Customer Review

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lovely Lucia Popp triumphs, 30 Dec 2013
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This review is from: Strauss: Daphne (Home Of Opera) (Audio CD)
"Daphne" is a product of Strauss's last creative phase, in which he eschewed the lush excesses of earlier operas and sought a sparer, more chamber-like orchestral texture with a simpler, more classical theme. I have always favoured the recording of the live 1964 Salzburg performance under Karl Böhm, especially for the transparency of the playing, the brilliance of Austrian soprano Hilde Güden's Daphne and the presence of two superb tenors in James King and Fritz Wunderlich - but the sound is hardly pleasing by modern standards and we needed a new recording. That should have been forthcoming in Semyon Bychkov's recording for Decca but that proved rather dull and too obviously a vehicle for a star soprano in a role which somehow did not really suit her enormous gifts; this 1982 EMI set was far more promising.

It has three great advantages: first, the complete aptness of Lucia Popp's silvery voice to the lead role; despite the occasional "squeezing" effect in her vocal production, she is otherwise ideal. The great Transformation Scene is a tour de force of word-painting and exquisite vocalism. Secondly, the contribution of the Bayerischen Rundfunks under Haitink; the delicacy and subtlety of the score suit his temperament and the gentle beauty of the pastoral introduction sets the tone for the whole account. He is also, however, able to give the right weight to dramatic moments such as Leukippos's death without over-doing it. He treats the whole opera as one, extended symphonic tone poem, always sustaining the requisite lyricism. Thirdly, the sound, despite being early digital, is warm, detailed and spacious.

Additional advantages are in the supporting cast: a noble-voiced First Shepherd and the excellent Ortrun Wenkel and Kurt Moll as the elders.

Less recommendable are the Leukippos and the Apollo. Peter Schreier always sounds the same and his rather strained, piercing tenor is not especially apt for portraying the ardent young suitor as Wunderlich so winningly depicts him. Nor are Reiner Goldberg's slightly pinched tones very heroic - or indeed godlike - but he is adequate as Apollo.

Hence, despite my admiration for Popp and Haitink, I deduct one star - if the Amazon rating system allowed it, it would be a half - to indicate my reservations concerning the two tenor leads. Otherwise, this is the modern recording to buy.
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Location: Bishop's Stortford, UK

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