Der fliegende Holländer
Studio recording in mono
March 13-16, 1944
Conductor: Clemens Krauss
DalandGeorg Hann
SentaViorica Ursuleac
ErikKarl Ostertag
MaryLuise Willer
SteuermannFranz Klarwein
HolländerHans Hotter
Bayerisches Staatsorchester
Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper
Grammofono 2000, AB 78731/32 2 CDs ADD
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Review by Frank Jaeger

For years and years the Italian labels like Fonit Cetra or Fono Enterprise provided a bunch of stunning historic performances for the real Opera lovers. Despite their often questionable sound quality, it is the fascination of the great voices and the lively artistry during the golden age of Wagner singing what makes this recordings so valuable.

Recently I bought my fourth Holländer. It comes in a 2-CD box together with a shabby leaflet full of mistakes. But it was incredible cheap (20 US$). What makes this Holländer so special?

First of all it is Hans Hotter. With his powerful but everytime well balanced voice together with the warmth of his timbre you can imagine why he was one of the most beloved Wagner "Heldenbariton" in this century. From the very beginning, with his great monologue ("Die Frist ist um..."), he convinces in every bar of his score with a seldom experienced mixture of despair, ardent virility and an intellectual overall view. Later in his career, his famous timbre became more and more nasal. But at this time he was able to combine the warmth in his voice with a black and evil expression.

The cast includes many rock-solid longtime members of the Munich Opera (Klarwein, Willer, Ostertag). Especially to mention the Daland of Georg Hann. It is not his extraordinary great voice what strikes me most. It is, and you can feel it, his stage presence. In his time, he was famous for the more "buffo" roles like Falstaff but sang nearly the whole bass and bass-baritone repertoire. The way of his singing is somewhat old-fashioned but very audible and with a pure natural sense of stage presence.

The only miscast is the Senta of Viorica Ursuleac. The famous soprano, wife of Clemens Krauss and creator of some of Richard Strauss's great female roles, has neither the dramatic range nor the needed youthful dreamy expression. In the exposed parts her voice is shrill and flickering. Trying to lift and stabilize her voice she tends to pronounce all vowels like an "a" or "o". The reason is obvious. At this time she had been through her best days for quite a while. Although Munich set the pace in Wagner at that time, it was not easy to cast difficult roles in the isolated and heavy destroyed Reich with its unconditional surrender only 14 months away. In 1943 the Opera House was totally destroyed and the musicians moved to the Prinzregententheater. Build up around 1900, it was planned after the ideas of Richard Wagner, who heavily promoted a "democratic" Operahouse, where you can see and hear evenly good from all places.

After Hans Hotter it is the orchestra, conducted by one of the great specialists in the German repertoire, convincing me most. With this Holländer you can get an impression what happens, when an orchestra with this tradition plays under a maestro who is at his best. Although Krauss sometimes used rather excentric tempi, he never looses the dramatic impulse needed to force this opera. An Opera which in my opinion has more to do with Rossini than Richard Wagner would have ever been admitting.

Between 1900 and World War II it was Munich and not Bayreuth or Vienna where the great music dramas of Wagner have been cultivated in an unprecedented way. Documenting this is one of the merits of this recording. Restored by CEDAR the sound is acceptable. I recommend this set not only for collectors, but also if you already or only have this dull ADD or DDD- polished studio productions. This one gives you a good insight in the heat of the promethean forge.