Goetz: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung

LABELS: Profil Hanssler
WORKS: Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung
PERFORMER: Gottlob Frick, Annelies Kupper, Elisabeth Lindermeier, Waldemar Kmentt, Benno Kusche, Marcel Cordes, John Kuhn, Gertrud Vollrad, Paul Kuen; Bavarian Radio Chorus & Orchestra/Joseph Keilberth
From Wolf-Ferrari to Cole Porter, composers have been irresistibly drawn to The Taming of the Shrew. Hermann Goetz’s 1873 Shakespearian foray has been pronounced by Grove’s Dictionary as ‘one of the finest German comic operas of the 19th century’ – which, if it were true, doesn’t say a lot for the rest. Goetz, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 36, was an unashamed musical reactionary: Wagner was inaudible in his world, and Mozart was his god. So the strength of Der Widerspenstigen Zahmung lies in its deft characterisation and its finely crafted ensembles, in its assured structure and in its comic scenes – the little Act IV quartet with solo violin and Parisian tailor is delightful. But closed forms and conventional language is hardly what’s needed for the tempestuous love of Katharine and Petruchio – and neither wooing nor reconciliation really hits the mark. In the light of all this, Joseph Keilberth’s judiciously cut and vividly conducted 1955 Munich performance makes this first official complete recording a worthwhile historical document. The lack of libretto, and the sketchy notes and track listings, are simply not good enough. But the opera could hardly be better cast, with Annelies Kupper’s Katharina a gloriously haughty match for Marcel Cordes’s nicely raw and resonant Petruccio – and with Elisabeth Lindermeier’s deliciously honey-tongued Bianca leading an artfully cast rag-bag of cameos, including Gottlob Frick’s aptly tedious Baptista, Waldemar Kmentt’s radiant tenor Lucentio, and Benno Kusche’s buffo bore of a Hortensio. Hilary Finch