Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
The Flying Dutchman - opera in three acts
Daland - Joseph Greindl (bass); Senta - Annelies Kupper (soprano); Erik -
Wolfgang Windgassen (tenor); Mary - Sieglinde Wagner (contralto); Steersman
- Ernst Haefliger (tenor); Dutchman - Josef Metternich (baritone)
RIAS Orchester, Berlin/Ferenc Fricsay
rec. Jesus Christus Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 18-24 October 1952. AAD.
ELOQUENCE 48071992 [2 CDs: 125:15]
Richard Wagner presented this opera with a rich score and a clear plot. It
is based on a story - in turn founded on a legend - by Heinrich Heine
written when the poet was aged 30. Wagner conducted the opera's
premiere in Dresden in 1843.
Deutsche Grammophon, for whom Fricsay in the early fifties was a resident
conductor, had a good line up of well-drilled singers and chorus and they
deliver an energetic reading. The 1950s was a rich period for expensive
studio recordings and the only limitation was the primitive tape-recording
editing techniques necessary before eventual transfer to long-player discs.
The opera was recorded in a Berlin venue favoured by DG for a number of its
orchestral recordings of the period.
Although what we have here is a mono recording the orchestra is captured
with a remarkable illusion of separation and clarity. The powerful overture
is a joy to listen to and the singer/orchestra balance is spot-on. The
singers are close enough to enable good diction without drowning the
orchestral detail which is distinctly heard.
Soprano Annelies Kupper, as Senta, is at home in Wagnerian roles and here
she is certainly on form. Her singing is a delight and she plays the part of
Daland's daughter with conviction. Josef Metternich, at the height of his
career in the early fifties, had made a name for taking on powerful
characters. In this role of the spectre his bass richness does not
disappoint. Heldentenor, Wolfgang Windgassen, also of good pedigree, is
unfortunately not always at his best in the role of Erik. In a few places he
does not always pitch the note cleanly.
The orchestra contributes magnificently and sensitively under Fricsay's
direction to bring out the magnificent colours in Wagner's score. The
recording comes complete with its ballet. The top strings are a touch
'brittle' perhaps in this transfer yet re-equalization of the bass registers
allows the low strings to contribute properly without being intrusive. One
criticism: the timpani in one of the recording sessions comes across as
The break between CDs in Act II is made at a point where the music is left
hanging in a split number. This seems odd when there is plenty of space for
Acts II and III to fit together on one disc.
The booklet provides a full synopsis and the interesting notes by Peter
Bassett are in English only. It is a pity that the synopsis is not indexed
with track numbers to aid the listener. Overall though this is a recording
that is well worth its bargain price.
Raymond J Walker