R Strauss: Intermezzo

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Intermezzo
PERFORMER: Elisabeth Söderström, Marco Bakker, Richard Allfrey, Elizabeth Gale, Alexander Oliver, Thomas Lawlor; Glyndebourne Festival Chorus; LPO/John Pritchard
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3174(2)

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Alas, yet hooray all the same, that it has taken the loss of one of opera’s loveliest personalities to lure this recording out of the Radio 3 archives.

Elisabeth Söderström was bravely adamant that this wordiest of all Strauss operas, based on a marital misunderstanding between the composer and his ex-diva wife, should be performed in the Glyndebourne audience’s English. And she was right, even if this most linguistically gifted of singers still can’t hope to match for clear diction three stars of the supporting cast: Elizabeth Gale, delectable as long-suffering maid Anna, Alexander Oliver as the Baron and Anthony Rolfe-Johnson in an early cameo role as the conductor whose Strauss/Storch-like name causes the chaos. 

Nevertheless it’s a joy to compare Söderström’s fulsome lyric-dramatic Christine with her very different successor Felicity Lott (to be seen in John Cox’s production and Martin Battersby’s detailed 1920s designs on a Warner DVD).

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Neither resorts to caricature as the complex Christine/Pauline character, and Söderström finally gets to pull out all the long-lined lyric stops in a love scene with Marco Bakker’s underpowered Storch. When Intermezzo is good, it’s great, and a true original. I love it very much, and clearly Söderström did too. David Nice