Hans Hotter. What can one say about his Dutchman? This is probably the most staggering interpretation I have ever heard of the role. Captured in his prime and he really lives the character. His dark baritone voice with the distinct timbre is perfectly suited to the troubled cursed Dutchman. He perfectly captures the haunted and deeply troubled nature of the Dutchman. Astrid Varnay's Senta too is wonderful. She has the right amount dedication and craziness in her interpretation as the almost obsessed young woman who willingly dedicates herself to the Dutchman just based on the fasination on the tale of him and his portrait. Sven Nilsson as Daland is also great. He captures the amusing aspect of the character and the caring father who tries to marry his daughter to a seemingly wealthy man. Set Svanholm is Erik and he is at his best here too. The great tenor displays the tenderness and determination to make Senta not go through with this foolish venture (as he sees it). Last but no mean least is Fritz Reiner's conducting. He is at at fiery best here. Making the performance really come alive and almost burst into flame from all the heat that is generated by he and the artists. This is a performance that is wholeheartly recommended. It is absolutely staggering from start to finish. Do yourself a favour and get it now!
Collectors of great voices and historic opera productions will no doubt be intrigued by this release. What a cast! Fritz Reiner conducting. Hans Hotter caught in his prime in one of his great Wagnerian roles during his debut Met season, a role he never recorded commercially. Astrid Varnay singing her first Senta. Set Svanholm making his Met debut in the small role of Erik. At budget price, this Naxos issue could hardly fail to be good value. Some collectors, however, might fear that technical and auditory inadequacies might ruin the whole enterprise. Well, I can report that collectors need not hesitate. I have heard nothing, deriving from a Met broadcast, that suggests a “best seat in the house” experience so well as this. I could almost “locate” every cough in the house, as the Overture was performed. The sound spectrum thereafter is remarkable for its astonishing clarity, although the dynamic range is limited. Ward Marston, in charge of the restoration, unable to find any tapes of this 1950 performance kept by the radio station that originally broadcast it, has used several tape recordings made of the broadcast “off air” by amateur enthusiasts as home with their own tape recorders. The results are amazing! It seems incredible that tape recorders could capture a broadcast with such fidelity in 1950. Ward Marston has improved the original sources by correcting pitch variations and adjusting the equalization to give additional presence to the voices. And what presence they have! Every glory in Hotter’s vocal range, from top to bottom, from ghostly mezza voce to commanding fortissimo, is revealed, as is his distinguished portrayal of the haunted, condemned Dutchman. His singing of “Der Frist ist um” is achingly moving. Astrid Varnay, as is documented in performances and recordings later in her career, seems born to sing the part of Senta. Sven Nilsson is the vocally imposing Daland and Set Svanholm, another Swede and making his debut at the Met, gives prominence and distinction to the role of Eric. All of which should indicate that this issue provides an opportunity to hear an important live production of Wagner’s early opera in its three act version.