WORKS: Die Liebe der Danae
PERFORMER: Lauren Flanigan, Peter Coleman-Wright, Hugh Smith, William Lewis, Lisa Saffer, Michael Hendrick; Concert Chorale of New York, American SO/Leon Botstein
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80570
In his last and most cheerful opera on a mythological theme, Richard Strauss took up an idea by the long-dead Hofmannsthal, fusing Jupiter’s many terrestrial love affairs with the legend of Midas’s golden touch to tread lightly on the Ring’s territory of love versus power. Taking on excess Wagnerian cargo in its central act, Strauss’s Classical vessel then steers confidently to a final curtain matching Rosenkavalier for poignancy as Jupiter-Strauss takes his leave of earthly love. It is a work that many of us have loved almost to distraction since Charles Mackerras’s BBC Radio 3 studio recording confirmed what Clemens Krauss first unveiled to the world at Salzburg in 1952 (happily recorded, and now a valuable historic document on CD). With the major companies still hanging fire, there have been two recent releases from unexpected sources – first Garsington, privately issuing a memento of David Fielding’s bittersweet production, and now Telarc, capturing live a far more recording-friendly New York concert performance.
The taxing leads rest on suitably broad shoulders here. Lauren Flanigan’s vibrant Danae, with her gleaming middle register, shows little signs of customary wild pitching and emerges as a Straussian soprano of human dimensions – a good match for the imperious Jupiter of Peter Coleman-Wright, fresh from a commanding if less note-perfect Garsington debut in the role. There is a serviceable heroic-tenor Midas, a rather lacklustre quartet of Jupiter’s former amours – no match for Garsington’s ballroom-dancing queens – and orchestral playing to which even superb Telarc engineering can’t lend godlike sheen, but which moves along flexibly under the disciplined guidance of Leon Botstein. Standing up boldly for the opera’s lively humanity, this likeable newcomer has bags of personality. David Nice