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Who was the best Ariadne?

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This is a two horse race for me. Norman may have the more apt voice for the piece, though the orchestration being for a chamber group is actually much lighter than, say, Der Rosenkavalier, and she responds with her familiar generosity of tone and manner, but I don't hear much that is specific to the music or the character. In any case, for me she lost out to Schwarzkopf in the first round. I also voted for Lehmann in the first round, so it's between the two of them.

Lehmann has something of Norman's generosity, but is much more specific in her response to text and music. She is perhaps more spontaneous than Scwharzkopf and the differences between them are perhaps similar to the differences in their respective Marschallins. Both are marvelous and I find it hard to make a choice between them. I'd like to vote for both, but as I only have the one vote, I think I'm going to go for Schwarzkopf's more intellectual approach and for the way her voice soars in the final measures. It's a tough choice, though.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I don’t like lighter-voiced sopranos in this piece, even one like Lehman. I like the majestic voice of Jessye Norman, who embodies Ariadne for me.
I agree. She has the larger than life quality I want in the mythic Ariadne. I also loved the equally magnificent voiced Eileen Farrell, but, alas, the recording quality compromised her version. What I knew of German faded 30 years ago and I missed a lot of the subtlety my London friend finds important in his post. If I had needed it in my travels to Germany I might have kept it up, but my family there kept me from needing to use it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I promised Viardots I would include Maria Cebotari's version in the final round of Es Gibt Ein Reich but there is no way to create a reminder for such an action the way I have my lists made up for rounds. I rely on reminders!!!!!!! I am very sorry but there is no way now to include her ravishing version but I will include it here.
 

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I promised Viardots I would include Maria Cebotari's version in the final round of Es Gibt Ein Reich but there is no way to create a reminder for such an action the way I have my lists made up for rounds. I rely on reminders!!!!!!! I am very sorry but there is no way now to include her ravishing version but I will include it here.
It was certainly worth hearing - she had a unique intensity in all she sang and an interesting sound. She was bold and sang the title role of Turandot in 1938. She apparently concentrated mostly on Mozart, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini. She died young at 39 or we probably would’ve heard much more of her. She is of an exotic provenance, a Bessarabian, then part of the Russian Empire, now Moldova, but Wikipedia calls her Romanian.
 

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It was certainly worth hearing - she had a unique intensity in all she sang and an interesting sound. She was bold and sang the title role of Turandot in 1938. She apparently concentrated mostly on Mozart, Strauss, Verdi and Puccini. She died young at 39 or we probably would’ve heard much more of her. She is of an exotic provenance, a Bessarabian, then part of the Russian Empire, now Moldova, but Wikipedia calls her Romanian.
Strangely, had she been included I would likely have voted for her because her voice appealed to me the most.
 

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Many thanks, Seattleoperafan, for posting Maria Cebotari's version (1948, HMV, with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Karajan), a fascinating document that deserves a good hearing. It has been widely praised by many who heard it, including, not least, the late Alan Blyth, a prominent opera critic of The Gramophone magazine.

The following wikipedia entry shows that she had enjoyed a highly impressive career. Richard Strauss valued her greatly and chose her for the role of Aminta in the world premiere of Die schweigsame in Dresden in 1935. She was also highly appreciated by leading conductors of the era and the EMI producer Walter Legge had high hopes for her. Her untimely death at the age of 39 in 1949 due to cancer robbed the world of opera a unique and highly gifted artist who could have gone on to build up a major international career comparable to those of Callas, Schwarzkopf and De los Angeles. By the time of her passing, she was already a major star at the Vienna State Opera greatly admired for her versatility (she had alternated the role of Salome with Ljuba Welitsch during the Vienna State Opera's visit to ROH Covent Garden in 1947 and an aircheck exists of Cebotari's performance) and thousands of people turned up to pay their final respect to her at her funeral in Vienna.

 

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Lotte Lehman is amazing here. The voice seems soft and effortless, the singing is tender, cozy (in German they say "gemütlich", not sure if about voice).
Schwarzkopf makes an impression of skillful singing, as written, when everything is done right. If I had musical education and could read the score I probably would say more definitely.
Norman's voice is archetypal, it's embodiment of the myth, even in comic opera. She was first Ariadne I heard (recorded, of course) and I adore her Jocaste in Oedipus Rex. My choice was between her and Lehman, it was barely possible. Of two different, but beautiful Ariadnas I prefer more home and delicate, at least now.
P. S. Cebotari was incredible, one more attractive version. They both, Lehman too, worked with Strauss. Lehman, as I remember, took part in Die Frau ohne Schatten.
 

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It may be partly because my earliest exposure to Schwarzkopf came via her first recording of Strauss's Four Last Songs that I've always thought the soprano roles and songs of Strauss to be ideal repertoire for her. The silvery shimmer of her timbre focuses the characteristic sheen of his orchestration, and she meets the sophisticated poetry of his texts with an unequaled specificity of response, her characteristic air of intellectual sophistication sounding completely at home, as it sometimes doesn't in music that wants a more innocent spontaneity.

Strauss's post-Elektra romanticism has something of the "neo" about it; the insistent diatonicism of his harmony - he seems to spend half his time on dominant seventh chords - is liberally yet mildly seasoned with twists and turns tossed off so as to delight the mind and tickle the senses, while similar progressions in Wagner or Mahler would have been called up to signal deep affective disturbances. It's a sort of stylization of traditional harmony, a delectably decadent gloss on the great tradition, which suits perfectly a penetratingly intelligent musician like Schwarzkopf who, we have no doubt, understands every finely crafted detail of both text and music. I might wish for a slightly larger, fuller voice than she possesses, but in all other ways I find her presentation of this music complete and satisfying.

The other two singers are hardly chopped liver, with Lehmann a bit more articulate and embodying more of the "old-fashioned" (sad to say) virtues of style and vocal emission.
 
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