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CD Review

Richard Strauss


  • Salome: Anja Silja, soprano
  • Narraboth: Fritz Wunderlich, tenor
  • Herodes: Gerhard Stolze, tenor
  • Herodias: Astrid Varnay, soprano
  • Jochanaan: Eberhard Wächter, bass
Vienna State Opera Orchestra/Zdeněk Košler
Myto 001.212 Recorded in 1965 2CDs
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As a whole, this is quite possibly the best sung Salome on disc. Strauss called for Salome to be sung by "a soubrette with the voice of an Isolde", though its vocal demands are more for the latter than the former, and that's what we usually hear. Silja, however, sings and plays the part like a provocative teen-ager; her voice is rather light and girlish, a bit shrill on top and when it's under pressure, but it opens up well in the lower registers; her characterization, while not as dramatically exciting as some, is nonetheless effective in its own way. Wunderlich is a gloriously fervent Narraboth, Wächter a sonorous and noble Jochanaan, and Varnay and Stolze a splendid pair of lechers. Košler conducts this live 1965 Vienna performance well enough, but while the singers come through clearly and vividly, the orchestral sound is dim and distant. No matter; with singers like this, that's enough.

As a bonus to fill out the second disc, Myto gives us the principal Salome arias sung by three other distinguished sopranos: a younger Varnay (with Hermann Weigen in 1953), Inge Borkh (with Kurt Schröder in 1952), and Ljuba Welitsch (with Fritz Reiner in 1949). The first two are OK, sounding rather mature for the part and sometimes squawky under pressure, but Welitsch is wonderful. Her voice is clear, warm and beautiful, riding easily over the best-led and best-sounding orchestra on the disc. These excerpts have appeared on several labels, but if you don't already have them, the set is worth having for their sake alone.

Copyright © 2000, Alexander J. Morin