Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (excerpts); Arabella (excerpts); Der Rosenkavalier (excerpts); Brentano Lieder, Op. 68

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LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Ariadne auf Naxos (excerpts); Arabella (excerpts); Der Rosenkavalier (excerpts); Brentano Lieder, Op. 68
PERFORMER: Natalie Dessay, Felicity Lott, Angelika Kirchschlager, Sophie Koch, Thomas Allen; ROH Orchestra/Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: 545 7052
Nothing it seems that Richard Strauss can write for the soprano voice holds an ounce of fear for Natalie Dessay. Her Zerbinetta is both vocally diamond-bright and capricious in character. And it’s almost wistful in that passage in ‘Grossmächtige Prinzessin’ when she reflects on how fickle all men are. For once it is just as Strauss, not Hofmannsthal, imagined it, with Zerbinetta as much a victim as Ariadne, but a woman who knows how to play her cards right. Better to be out with the boys than stuck in your cave.As Sophie meeting her Rosenkavalier – indeed a knight to remember with Angelika Kirchschlager as Octavian – Dessay is a girl-going-on-young-woman who can scarcely stop her feelings from bubbling up and over. And when we reach the final duet – ‘Ist ein traum… Spür’ nur dich’ – there’s steel in the voice as well as silver: this Sophie is no romantic pushover. Such are Dessay’s dramatic gifts that you forget the formidable instrument with which she creates these characters and her magnificent collaborations, particularly with Felicity Lott as the Marshallin and also a heart-warming Arabella to Dessay’s Zdenka. And at every turn Antonio Pappano is a considerate musical companion even if not a natural Straussian. It may be tempting fate but does Dessay hint at a new golden age for Strauss singing and acting? Christopher Cook