This sublime recording has been out of print for years, so it should thrill opera lovers everywhere that is has reappeared, at a very reasonable price! Lucia Popp is absolutely perfect in the title role, with a light silvery tone conveying the characters innocence, yet with enough heft to soar over the orchestra in the score's heavier moments. Though she has stiff recorded competition (Fleming, Gueden, Anderson), her performance still stands above them all. Reiner Goldberg has some strained moments in the brutally difficult role of Apollo, but it is nevertheless a fine performance, conveying the majesty and passion of this pivotal character. He is far better than Botha (Fleming CD) or MacAllister (Anderson DVD) - Only James King on the Böhm recording has him beat.
Other roles are similarly excellent - Peter Schreier makes a touching Leukippos, Ortun Wenkel has the contralto pipes for Gaea, and the booming voice of Kurt Moll (Peneios) makes one wish that he had more to sing! Holding it all together in a sumptuous and beautifully nuanced reading is Bernard Haitink, with superb work from Bavarian Radio Orchestra. This is an extremely difficult score for the orchestra (even by Strauss' usual standards), and the Bavarian Radio makes it sound like Mozart. (And, it is an uncut performance, unlike the Böhm recording.)
Daphne has never been as popular or as highly regarded as some of Strauss' other operas, but, at least on this recording, it emerges as a masterpiece, chock-full of great melody and stunning orchestration, couched in a "pastoral" style that I find unique in Strauss output. It ends with the famous "Daphne's Verwandlung", but there are many glorious passages: There is Daphne's opening apostrophe to nature, her extremely moving eulogy to Leukippos, Apollo's Tannhauser-ish "Immer umkreist des Lichtes Wagen" and glorious final aria, the Daphne/Apollo "love scene", almost Tristan-like in intensity (but not length!), the stunning Apollo/Leukippos conflict, wonderful "mini arias" from Leukippos, Penios, and Gaea-- In it's short 2 hours there is not a hint of "note-spinning".
So, snatch this one up - You won't find a better performance anywhere, and who knows how long it will be around before it is "out of print" again? Buy it - You won't be disappointed.