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Best opera ever? Adrianne Pieczonka chooses Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier

Editorial Staff

Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 P.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.

Best Operas Ever No. 1 - Adrianne Pieczonka

Ben Heppner talks to the Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka about her favourite opera recording: Sir Georg Solti's classic interpretation of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.


If any living opera singer knows the music of Richard Strauss, it's Adrianne Pieczonka. The Canadian soprano elicited rapturous praise for her performances in the recent Metropolitan Opera production of Elektra. She was nominated for a Juno in 2007 for her recording of music by Strauss and Wagner. And, if you haven't heard her sing the finale from Capriccio, holy smokes, rectify that immediately.

So, Ben Heppner was really excited when Pieczonka selected a Strauss recording as her all-time favourite to discuss in this inaugural instalment of Best Operas Ever. Pieczonka first encountered maestro Georg Solti's legendary 1968 recording of Der Rosenkavalier when she was first learning the central role of the Marschallin, a role for which she has since amassed considerable acclaim. She fell in love with the distinctive playing of the Vienna Philharmonic, whose unmistakable sound immediately establishes the setting of this uniquely Viennese opera. And the Viennese quality of it, good and bad, is part of what Pieczonka loves about it.

"This piece highlights the aristocracy, the snobbery, the intrigue, the poor against the bourgeois. It's very complicated," said Pieczonka, whose early career landed her in this city of long-lingering traditions. "You go into a bakery and they say 'Kusstige Hand, gnädige Frau! Kiss your hand, gracious lady!' They're steeped in these old, antiquated niceties that have died out anywhere else. You don't get that in Berlin. This piece is full of that. It's full of Viennese Schlagobers — whipped cream."

Solti's recording features the great French dramatic soprano Régine Crespin in the role of the Marschellin. "I certainly think that I sort of gleaned from Crespin's interpretation," Pieczonka said. "The way she colours words, nuances ... I think I did steal a lot of her moves there."

Hit the play button above to hear Ben Heppner's full interview with Pieczonka about this classic recording. And tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Sept. 10 to hear more from this conversation, plus Georg Solti's 1968 Rosenkavalier in its entirety.

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