MARSCHNER:  Prologue to Hans Heiling (with Bernd Weikl/Turin Radio Orchestra & Chorus; George Alexander Albrecht, cond.).  WAGNER:  Excerpts from Lohengrin (with Anna Tomawa-Sintow, RenČ Kollo, Siegmund Nimsgern, Robert Kerns and Karl Ridderbusch/Berlin Philharmonic & Berlin Opera Chorus; Herbert von Karajan, cond.).  WEBER:  Ozean, du Ungeheuer! from Oberon (Orch; Rafael Kubelik, cond.).  STRAUSS:  Excerpts from Die Frau ohne Schatten (with James King, Leonie Rysanek, Ruth Hesse and Walter Berry/Vienna Philharmonic; Karl B–hm, cond.).
GALA 100.583 (2 CDs) (B) (ADD)  TT:  69:39

German soprano Ursula Schr–der-Feinen had a relatively short but quite spectacular career. Born in 1936 in Geisenkirchen, she became a member of the opera chorus in her hometown, in 1961 made her debut in Zeller's Der Vogelh”ndler and a week later sang the title role in Aida.  About a decade later her brilliant, secure voice was heard in leading opera houses of the world. She made her Met debut in 1970 as Chrysothemis in Elektra and two years later sang Brünnhilde in the Ring.  She specialized in Strauss (Salome, the Dyer's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Elektra) and Wagner (Senta, Brünnhilde, Isolde, Ortrud, Kundry), but also sang Turandot, Tosca and Jenufa.

Schr–der-Feinen's initial success came easy, but apparently when appearing in the Met in Siegfried she began to feel insecure and anxious about her singing, reflected in uneven performances. Soon she stopped singing for a rest, fell into a deep state of depression, and made an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback.  At the end of the '70s she retired permanently and moved to Siegerland, Germany where she now lives. This budget-priced twin-CD set shows her at her finest, at the peak of her career. Throughout she is in superb form, her gleaming, powerful soprano cutting brilliantly through the orchestra. The second CD consists entirely of excerpts from the first two acts of Die Frau ohne Schatten which was one of her finest roles—the Dyer's Wife—surrounded by an all-star cast including Leonie Rysanek, James King, Walter Berry and Ruth Hesse, with Karl B–hm conducting, from the 1975 Salzburg Festival.

Adulatory program notes go a bit over the top; one entire page states dramatic sopranos cannot be recorded in the studio and we must rely on live performance recordings to hear what they really sound like. Sound quality on all of these live recordings is excellent. No texts, of course, but many will wish to have this inexpensive set showcasing a fine dramatic soprano whose career was all too short.

R.E.B. (August 2002)