STRAUSS: Salome
Christel Goltz (Salome); Julius Patzak (Herod); Margareta Kenney (Herodias); Hans Braun (Jochanaan); Anton Dermota (Narraboth); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Clemens Krauss, cond. Excerpts from Salome performed by sopranos Emmy Destinn, Göta Ljungberg, Marjorie Lawrence and Ljuba Welitsch, with conductors Bruno Seidler-Winkler, Leo Blech, Piero Coppola and Fritz Reiner
NAXOS 8.111014-15 (2 CDs) TT: 67:37 & 75:59

STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier
Maria Reining (Marschallin); Sena Jurinac (Octavian); Hilde Gueden (Sophie); Ludwig Weber (Baron Ochs); Alfred Poell (Faninal); Vienna State Opera Chorus and Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Erich Kleiber, cond.
NAXOS 8.111011-13 (3 CDs) TT: 3:16:30

GERSHWIN: Porgy and Bess
Lawrence Williams (Porgy); Camilla Williams (Bess); Inez Matthews (Serena); Avon Long (Sporting Life); Warren Coleman (Crown); June McMechen (Clara); J. Rosamond Johnson Chorus; Orch/Lehman Engel, cond.
NAXOS 8.1102887-88 (2 CDs) TT: 2:36:45

Here are three classics operatic recordings in superb transfers by Mark Obert-Thorn at modest price from Naxos. Because of copyright restrictions these are issued only in Europe, but it's easy to secure them, and very much worth while. Decca recently reissued Krauss's 1954 Salome (see REVIEW) but the Naxos version has major pluses in the form of excerpts sung by four of the greatest interpreters of the role, beginning with Emmy Destinn, who sang the Berlin premiere in 1907 and recorded two brief excerpts at the same time. Marjorie Lawrence's 1934 recording is fascinating—a magnificent American soprano singing this music in French. And of course Ljuba Welitsch, who was the supreme interpreter of the role in the '40's, heard here in the glorious Columbia recording of the finale conducted by Reiner. As an added bonus there is a dynamic performance of the "Dance of the Seven Veils" from a V-Disc with Reiner conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra. No texts but there is a track-by-track synopsis.

Erich Kleiber's 1954 recording of Der Rosenkavalier is legendary, an all-star typical Viennese production of the '50's, with a near-perfect cast (only Maria Reining, a famous Marschallin of her time, is slightly under her best). This is also available on Decca in their Legends Series at a somewhat higher price. Naxos provides no libretto but once again there is a track-by -track synopsis.
Admirers of Erich Kleiber surely will wish to have this recording made just pre-stereo but with near-perfect balances and rich sound.

Columbia's 1951 recording of Porgy and Bess, the first of the "complete" score, also is a classic, featuring many soloists from the original theater presentation which set the standard for productions of this American masterpiece. It was commendable of Columbia to record this expensive project and many old-time collectors will remember this from the original LP issue. Mark Obert-Thorne's superb transfer was made from the best portions of three grey-label "six-eyes" Columbia pressings. Naxos generously has provided another gem for the collector, a 1950 RCA Victor recording of eight excerpts from Porgy and Bess sung by two stars of the time at the Metropolitan Opera: mezzo-soprano Risë Stevens and baritone Robert Merrill. Robert Russell Bennett made these arrangements to adapt the music to the featured artists. As it wouldn't fit on the CD, one selection (Gone, gone, gone) was omitted but it doesn't feature either of the singers.

You'll have to order these from non-U.S sources; it's worth the effort, indeed, and thanks to Naxos—and Mark Obert-Thorne—once again.

R.E.B. (May 2005)