Der fliegende Holländer

Wolfgang Sawallisch
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
2 February 1966
Teatro alla Scala Milano
Recording Type
  live  studio
  live compilation  live and studio
DalandKarl Ridderbusch
SentaLeonie Rysanek
ErikClaude Heater
MaryAnne Marie Bessel
Der Steuermann DalandsManfred Schmidt
Der HolländerFranz Crass

Here’s a near-novelty: the three-separate-act version of Dutchman, recorded on stage at La Scala in 1966. There is no information provided in the two-page leaflet that accompanies the CD about how the recording came to be–just the cast (without the Steersman) and track listings. Nevertheless, the sound is clear and clean, suggesting a radio broadcast. Wolfgang Sawallisch keeps things moving, with very few of the lengthy pauses for effect that most conductors tend to exaggerate. If I had to compare this reading to any other recorded version it would be Sinopoli’s on DG: not only are the timings almost eerily the same, but there’s a smoothness to the delivery and much of the vocal writing’s lyricism is revealed, and this emphasizes where Wagner was coming from, rather than going to. I like Sinopoli’s and I like this one. Perhaps the presence of an Italian chorus and orchestra helps, but I doubt it (this wasn’t the case with Sinopoli). It seems more like a decision, and a fine one at that.

The opening scene doesn’t bode well, with a somewhat untidy chorus (this remains a constant throughout), but the un-named Steersman and Karl Ridderbusch’s very young-sounding Daland are impressive, and the mood change to the Dutchman’s entry is nicely handled. Franz Crass is in superb voice in the title role. His is not the most colorful or expressive bass-baritone, but he’s a terrific Dutchman here. The monologue is strangely extroverted–anger and torment mingled, less introspective than many, with the sway of the ocean under it at all times. The interview with Daland is likewise good–animated and excited. When he meets Senta, he sounds positively optimistic, believing that his troubles are over, and you nearly wonder if this is to be a cheerful reading of the role! But all of this works up to the opera’s final scene when he thinks things have doubled back on him again, and he unleashes some nasty, snarling, tortured sound.

Leonie Rysanek, caught near her prime in a role with which she was very much identified, has severe pitch problems in her ballad (taken slowly and with less contrast than usual between manic and depressive moments), but she comes into her own shortly thereafter, singing with her customary involvement and ability to thrill. Claude Heater is a burly Erik, with a sometimes quite ugly sound. The Scala orchestra is very good without impressing with either sheer virtuosity or involvement, and as suggested, Sawallisch leads an absorbing performance. A pleasant surprise and a valuable addition to the catalog.

–Robert Levine

User Rating
Media Type/Label
Memories, LS, Opera d’Oro, OOA, TOL, Premiere
Technical Specifications
568 kbit/s VBR, 44.1 kHz, 541 MByte (flac)