Herbert Von Karajan’s Historic Recordings of ‘Die Fledermaus’

By David Salazar

Herbert Von Karajan is one of greatest musicians to ever live. Born on April 5, 1907, the famed conductor left a massive recorded legacy after a career that included prominent performances with the top orchestras in the world.

While most would likely identify the Austrian maestro with the works of Beethoven or Tchaikovsky or Verdi or Wagner (among many others), one work that he recorded rather prominently was Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Die Fledermaus,” which had its world premiere on April 5, 1874.

In the studio, Karajan left two famous accounts of the opera.

The first one came in 1955 for EMI (it has since been re-released for Warner Classics). That one features a stellar cast that includes Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Nicolai Gedda, Rita Streich and Helmut Krebs. To this day, it remains one of the most famous recordings of the work, joining Carlos Kleiber’s legendary account.

But Karajan wasn’t done and years later, now working with Deutsche Grammophon, he pulled quite an artistic coup with the operetta. The work features a solid cast that includes Hilde Gueden, Waldemar Kmentt, Eberhard Wachter, Walter Berry, Regina Resnik, Giuseppe Zampieri, Erika Koth and Erich Kuns among others.

But the big surprise of the set comes from the guest artists that the great conductor managed to put together during the second act party. Ready for it? Renata Tebaldi, Mario Del Monaco, Birgit Nilsson, Fernando Corena, Leontyne Price, Ettore Bastianini, Joan Sutherland, Teresa Berganza, Jussi Bjorling and Giulietta Simoniato. Not bad right?

But there is still one more recording of Karajan’s that cannot be ignored, though it actually isn’t too hard to do so. It is a live recording from a New Years Eve gala in Vienna from 1960 that features the same main cast – Wachter, Berry, Kunz, Zampieri and Guden. But the real gem in this album also comes from the guest performer – tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano. Still very much in his prime, the Italian singer performs two entries including “O Sole Mio” and “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz!” from “Das Land des Lachelns.” This recording also follows the Viennese tradition of having a tenor sing the role of Prince Orlofsky.


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