally lot indeed.
The issue is of great interest….DIE FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN wasn't performed very often at the Vienna State Opera before the War. During the second half of the '40s the State Opera had to perform mostly in the Theater an der Wien as its own home had yet to be rebuilt. FRAU was considered too grand-scale to be in the smaller theater. With the influence of Karl Böhm, and to renew interest in the work, a concert performance was presented in the Vienna Konzerthaus June 11, 1953 as part of the Festwochen, and that is what is heard on these CDs. The mono sound really isn't too bad for the time; voices are well projected with the Vienna Philharmonic rather distant, distortion not overly offensive. The occasion was so successful it led to a new staging of FRAU during opening weeks of the rebuilt Staatsoper in November 1955 shortly after which conductor and cast, in their eagerness to have the work recorded, agreed to do so without fee. Decca/London made the recording in 1955. The cast featured Hans Hopf as the Emperor, Leonie Rysanek as the Empress, Elisabeth Höngen as the Nurse, Paul Schöffler as Barak and Christel Goltz as Barak's Wife. Produced by Victor Olof and Peter Andry, it's an outstanding example of early stereo recording technique. In the years to follow Böhm continued to perform FRAU including a series of performances at the Metropolitan Opera in their 1966 opening season in their new house, a spectacular production with Rysanek, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, James King and Irene Dalis as the Nurse.”