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Sonic treasures from the historic Semperoper

The Dresden premiere of »Káťa Kabanová«, staged by Heinz Arnold and conducted by Ernst Richter, was held on 14 August 1949 in the main auditorium of the city’s Staatstheater. Just one day after this premiere, the opera was recorded in the Steinsaal (Stone Hall) of Dresden’s Hygiene Museum using basic pre-war technology and »Wehrmacht« tape recorders. The soprano Elfriede Trötschel, who had captivated audiences at the Saxon State Opera from 1934 to 1950 in numerous lyrical and later youthful-dramatic roles, was repeatedly described as the »ideal« Káťa. Unfortunately, the original tapes stored in the archives of Dresden’s Funkhaus (broadcasting centre) were deleted for reuse in new recording projects. The recording presented here is from a copy held at Berlin’s Funkhaus. There, the work previously recorded in Dresden was supplemented with short textual passages read by speakers, which were placed in front of the various scenes.

The opera’s lukewarm reception in Dresden directly after the war can in part be attributed to the city’s cultural traditions, especially the veneration of Richard Strauss. Moreover, this was a time of food rationing, when the local people were both underfed and lacked sufficient heating. Anyone wanting to go to the theatre had to bring a briquette in addition to the entrance fee.

Elfriede Trötschel as Káťa, aria from Act 2: »Bete! Bete nur! Und das Unglück packt dich doch« (»Vida! Neštěstí«). Recorded in the Steinsall of the Hygiene Museum, Dresden, by the Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, conducted by Ernst Richter. Edition Staatskapelle Dresden. Vol. 16, »Káťa Kabanová«.