I have just finished listening to this recording, and I can report I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a first performance so much. This is a very much neglected work which requires some explanation. To do justice to the opera and this recording, I have to split the opera into 2 sections. The first half an hour, unfortunately, can only be described as dithering. Some plain arioso drifting across average music. This is a bit of a shame. I can say all this though, because after 30 minutes, out of nowhere, the opera turns into Daphne where it promptly stays a while, then drifts into some excellent baritone passage, resembling very much Jupiter in Die Liebe der Danae, followed by powerful choruses and very powerful music to conclude. I have all but forgotten the fist half an hour because of the immense enjoyment of the rest. Strauss must of all of a sudden woke up from his self pastiche stupor and decided there and then he could do better, and so he did. There is no way of describing this operas music here to the uninitiated without slight comparisons to some of Strauss's other operas. Form the first major scene for Maria, the opera comes alive and remains so. Some of the music is absolutely terrific. I have read, incidentally, someone explain that the music isn't "worthy of Strauss". Have these people ever heard these operas? After a lengthy section with a tenor and soprano with music that puts you completely in the world of Daphne, follows a brilliant baritone aria, that musically, and stylistically puts you wholly in the realm of Danae. The end is simply a vast compilation of grand chorus with strong solo interspersed that leads to a very powerful conclusion. This is certainly NOT musically dull.
It's that start. It is unfortunate that it just plods along without any real motive for 30 minutes. But I'm sure after a few re-listens, i'll even find something to admire here too. But that ending. This IS a great opera. Have no doubt about it. I brought this opera without doing much research into it, mostly because of the cheap price. I knew it was by Strauss; it was also late Strauss, and written just before the fabulous Daphne, for me, his greatest opera. I could not imagine such an opera being rubbish. So it has proved. If you love Daphne, Die Liebe der Danae, or Die Aegyptiche Helena, then this really should be in your collection.
As for this recording; smashing. The orchestra is very clear and powerful. Turn it up loud and you are immersed in the sound world of late Richard Strauss and much power. Deborah Voight is incredible. A true Strauss soprano. His writing for Maria is superb. I was a little dubious of Dohman, always have been really, but towards the latter half of the opera, he comes to life and sings incredibly in a breath of fresh legato. A little bit like a George London of the Nineties.
I think Strauss was happily marking time when he approached the first major scene for Maria, and here, thinking upon Viorica Ursuleac and Clemens Krauss's wrath, suddenly invigorated his late flowering that would yield in time, Daphne and Danae.
Putting the first half an hour to one side then; the music is terrific. The singing is strong and lyrical to rival some of Strauss' greater works. And this price is just silly. I wouldn't want to over hype the opera, but it really does develop into something special. So please don't let my flowery waffle be an obstacle to purchasing this wonderful work.